Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Minister's Black Veil" was set in a small community called Milford village. There was no specific time frame, only the idea that this story had a Puritan impression. This short story is about a minister, Parson Hooper, who comes to his congregation on Sabbath day wearing a black veil. Ironically, this occurs on the same day as a funeral for a young woman. This veil not only frightens those surrounding him, but also causes grief, tension, and endless gossip among others. Parson Hooper's refusal to remove the veil then causes him to lose Elizabeth, his bride to be.
Because of this veil and the secrecy as to why he is wearing it, Hooper is condemned to a life of isolation and depression. Although he remained respected as a minister, he was alone in his everyday life. This remained until his deathbed, where Elizabeth stayed by his side. The veil accompanied him to his final judgment. "The Minister's Black Veil" is told through a third person omniscient narrator.
This narrator allows us readers to know what Parson Hooper, as well as those around him, is sometimes thinking without being a character in the story. Hawthorne relayed this story perfectly through this type of narration. Because the narrator was not a character in the story, we are allowed to read some of the thoughts from different characters. There was just the right amount of insight given in the story to make us as readers have to think. Mystery and wonder were carried out throughout the story as to what the veil was really for. The narrator was not even courteous enough to put our minds to rest at the closing of the story.
There is still no definite answer to the mystery. Had Hawthorne chosen a character to narrate the story, deeper thoughts would have been revealed. This would have left less of an impression on readers. The main character of the story is Parson Hooper, a minister in Milford village, who is around the age of thirty and still a bachelor.
In the beginning of the story this soft-spoken man who usually carries himself in a proper way, always looking neat and tidy, shocks his congregation when he arrives looking unusual. "Swathed about his forehead, and hanging down over his face, so low as to be shaken by his breath, Mr. Hooper had on a black veil." (Hawthorne 97) This symbol of sin that he chose to wear all through the remainder of his life caused him to be shunned by those around him (Newman 202). Not only did it cause grief for others, but it did for himself as well. "At that instant, catching a glimpse of his figure in the looking-glass, the black veil involved his own spirit in the horror with which it overwhelmed all others." (Hawthorne 99) He was so aware of his sins that he could not face the world.
This also caused him to be all alone due to losing his bride to be, Elizabeth, when he refused to remove the veil. A certain stubbornness and sense of pride is apparent through these actions. After a depressing and lonely life, we once again see a remarkable stubbornness on the minister's deathbed when he refuses to remove the veil even then. Elizabeth was Parson Hooper's bride to be who showed a great sense of strength.
When she was face to face with him, she was not frightened or different in any way. It was not until he refused to remove the mask that she broke down, most likely because she was so hurt by what he could have possibly done. Even then she was strong when she walked out of his life. We did meet her again, however, sitting by Parson Hooper's deathbed revealing her strength as well as compassion. The last character is the community. All of those around the minister were so caught up in what he could have done so wrong to make him want to wear the mask throughout life, that they failed to see how they themselves sin.
The lifelong decision to wear the black veil represents the internal conflict Parson Hooper had with himself. What sin caused so much grief as to be reminded of it everyday haunted Hooper the rest of his life. Grief and a sense of depression fueled his inner battles. The external conflict included the minister an all others around him.
He spent his life alone because of his refusal to open up to Elizabeth, and there were constant looks, whispers, and alienation from all others around him. The only time he was included was for sinners who saw a similarity in what he was doing. Symbols in the story include the black veil and the funeral of the young woman. The fact that the veil was black added on to it's meaning. The color black represents death, grievance, and sadness. The veil hides the minister from the outside world revealing guilt and sin.
The veil separates him from society and from God. (Dryden 138) This veil causes all of the negative attention, which ultimately leads to a life of isolation and depression. The funeral of the young woman symbolizes the sins of the minister. "The fact that the veil appears on the same day as the funeral could possibly mean that he either loved the woman or had something to do with her death. The major theme of the story is that of man's living with his own sins. This is portrayed through Hooper's sort of punishing himself for sins unknown to everyone else by wearing the veil.
Because all others in the story were so worldly, they did not understand that his actions could have been done by all of them. They too should have been wearing a veil. Works cited 1. Dryden, Edgar A.
"Through a Glass Darkly: "The Minister's Black Veil' as a Parable." New Essays on Hawthorne's Major Tales. Ed. Millicent Bell. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
133-151. 2. Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "The Minister's Black Veil." Nathaniel Hawthorne's Tales.
Ed. James McIntosh. New York: W. W. Norton, 1987. 97-107.
3. Newman, Lea Bertini Voz ar. "The Minister's Black Veil." A Reader's Guide to the Short Stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1979.