The Minister's Black Veil Analysis

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Examining Inherent Sin in Hawthorne’s Short Stories Nathaniel Hawthorne often presents his readers with myriad references to hidden sin in both his short stories and novels. In his short stories, protagonists Mr. Hooper in “The Minister’s Black Veil” and Georgiana in “The Birthmark,” experience the negative social gaze of those around them. For Reverend Hooper, it is his congregation that views his black veil as the symbol of sin or imperfection – there is something abnormal about his wearing of the veil. In Georgiana’s case, her husband, Alymer, views her birthmark as an unnatural imperfection which has manifested itself into the shape of a hand on her cheek. Both stories arguably demonstrate the idea of unnatural, abnormal objects overpowering…show more content…
Hooper’s congregational responds to his black veil with distress and confusion. The veil instills an irrational fear into the congregation’s once rational mindset and perception of Mr. Hooper. We learn that “there was a feeling of dread, neither plainly confessed, nor carefully concealed,” spread among the congregation as a whole (26). The veil becomes a mysterious symbol for Mr. Hooper’s church members; it is abnormal and unnatural in their eyes, just as the birthmark is to Aylmer. Although Hawthorne is again somewhat ambiguous, the text suggests that Mr. Hooper’s veil is meant to symbolize the inherent sin that lies inside him (as well as the congregation). For example, Mr. Hooper attempts to explain to his wife the reasoning behind his consistent wearing of the veil. He attests, “If I hide my face for sorrow, there is cause enough…and if I cover it for secret sin, what mortal might not do the same?” (Hawthorne 28). This hidden sin or mysterious origin of why Mr. Hooper is wearing the veil is what he hopes the congregation will eventually come to mimic and recognize in themselves. But instead of adopting this concept, the congregation sees the veil as a mental and physical barrier separating them from the minister. They are frightened by not knowing exactly where the minister is looking with his veil on; a paranoid sense of being watched irrationally replaces their once pleasant thoughts of Mr. Hooper. Do they fear the veil
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