Symbolism in Nathaniel Hawthorne's Parable, The Minister's Black Veil

Guilt, shame, and remorse are common emotions experienced by all men at some time in the course of their life. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s parable, “The Minister’s Black Veil”, a certain symbol is used to represent the guilt manifested by one man‘s secrets. The aforementioned black veil is worn by the minister of the Puritan village of Milford, Mr, Hooperr The significance of the veil itself is a major plot point in the tale. Though never explicitly stated, it is heavily implied throughout the story that the veil is a barrier used by Hooper to shield him from facing the guilt and consequence of secret sin.

Mr, Hooper’s role in the village is as the local minister; as such, his congregation makes assumptions about and is influenced by the presence of the veil covering Hooper’s facet. They speak among themselves saying, “1 don’t like it,” and proclaiming that Hooper has “changed himself into something awful, only by hiding his face.

The impact of the veil grows to be so great that at his sermons, the people “quaked with every tremor of his voice,” The black veil becomes the talk of the town for the following months in midst of his continuing sermons. As a black veil, an item of clothing typically worn during funerals and days of mourning, it profoundly affects the Puritan people of Milford. Simply by donning the veil, Hooper evokes in the entire village “a sense of dread” and a “constant shift of responsibility” of the veil to one another.

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For a symbol, Hawthorne chooses to use a veil, as it is associated in Puritan society with death, remorse, sin, and hidden secrets. As a symbol, Mrr Hooper‘s black veil is left to interpretation by the reader as to its true meaning. Within the story, Hawthorne offers several characters’ opinions on the veil, but Hooper himself carries the mystery of the garment to his grave.

The villagers discuss among themselves their ideas about the veil. One assumes that the veil was used by Hooper to “walk hand-in-hand” with the spirit of a deceased woman, whom Hooper had just delivered a funeral sermon for, Mr, Hooper himself states to his plighted wife, “There is an hour to come when all of us must cast aside our veils,” This implies that, according to Hooper, everyone is similar to him in that they all wear veils of their own. Later in that conversation with his wife, he goes on to say “If it be a sign of mourning, I, perhaps, like other mortals, have sorrow dark enough to be typified by a black veil.” Hooper suggests that his veil is perhaps a representation of his sorrow, which he cannot bear to look upon others with Given his own explanations coupled with the assumptions of the villagers, it is evident that Mr. Hooper’s veil is an outward manifestation of his guilt brought upon him by a sin committed in the past.

The minister wears the veil to cover himself and avert his eyes from others, because he cannot hear to view them in his guilt-ridden state. In the entirety of the story, the only person he makes direct eye contact with is the dead maiden, and even then quickly doubles back. It is implied that the minister and the woman may have shared some clandestine relationship with one another, as the two villagers felt at the same moment that the minister and the maiden were connected. These clues, and Hooper’s reluctance to tell his own wife his reasons for wearing the veil, reveal that Hooper wears the crape to hide from his sins, in particular, the fact that he had an adulterous relationship with the maiden. When he claimed that all people wear veils like him, Hooper was suggesting that they all have sins they hide behind for which they must eventually atone. He is simply the only one to outwardly and physically brandish his, by telling his wife that he wears his veil to typify his mournful sorrow, he essentially reveals to her that his veil is a tool for dealing with mournfulness.

Specifically, the mournfulness he felt from the death of the mysterious woman, Mrr Hooper’s black veil is a symbol used by Hawthorne to represent many possible ideas. A secret sin, a screen of guilt, or merely an article of clothing used to reflect upon others own feelings. A significant symbol to the Puritans, they can never quite determine the reason for the minister’s donning of the black veil, and are completely bewildered by the ambiguity and vagueness of his motives behind the veil itself. Nevertheless, it is most likely that Hooper’s veil represents the sense of guilt that he cannot come to terms with, even in death. His status as a minister prevents him from telling anyone but God the true nature of his actions As such, when he dies, he does so in peace with “a faint smile lingering on his lips.” Though the villagers may never know the secret themselves, Mr. Hooper handled his faults with a symbol that all people, whether they know it or not, also must wear.

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Symbolism in Nathaniel Hawthorne's Parable, The Minister's Black Veil. (2023, Apr 20). Retrieved from

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