Symbolism in Hawthorne's Veil and Mantle

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s two short stories, The Ministers Black Veil and Lady Eleanores Mantle. cover the same thematic topic, but are opposite In approach and differ in the symbols used, Both the veil that Parson Hooper wears and the mantle that dons the head of Lady Eleanore deal with issue of guilt. The differences between the two, however, lie in the wearers of the articles, and their attitudes towards their own guilt. Parson Hooper wears the cloth because he realizes his sinful nature and desires humility by trying to cover it up.

Lady Eleanore, on the other hand, wears the charming mantle as a prideful showcase of her wealth and heritage. In The Ministers Black Veil, the minister, Parson Hooper, puts on a black veil to hide his face from his parishioners. Hawthorne has Hooper wearing this veil for two reasons. First, Hooper veils himself to symbolize the faade of righteousness and decency that the townspeople have raised while their true nature is quite the opposite.

Secondly, the minister, seeing himself as sinful, wears the veil as an act of confession to the people of the town. Hawthorne’s purpose for the veil is to point out that all people who hide their sins inside wear a veil that covers their soul instead of their face. The parson’s veil hides his face (Hawthorne uses the face as the window of the soul) from everyone else as well as from himself. LikeWIse, the parishioner’s invisible veils cover their sins from the rest of the community and from themselves , when they chance to look inward.

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The parishioners could not even sense the guilt of their sins because of the veil that covered their hearts. The people in the town see the minister as hiding a great sin behind the veil; however, they do not sense that they too are hiding many sins underneath veils of their own. Finally, Hawthorne drives home the point. when he has the minister on his death bed exclaiming. Why do you tremble at me alone?

TrembIe also at each other!| Look around me, and, lo! On every Visage a Black Veil. The parsons words reveal to the individuals in the room that they all hide sins behind a veil, just as he hides his face. Unlike Parson Hooper, Lady Eleanore in Lady Eleanores Mantle wears a piece of cloth on her head to enhance her pride, not dethrone it, While the parson covers his face because of the guilt of his sin, the Lady feels no guilt for hidden sins and dons the mantle simply to show herself to be wealthy. Her mantle surrounds her face (again the window to the soul) and sets it off, Hawthorne uses the mantle on Lady Eleanore’s head to symbolize unchecked pride. Once again the townspeople are blinded to the nature of sin, not by veils but by beauty and aristocracy. The people in the town are charmed by the mantle and even as Lady Eleanore trampled upon Jervase, a symbol of human sympathies and the kindred of nature the spectators were so smitten.

With her beauty, and so essential did pride seem to the existence of such a creature. that they gave a simultaneous acclamation of applause. At a ball planned in her own honor, she turns off many of the invned guests With rude sarcasm, yet, despite her haughty rudeness, the guests see only her exceeding beauty, andthe indescribable charm which her mantle threw around her. She allows herself to put other people down. even those who love her, because of their social status The mantle is the material symbol of her wealth and pride, and the fact that it draws attention to her face shows her lack of guilt over her sinful behavior. When she contracts smallpox during the epidemic throughout the colony, she finally understands what Jervase had been trying to tell her when she exclaims, Iwrapped myself in PRIDE as in a MANTLE. Only after contracting a deadly disease does she feel guilt for her haughtiness. For Lady Eleanore, the mantle symbolized the pride she so willingly wrapped herself in.

In both of Hawthorne’s short stories, The Ministers Black Veil and Lady Eleanores Mantle the pieces of cloth the minister and Lady Eleanore wear on their heads symbolizes the effects of guilt or lack of It. While Parson Hooper, in The Ministers Black Veil, wears his veil humbly as a symbol of guilt and hidden sins, of both himself and his community, Lady Eleanore wears her mantle pridefully, and only after her source of pride is dashed does she realize how guilty she really is. While his treatment of the issue of guilt is consistent in both stories, Hawthorne chooses to approach the theme from opposite ends, Hawthorne’s masterful use of two similar items of headdress clearly symbolizes the opposite aspects of humility and pride in the theme of guilt.

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Symbolism in Hawthorne's Veil and Mantle. (2023, Apr 20). Retrieved from

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