How many readers have considered that the utter simplicity within the Nathaniel Hawthorne short story, “The Minister’s Black Veil,” might be an expression or reflection of the utter poverty within the life of Hawthorne? It is the purpose of this essay to clarify this issue.
Hawthorne’s impoverishment probably began with the untimely death of his father, and continued until 1857. He had no money for a college education. Gloria C. Erlich in “The Divided Artist and His Uncles” states that “Robert Manning made the essential decisions in the lives of the Hawthorne children and is well known as the uncle who sent Hawthorne to college” (35). After graduation from Bowdoin College Hawthorne spent twelve years in his room at home in an intense effort to make something of himself literarily. The Norton Anthology: American Literature states:
Hawthorne’s years between 1825 and 1837 have fascinated his biographers and critics. Hawthorne himself took pains to propagate the notion that he had lived as a hermit who left his upstairs room only for nighttime walks and hardly communicated even with his mother and sisters (547).
Sculley Bradley, Richmond Croom Beatty and E. Hudson Long in “The Social Criticism of a Public Man” consider his poverty a determining influence in his life: “…a young man engrossed in historical study and in learning the writer’s craft is not notably queer if he does not seek society or marriage, especially if he is poor” (47-48). Fame was slow in coming for the author, likewise prosperity. Clarice Swisher in “Nathaniel Hawthorne: a Biography” explains in great detail the unfortunate financial uncertainty which …
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Erlich, Gloria C. “The Divided Artist and His Uncles.” In Readings on Nathaniel Hawthorne, edited by Clarice Swisher. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1996.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “Young Goodman Brown.” 1835. http://www.cwrl.utexas.edu/~daniel/amlit/goodman/goodmantext.html
James, Henry. Hawthorne. http://eldred.ne.mediaone.net/nh/nhhj1.html
Lewis, R. W. B. “The Return into Time: Hawthorne.” In Hawthorne – A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by A.N. Kaul. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966.
“Nathaniel Hawthorne.” The Norton Anthology: American Literature, edited by Baym et al. New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1995.
Swisher, Clarice. “Nathaniel Hawthorne: a Biography.” In Readings on Nathaniel Hawthorne, edited by Clarice Swisher. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1996.
The Minister’s Black Veil
In the short story, “The Minister’s Black Veil,” Nathaniel Hawthorne tells the Mr. Hooper’s black veil and the words that can describe between him and the veil. Hawthorne demonstrates how a black veil can describe as many words. Through the story, Hawthorne introduces the reader to Mr. Hooper, a parson in Milford meeting-house and a gentlemanly person, who wears a black veil. Therefore, Mr. Hooper rejects from his finance and his people, because they ask him to move the veil, but he does not want to do it. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Minister’s Black Veil”, Mr. Hooper’s black veil symbolizes sins, darkness, and secrecy in order to determine sins that he cannot tell to anyone, darkness around his face and neighbors, and secrecy about the black veil.
From the beginning of the story, Mr. Hooper comes out wearing a black veil, which represents sins that he cannot tell to anyone. Swathed about his forehead, and hanging down over his face, Mr. Hooper has on a black veil. Elizabeth urged, “Beloved and respected as you are, there may be whispers that you hid your face under the consciousness of secret sin” (Hawthorne 269). His fiancé says that in the black veil there may be has a consciousness of secret sin. Also, he is a parson in Milford meeting-house and a gentlemanly person, so without the veil, Hooper would be a just typical minister, “guilty of the typical sins of every human, but holier than most” (Boone par.7). He would be a typical minister who is guilty of the typical sins of every human without the black veil. Also, Boone said, “If he confesses his sin, the community can occur” (Boone par.16). If he confesses his sin about the black veil, all of the neighbors will hate him. Last, he said, “so, the veil is a saying: it is constantly signifying, constantly speaking to the people of the possibility of Hooper’s sin” (Boone par.11). Mr. Hooper’s veil says that he is trying to not tell the sins about the black veil. In conclusion, every people have sins that cannot tell to anyone like Mr. Hooper.
Next, the minister’s black veil symbolizes darkness around his face and neighbors. His frame shuddered; his lips grew white, and rushed forth into the darkness. He said, “Know, then, this veil is a type and a symbol, and I am bound to wear it ever, both in light and darkness, in solitude and before the gaze of multitudes, and as with strangers, so with my familiar friends” In this light and darkness black veil, he is bound to wear it ever.