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Literary Analysis - the Ministers Black Veil

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Literary Analysis: "The Minister's Black Veil"

In the parable "The Minister's Black Veil," Nathaniel Hawthorn tells the story of a minister, Mr. Hooper, who shocks his early-colonial puritan congregation when he appears at Sunday service one morning wearing a black veil to hide his face from the world. Despite the gossip, isolation, and loneliness that the minister has to cope with as a result from this unusual act, he continues to wear the symbolic veil and is even buried with it when he dies. Clearly, the black veil is simply a reminder that, even though most are unwilling to admit it, everyone has a hidden sin that keeps them from truly ever facing others, as well as themselves.

The story is told from an unknown narrator who tells the events in a straight-forward third person point of view. The narrator is objective, only what is seen and heard can be told, although the narrator seems to have a deep understanding of the characters motivations and attitudes. When the narrator describes Mr. Hooper walking into the meeting-house in "his meditative way" the reader feels the chilling sense of shock the people did when unexpectedly learning of the black veil that "entirely concealed his features." Although the reader can understand the congregation's confusion, the reader goes on to have a more sympathetic attitude towards the minister as the narrator gives details "of the busybodies" who believe their "parson has gone mad" and changed into "something awful." The third person point of view keeps the narrator unbiased; however the reader tends to be more sympathetic towards Mr. Hooper because of the fact that the veil is the reason people distanced themselves from him and is why his fiancé decided to not marry him, showing that the veil was what had kept him from knowing "cheerful brother hood and a woman's love." The point of view in the story showed the true reactions to the veil the people had, demonstrating the discomfort the veil gave them and revealing how most cannot face their own sins.

The story's setting takes place in an 18th century puritan town in Milford, Connecticut. The majority of the story takes place in the town's meeting-house, or church. This affects the conflict by showing the reader the major role religion played in the society then and why the veil caused "the congregation astir." In the beginning, the setting is introduced at the meeting-house in a light-hearted mood and "children with bright faces" and "sunshine" are described, the story shifts into a more serious mood for the rest of the story when the minister walks in with "gloomy shade before him" at a "slow and quiet pace." The serious puritan setting affects the characters, because most of the story takes place in the church, the minister's powerful sermons about sin cause the congregation to feel as if the minister had "discovered their hoarded inequity." Setting and symbolism



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