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How does the passage where the men shrink "uneasily from Mr. Hooper" reflect the...

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schoolgirl09 | Student, Undergraduate

Posted August 19, 2008 at 12:10 PM via web

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How does the passage where the men shrink "uneasily from Mr. Hooper" reflect the principles of anti-transcendentalism?

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pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 19, 2008 at 3:50 PM (Answer #2)

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The passage:

Thus they sat a considerable time, speechless, confused, and shrinking uneasily from Mr. Hooper's eye, which they felt to be fixed upon them with an invisible glance. Finally, the deputies returned abashed to their constituents, pronouncing the matter too weighty to be handled, except by a council of the churches, if indeed, it might not require a general synod.


This passage expresses Nathaniel Hawthorne's anti-transcendentalist views, because he believed that evil was a strong force in the world. It expresses the limitations of the human intellect to understand and the potential destructive forces that lie in the human spirit. 

The men who are judging the minister's black veil feel compelled to refer it to a higher authority, seeing something sinister or evil in the veil's meaning.  They are intimidated by what they don't understand, they respond in a fearful way to the minister's veil. It reflects a dark, gloomy outlook of the world, dominated by fear and suspicion, similar to the beliefs that dominated the Puritans, during the Salem witchtrials, of which Hawthorne was a direct descendant. 

Transcendentalists believed in seeing the divine in the natural world and in respecting the individual spirit as a means of finding truth. 

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 30, 2010 at 9:35 AM (Answer #3)

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The Transcendentalists believed that all men are part of the Divine Soul, the "Over-Soul," as Emerson called it.  This Divine Soul is the source of all good.  Hawthorne, Melville, and Poe, have been called anti-Transcendentalists because their view of the world seems so profoundly opposed to the optimistic view of Emerson and his followers.

The passage from "The Minister's Black Veil" also is contrary to Emerson's idea of "the transparent eyeball" that receives all truth from Nature and experiences the divine.  The members of Hooper's congregation, on the contrary, shrink from the minister's eye, fearing that he sees the depravity of their souls, in contrast to the "divine" of the Transcendentalists.  Thus, this passage, while it affirms that spiritual facts lie behind the appearances of nature, indicates that not all the facts are good or harmless.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 31, 2010 at 7:02 AM (Answer #4)

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The focus of the anti-transcendentalists, or Dark Romantics, as they were otherwise called, was on the darkness inherent in all of humanity. Anti-transcendentalists, such as Hawthorne, Melville and Poe, differed from the ideas of Emerson and other Transcendentalists because their views were too optimistic about humanity and human nature. Hawthorne amongst others wanted to right the balance and recognise in his literature the sin that plagues us all - the innate wickedness of human beings. Thus in this short story, and in the quote above, the people who have come to remonstrate with Mr. Hooper recognise, at least on some level, that the black veil Mr. Hooper is wearing symbolises their own innate sinful wickedness as well.

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