In "The Minister's Black Veil," what does the minister see when confronted with his own reflection in the mirror?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It would be hard to guess what this eccentric minister sees when he looks in the mirror. It is hard for any of us to see our "real" face in a mirror because we automatically assume an expression that represents our persona--the kind of persona we would like other people to think we are. The same thing happens when we have our photograph taken--unless someone with a camera happens to catch us off guard. It would seem that this minister is wearing a black veil in public because it is the only way he can go about without having to wear a false expression on his face. That expression would probably be about the same as his parishioners would be wearing if they showed their real selves--and they know it. The irony in this story is that the minister is only able to show his true face because he has it concealed behind a veil. The minister cannot even see his real face in a mirror. He is not a likeable character. He seems like an insufferable egomaniac, and we can certainly not blame his fiancee for deciding not to marry him. He must look like a bank robber or a figure in a really bad nightmare. This is Hawthorne's most distasteful story.



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