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What does Minister Hooper discover about the strength of his relationship with his...

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marinabatista | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 17, 2011 at 10:20 PM via web

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What does Minister Hooper discover about the strength of his relationship with his "plighted wife"?

"The Minister's Black Veil" by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 18, 2011 at 6:40 AM (Answer #1)

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A prevailing motif that threads through many of Hawthorne's narratives is that of the Puritans secret sins.  Greatly disturbed by a theology that did not allow for redemption from sin, Hawthorne concluded that this prohibition was the cause for much torment and guilty and hypocrisy. 

Mr. Hooper's betrothed, Elizabeth, exemplifies Hawthorne's assessment of Puritanism. 

 But there was one person in the village, unappalled by the awe with which the black veil had impressed all beside herself....she, with the calm energy of her character, determined to chase away the strange cloud that appeared to be settling round Mr. Hooper, every moment more darkly than before.

While she initially is undisturbed by his wearing the veil before his congregation, Elizabeth is gradually disturbed by the obscurity of the veil when the minister will not remove it for her sake or to "do away this scandal."  As she sits beside him in his "unconquerable obstinancy," Elizabeth at first cries.  Then, after a time, she is fixated upon the veil "when, like a sudden twilight in the air, it terrors fell around her."  She begins to wonder if Hooper hides his face lest others see his consciousness of their secret sins: 

...its terrors fell around her.  She arose, and stood trembling before him.

Once more, she asks her fiance to remove the veil; once more he refuses.  "Then, farewell!" Elizabeth tells him, and she departs "with one long shuddering gaze."  Like the others of his congregation, she fears that he can look into her soul and see her own guilt--"its terrors"--that she must hide because of the Puritanical culture in which she dwells.  She shudders at her own guilt, and flees, unable to confess it to her betrothed. Nonetheless, she returns to the suffering minister and proves herself to be a loyal friends as she supports him in the hour of his death.

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