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What positive effect does the black veil have?Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Minister's...

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keenna | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 21, 2011 at 10:40 AM via web

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What positive effect does the black veil have?

Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Minister's Black Veil"

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 22, 2011 at 2:18 AM (Answer #1)

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As narrator of "The Minister's Black Veil," Nathaniel Hawthorne writes,

Among all its bad influences, the black veil had the one desirable effect, of making its wearer a very efficient clergyman. By the aid of his mysterious emblem--for there was no other apparent cause--he became a man of awful power over souls that were in agony for sin.

Within the Puritan community, people hoped that they were among the "elect"; however, since there was no way of knowing with certainty, they tried to live as exemplary a life as they could.  With this ideological condition of being sinless, those who did transgress kept their sins a secret.

Now, when the Reverend Hooper dons the black veil, the congregation begin to doubt his sinlessness and become uncomfortable around him for this reason and for the probability that he may recognize sin in themselves.Thus, the veil becomes "the symbol of a fearful secret between him and them."  But, the veil "enabled him to sympathize with all dark affections."  The dying call for him as a brother before whom they can confess their hidden transgressions; he is "ever summoned to their aid in mortal anguish."

Ironically, the Puritan minister comes to be called Father Hooper; for, much like the Catholic priest, he is summoned to hear one's confession before he dies.

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