What are some internal/external conflicts in "The Minister's Black Veil"?

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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"The Minister's Black Veil" is another of Nathaniel Hawthorne's tales that is concerned with the secret sin which haunts the Puritans who try to hide their transgressions in fear of punitive measures.

--External Conflict: As a symbol of this secret sin, the Reverend Mr. Hooper dons a black veil to preach his Sunday sermon. However, his wearing of this veil causes the members of his congregation great consternation as they interpret his doing so as a means of covering his own guilt. Consequently, they begin to alienate themselves from him.
--Internal Conflicts: Also, members of the Rev. Hooper's congregation feel that somehow he may be secretly able to peer at their own iniquities behind this veil, and they fear exposure. 
--Internal Conflicts: Members of the congregation are unnerved by Mr. Hooper's refusing to remove the veil.

"I can't really feel as if good Mr. Hooper's face was behind that piece of crepe," said the sexton.
"I don't like it!" muttered an old woman..."He has changed himself into something awful, only by hiding his face."

--External Conflict: "Our parson has gone mad!" said Goodman Gray....The congregation's perception of Mr. Hooper changes. He is no longer invited to Sunday dinners, weddings. Further, the members of the congregation will not directly ask Mr. Hooper why he wears the veil since they fear this veil is related to their own sins.

--External Conflict: A deputation is sent to Mr. Hooper at the church "in order to deal with the minister's mystery before it should grow into a scandal." Mr. Hooper receives them in a cordial manner, but remains silent.
--Internal Conflict: The deputation defers the matter to the synod. They perceive the veil of Mr. Hooper as a "symbol of a fearful secret between him and them." The veil seems to make people aware of their own transgressions.
--External Conflict: Mr. Hooper sets himself apart from the world by his refusal to remove the veil.
--External Conflict: The minister's fiancée, Elizabeth, comes to Mr. Hooper and begs him to remove the veil in order to prevent people from assuming that his expressed grief is for his own personal sin. But, Mr. Hooper refuses, saying on his deathbed that all wear veils. "I look around me and, lo!, on every visage a Black Veil!" 


gbeatty's profile pic

gbeatty | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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There are many conflicts within this classic story. The first is between the minister and his congregation. He dons the veil, and this clashes with their needs and expectations. This is directly related to a conflict between good and evil, at least in the eyes of the townspeople. Think of how the old woman swears the corpse shuddered when the veil dropped; the veil is so disturbing it creates a conflict between life and death, and between stages of reality. Conflicts spread, as when a boy imitates the minister and scares his friends.

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