Style and Technique (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Like many American Renaissance writings, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s works are generally symbolic. The Scarlet Letter (1850) is one of the major symbolic novels of nineteenth century American literature, and Hawthorne often developed his short stories around a symbol. This is clearly the case in “The Minister’s Black Veil.”
When the Reverend Mr. Hooper first wears the veil, his parishioners think that it represents some secret sin or crime that the Reverend Mr. Hooper has committed. This impression in encouraged by Hawthorne’s footnote to the story concerning an actual person, the Reverend Mr. Joseph Moody of York, Maine, who wore a black veil because he accidentally killed a dear friend. Hawthorne explains that the Reverend Mr. Hooper’s veil has a different meaning, but the impression still remains that he is wearing it because of some secret sin or crime that he does not care to confess. Again, the sense of this is increased by the speculation that the young lady’s corpse shuddered when the Reverend Mr. Hooper’s veil fell forward over her as he bent over her coffin and also by the suggestion that the two mourners saw the minister’s and the maiden’s spirits walking hand in hand toward the graveyard.
It becomes clear in the interview with Elizabeth that while the veil may represent some secret sin or crime, for the Reverend Mr. Hooper its importance lies in its symbolic value, or the value that it has as a moral lesson...
(The entire section is 564 words.)
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Compare and Contrast
Topics for Further Study
What Do I Read Next?
Bibliography and Further Reading
Bibliography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Bell, Millicent, ed. Hawthorne and the Real: Bicentennial Essays. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2005.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Hester Prynne. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2004.
Bunge, Nancy. Nathaniel Hawthorne: A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne, 1993.
Davis, Clark. Hawthorne’s Shyness: Ethics, Politics, and the Question of Engagement. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005.
Mellow, James R. Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Times. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980.
Miller, Edward Havilland....
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