Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
The major theme of “The Minister’s Black Veil” is revealed in the Reverend Mr. Hooper’s remarks to Elizabeth when she attempts to discover why he has chosen to put on the veil. She assumes that he has decided to wear the veil only because of some secret sin or crime, but as part of the development of the major theme, he tells Elizabeth that his veil is additionally a “symbol.”
As the story progresses, the exact meaning of the veil as a symbol becomes clear. In his interview with Elizabeth, the Reverend Mr. Hooper suggests that all mortals could cover their faces just as he has because all have some secret sin or sorrow. At the end of the story, as he lies dying, the Reverend Mr. Hooper says that he sees a veil on all the faces of those who are attending his deathbed. In this way, the major theme of the story is developed; that is, it is suggested that everyone wears a black veil, that everyone has a secret sin or sorrow that is hidden from all others. Everyone could, like the Reverend Mr. Hooper, cover his face with a black veil. The Reverend Mr. Hooper has chosen to make his black veil visible while others have kept their secrets in their own hearts. However, to acknowledge one’s secret sin or sorrow exacts a high price, which is the second major theme of the story. When the Reverend Mr. Hooper dons the black veil, he is immediately set apart from his parishioners in a very special way. They no longer accept him among them as they did...
(The entire section is 413 words.)
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