From the short story, "The Minister's Black Veil" by Hawthorne. Please explain this phrase:"In every heart there is a secret sin, and sad mysteries which we hide from our nearest and dearest, and...

From the short story, "The Minister's Black Veil" by Hawthorne. Please explain this phrase:

"In every heart there is a secret sin, and sad mysteries which we hide from our nearest and dearest, and would feign conceal from our own consciousness." 

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Hawthorne's "The Minister's Black Veil," this passage is from the sermon of the Reverend Mr.Hooper on the Sunday that he dons a black veil; his is a most powerful sermon as it seems

tinged, rather more darkly than usual, with the gentle gloom of Mr. Hooper's temperament.

Hawthorne writes that the members of the congregation feel as though Mr. Hooper is addressing them individually, for the black veil "throws its influence" onto the congregation.  That is, the members feel somehow revealed to him since they cannot tell where or at whom he may be watching.  Mr. Hooper knows that in the Puritan congregation, there are many who hide their transgressions from others as well as trying to delude themselves that they have not sinned since there is such scorn heaped upon the sinner in this religion of unredemption.  In other words, Mr. Hooper perceives the hypocrisy of his congregation, and they are greatly unnerved as they head home.

The Puritans are so disconcerted by the minister's veil and fear what he may see because of the strict tenets of their religion. Robert Venning, an early Puritan and author of "The Plague of Plagues," wrote,

'Oh, look to yourself, for sin, notwithstanding, is against you, and seeks nothing but your ruin and damnation.'

'Sin is against man's goodness and happiness.'

The Puritans believed that God would punish their community if it allowed sin.  Consequently, severe punishments were inflicted upon sinners in an effort to purge the community.  Since there was such punishment for sin, people hid their trangressions from others.

This last idea, secret sin, is prevalent in most of Hawthorne's writings.  For instance, as Hester Prynne wears her scarlet A, others color when they see her, or turn away, or look down as their own consciences are twinged.  The Reverend Dimmesdale is tortured by his concealment of adultery; in fact, his guilt is what kills him.  Goodman Brown of "Young Goodman Brown," becomes a "hoary man" as a result of denying his own sin.  According to one critic, Duyckinck, Hawthorne's story, "The Minister's Black Veil" represents a

metaphysical exposition of the dark places of the human soul.

Mr. Hooper's veil is the symbol of these dark places.

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