close-up portrait of a figure dressed in black wearing a black veil

The Minister's Black Veil

by Nathaniel Hawthorne
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How do secrets play a role in this story?

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Secrets and secrecy become a motif in this short story, as well as a catalyst for the major conflict and symbol development in the story. After donning a black veil without explanation, Mr. Hooper preaches a sermon on secret sin and its consequences. He continues to wear the veil without...

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Secrets and secrecy become a motif in this short story, as well as a catalyst for the major conflict and symbol development in the story. After donning a black veil without explanation, Mr. Hooper preaches a sermon on secret sin and its consequences. He continues to wear the veil without a word as to why. Rumors begin to spread, fear develops, and eventually the Reverend is all but shunned. Hawthorne's point in all of this is two-fold. 1 -- everyone has something they are hiding. We all keep secrets, yet we all judge others for theirs. Much like other writings by Hawthorne, there is an undercurrent of hypocrisy within the community as they judge Mr. Hooper's actions without all the information. 2 -- secrets destroy. When secrets fester, they divide and lead to fear and isolation. In Mr. Hooper's case, they lead to death. But on his deathbed, he reveals the reason why he has worn the veil. It isn't because of anything he has done that is shameful, but rather as an illustration of what all mankind is guilty of - secrecy. While other themes are present in the story, these most clearly relate to the development of secrets.

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