How does The Minister's Black Veil relate to the Romantic's time period?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are two areas where I can find a connection between "The Minister's Black Veil" and American Romanticism.

One is the importance of individual freedom in the sense that each person has the right to choose for himself.  In the short story, Reverend Hooper chooses ro wear a black veil over his face for the rest of his life.

Though many in the congregation believe it is an atonement for some terrible sin he has committed, the reader discovers (on Hooper's death bed) that he has chosen to wear the veil to reflect the hidden sins within himself, but reminds those nearby that all God's creatures have the same hidden sins, and therefore, instead of wearing a black veil, they hide their sins behind a false front, like wearing a mask.

The only other characteristics of American Romantic writing is that of "the supernatural/occult." In a literary sense, the "supernatural" refers to that which is "beyond" the natural, physical world. While we think of the supernatural as vampires, zombies and aliens, in Romantic literature, the supernatural would have included God, angels, demons, ghosts, etc. (The reference to "the occult" is, obviously, not used in Hawthorne's work.)

In terms of the other American Romantic (and European Romantic) literary characteristics, most concentrate on feelings, imagination, nature, innocence, nature as a means to reach God, and inspiration from legends and myths, to name a few.  I do not see any of these in the story, and believe that the Puritans would have seen these things as frivolous and foolish.  These themes did not coincide with the Puritan's perception of the world, and man's place in that world.

Hawthorne deals with extremely serious issues, as seen in "The Minister's Black Veil," and in my experience, does not include the above-mentioned characteristics in his work.

(Another of his famous works is "Young Goodman Brown;" the supernatural is involved here also, not fantasy or imagination because the Puritans believed as strongly in Satan as a supernatural figure, as they did God.)

Hawthorne is intensely focused on the inner-man, and man's daily struggle against evil, in pursuit of goodness.  His Puritan background does not deal with anything but facts as gathered from the scriptures, and a sober commitment to search for God's will in all things.

With all this in mind, Hawthorne is considered an American Romantic writer.

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator


The Minister's Black Veil has characteristics that are unique to the Romantic period, particularly those which are directly connected with Gothic literature. In Gothic literature there are several elements to be considered but all of them may not be included in one same specific story. However but in The Minister's Black Veil there are plenty to consider: The inevitability of fate, the failure of human nature, the limitations of humanity, mystery and suspense, nostalgia and inner conflict, sadness and the disconnect between man and his nature.

Add to this the atmosphere of fear, the possibility of inner terror, and the curious nature of an impossible problem also have a lot to do with the Romantic characteristic of this short story.

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The Minister's Black Veil

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