The Minister's Black Veil Questions and Answers
by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Minister's Black Veil book cover
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How can Hawthorne's "The Minister's Black Veil" be compared to the characteristics of the transcendentalists' time period?

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This particular story can be more effectively contrasted than compared to the transcendentalist ways of thinking.  The transcendentalists believed in humanity's fundamental goodness, that each of us has a spark of the divine within us, and that each of us can grow our relationship with God ourselves, without a mediating figure such as a minister or priest.  Such optimism is decidedly absent from "The Minister's Black Veil."  Hawthorne was not a transcendentalist, and he typically seemed much more interested in exploring the darker aspects of human nature than the lighter ones, more interested in the effects of our sin than the possibility of our inherent divinity.  This story, like most of Hawthorne's works, focuses on our sinfulness and the rather pessimistic idea that our highest priority is actually hiding the truth of our sinfulness from the world.  And, when we hide in this way, we make ourselves essentially unknowable to those around us, even deluding ourselves about the way God views us and our sins, driving a wedge between the individual and God.

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