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

The Minister's Black Veil book cover
Start Your Free Trial

In Nathanial Hawthorne's "The Minister's Black Veil," how does the veil evoke the theme of the story?

Expert Answers info

Stephen Holliday eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2011

write859 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Business

Reverend Hooper's veil is, of course, the central symbol in the story, and its effects on Hooper's life, the lives of his fiance, Elizabeth, and his congregation are profoundly negative.  Indeed, many readers, as well as Hawthorne's critics, have wondered why Hooper, upon realizing that the veil's symbolic meaning is misunderstood, doesn't attempt to make his intent clear.  

The symbolic meaning of the veil, despite the fact that Hooper's congregation is too unnerved to understand it, is made explicit in the sermon Hooper gives the day he puts the veil on:

The subject had reference to secret sin, and those sad mysteries which we hide from out nearest and dearest, and would fain conceal form our own consciousness, even forgetting that the Omniscient [that is, God] can detect them.

We know from the narration that everyone who heard this sermon feels as if Hooper...

(The entire section contains 456 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial