How does the theme of man vs. society affect Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Minister's Black Veil" and "Rappaccini's Daughter"?

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The idea that the individual is always at odds with society is conveyed by "The Minister's Black Veil" when Mr. Hooper begins to wear the black veil and is immediately and permanently feared, shunned, and misunderstood by his community. Mr. Hooper has only realized something true about humanity—each of us harbors secret sins that we want to hide from everyone else, ourselves, and even God—and wearing the veil is his attempt to take responsibility for and acknowledge this truth. His attempt to be virtuous and honest only results in his congregation's distrust and suspicion and fear. They avoid him, discontinue standing dinner invitations, and even send a group of church officials to ask him about the veil's meaning rather than ask themselves (though they already seem to have a vague notion of its symbolism); to these men, "that piece of crape [...] seemed to hang down before his heart, the symbol of a fearful secret between him and them." The irony is that the veil actually symbolizes the way in which all human beings are similar, but the disconnect between the individual and society is such that society cannot see this.

In "Rappaccini's Daughter," the conflict between Beatrice and society is similar. Despite her sweetness, honesty, and love of all creatures, Beatrice finds herself at odds with society through no fault of her own. Her father raised her to be poisonous to her fellow men, though she would clearly prefer contact and connection. She's fascinated by any living thing, even insects, as she seems to mourn them when they die by crossing herself and bending over them. She is mortified in the end when Giovanni accuses her of taking part in her father's plot to separate him from society by rendering him as poisonous as she. Even though she is gentle, loving, and good, she is still accused of sinfulness and deceit. She is a woman apart, and there is simply no way to bridge the chasm between herself and others. The one attempt to do so results in her death.

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Rappaccini's Daughter

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