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 does this story reflect the darker side of the Romantic view of human nature?

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Often, Romantic writers focused on the wonderful things of which humankind is capable. We have an enormous capacity for generosity and creativity and love, as well as the ability to find truth in and be healed by nature. However, the Dark Romantic writers tended to focus a great deal more...

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Often, Romantic writers focused on the wonderful things of which humankind is capable. We have an enormous capacity for generosity and creativity and love, as well as the ability to find truth in and be healed by nature. However, the Dark Romantic writers tended to focus a great deal more on the darker side of humankind: the terrors or evils or vice of which we are also capable. Thus, in "The Minister's Black Veil," the commonality that Hawthorne finds among all of us is not only our inherent propensity toward sin but also our shared desire to hide our sinfulness from everyone else: dark stuff indeed.

Mr. Hooper's first sermon after donning the black veil takes as its subject "secret sin, and those sad mysteries which we hide from our nearest and dearest, and would fain conceal from our own consciousness, even forgetting that the Omniscient can detect them." The minister has begun to wear the veil in an effort to be honest about the figurative veil that we all wear when we portray ourselves to others as sinless creatures. We all hide behind such a veil, and so, to represent this sad state of humanity -- a state where none of us is ever truly honest with anyone else or even ourselves -- he wears a material veil. Given, then, that the story focuses exclusively on our sin, without reference to our goodness, it is much more in line with Dark Romanticism.

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