While we educators at Enotes do not write essays for students, there is assistance that we can provide. After the student peruses the story and notes significant passages, etc. he or she may wish to also consider these points:
- In "The Minister's Black Veil," Mr. Hooper dons a black crepe veil that falls over his face, hiding it from his congregation, who quickly are unnerved by this action, wondering why he has done so. Further, the ironic aspect of this action of Mr. Hooper is that not only does it affect the other members of the community, but it profoundly affects him, as well, serving both external and deep internal conflicts. However, the veil does little but alienate Hooper from others, rather than getting them to look into their own souls.
- Deeply aware of the Puritan/Calvinist theology which holds that only an "elect" will attain heaven, Mr. Hooper's wearing of the veil shuts out the world to a certain extent and turns more of his thoughts inward. So, ever cognizant of his ministry's Calvinist doctrine as he wears the funereal crepe, Mr. Hooper's heart begins to look darkly through this veil. The narrator comments that the veil of Mr. Hooper
...probably did not intercept his sight, farther than to give a darkened aspect to all living and inanimate things.
Darkening his view of both worldly and spiritual things, the veil places
its obscurity between him and the holy page, as he read the Scriptures; and while he prayed, the veil lay heavily on his uplifted countenance.
- The veil does little for the congregation since it creates doubt in the minds of people and isolates Mr. Hooper in the perception of his feeling morally superior to them.
The people trembled, though they but darkly understood him, when he prayed that they...might be ready...for the dreadful hour that should snatch the veil from their faces.
- They, too, seem to subconsciously understand the Calvinistic gloom of predestination when, the veil snatched from the face of their souls, they will be told whether they are among the elect or whether they have been condemned to being among the "reprobate" people who are sent to eternal damnation.
- When he refuses to remove the veil even for his fiancee, it becomes apparent that Hooper is much too preoccupied with the message of the veil--whether he is saved or damned--that the veil becomes his greatest antagonist, for he loses a chance for love and marriage.
Thus, from beneath the black veil, there rolled a cloud into the sunshine, an ambiguity of sin or sorrow, which enveloped the poor minister so that love or sympathy could never reach him.
- On his deathbed, Mr. Hooper even refuses to remove his veil, and it is only at this point that he really speaks out about the veil,
"I look around me, and, lo! on every visage a Black Veil!"
This statement of Hooper's indicates that he has not had anything to say to them because there is no chance for redemption through grace by confession when one's life has been predetermined. Like him, the people just wear veils to hide their secret sins until their final judgment.
- Thus, there are several conflicts in this narrative: man against others (society), man against himself, and certainly man against fate.