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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What does the woman mean when she says that she felt "the minister and the maiden's spirit were walking hand in hand" in "The Minister's Black Veil"?

In "The Minister's Black Veil," when the woman says that she felt "the minister and the maiden's spirit were walking hand in hand," the woman means that she imagines that Mr. Hooper and the ghost of the dead girl are walking and holding hands. Mr. Hooper has just presided over the girl's funeral, and it is hinted that the two may have had some kind of romantic involvement.

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A young lady has recently passed away. In his capacity as minister, Mr. Hooper presides over her funeral. Mr. Hooper is wearing his mysterious black veil, which at least looks more appropriate at a funeral than it does at a wedding ceremony. Even so, one of the mourners observes that...

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A young lady has recently passed away. In his capacity as minister, Mr. Hooper presides over her funeral. Mr. Hooper is wearing his mysterious black veil, which at least looks more appropriate at a funeral than it does at a wedding ceremony. Even so, one of the mourners observes that the black veil is a "terrible thing" on the minister's face. Her husband, a physician, is of the opinion that there's something wrong with his mind.

After the funeral, there is a procession of mourners, with Mr. Hooper bringing up the rear. One of the mourners looks behind her. When the man walking next to her asks her why she's doing this, she replies that she has a fancy that "the minister and the maiden's spirit were walking hand in hand." The man responds by saying that he had the same fancy.

What this appears to suggest is that Mr. Hooper had some kind of romantic involvement with the young lady. After all, when a man and a woman are romantically involved, it's not unusual to see them holding hands together. If Mr. Hooper was indeed romantically involved with the deceased young lady, then that could account for why he feels the need to wear a black veil. The veil is a very public sign of sin, and in the minister's case, this could well allude to sins of the flesh.

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