What are the forces of morality and sin in the writing?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

After the Reverend Hooper dons a black veil that covers his face except for his mouth and chin, giving "a darkened aspect to all living and inanimate things," his congregation is greatly disturbed, wondering, "Did he seek to hide it from the dread Being whom he was addressing?" and "more than one woman of delicate nerves was forced to leave the meetinghouse," reactions towards him change. Unnerved that they cannot see his face and his reactions to them, the mirror of the other turns inward for the congregation and their secret sins stir within them as they are forced to look at their own souls. This inward examination is, of course, deeper and more disturbing than one from others. Thus, the congregation are left to wonder what the minister really sees.

In "The Minister's Black Veil" the themes of Human Sin vs. Inability to Admit Sin, the Isolation of Conscience, and the Horrible Reality of Sin and How It Darkens Existence emerge as the Reverend Hooper forces others to examine their consciences and perceive their secret sins. Hooper wants his congregation to admit that they all wear masks of hypocrisy as they hide their sins,

"...when man does not vainly shrink from the eye of his Creator, loathsomely treasuring up the secret of his sin, then deem me a monster, for the symbol beneath which I have lived, and die! I look around me and lo! on every visage a Black Veil!"

Hooper feels that a life of sin is lived by all under a "veil" of reticence, hypocrisy, and obedience to their Puritanical cultural code of not admitting sin for fear of rejection and punishment. However, in his wearing of the black veil in order to stir the consciences of others, the minister has alienated himself from them, neglecting his congregation with his moral message and alienating himself from the joys of life. Thus, his own doubts about his soul cause Hooper moral conflict, as well.

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The Minister's Black Veil

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