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 is the moral lesson of "The Minister's Black Veil"?

The moral lesson of "The Minister's Black Veil" is that all people have hidden sins. However, most people would rather deny this than accept the messenger who reminds them of this truth. Mr. Hooper wears the black veil in the hopes that the people of his parish will understand its symbolism, that no one is without sin, yet it instead repels those in his community whom he was so trying to reach.

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The moral lesson of "The Minister's Black Veil" is that we all are sinners. We all have a sin—have made a mistake—that has hurt others, and we all hide our shadow side. As the Reverend Hooper tells his fiancée, Elizabeth, the black veil is a symbol of his sin.

Instead of understanding the moral message that they are sinners and should look inward to see what separates them from other people—what is the "black veil" in their own lives—people shun Reverend Hooper and treat him as an "other." They refuse to see that they are just like him. Instead, they are made uncomfortable and so distance themselves from him, deciding that he must be exceptionally bad. It could be interpreted that one young woman projects her own sexual desires onto him, thinking he must have had illicit sex and that this is why he now dons the veil.

Rather than bringing him closer to others in the shared recognition of mutual sin, the veil separates Hooper from the "good" people in his parish but brings him closer to those who acknowledge their sinfulness. They realize that he can understand their brokenness.

Honesty in their pastor doesn't incite praise or soul searching in the people of Milford but, instead, a rush to denial. They would rather isolate and reject him than look at his veil and all the uncomfortable thoughts it brings up about their own sin.

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