What literary elements are used in "The Minister's Black Veil"?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This story makes use of many literary elements such as character, dialogue, mood, point of view, plot, setting, theme, and tone. Let's look at point of view, for example. The point of view of this text is third person omniscient. The narrator is not a participant in the action but knows the thoughts and feelings of all characters. The narrator tells us how Mr. Hooper's parishioners feel, as when they say that "Each member of the congregation . . . felt as if the preacher had crept upon them, behind his awful veil, and discovered their hoarded iniquity of deed or thought." We also hear Mr. Hooper's thoughts and feelings at times, too, as when the narrator says that he "smiled to think that only a material emblem had separated him from happiness," when his unwillingness to remove the veil compels his fiancee to leave him.

Hawthorne also reveals the setting of the story to be a small town called Milford. Given that Mr. Hooper preaches in a "meeting-house," we can also surmise that this is a Puritan community because their houses of worship are referred to in this way. The names of other towns referred to in the story, such as Westbury, help us to locate Milford in Massachusetts, as well. These combined clues tell us that the story likely takes place in a Puritan community in the 1600s, or thereabouts.

In addition, there are many clues about the meaning behind the black veil, such as the subject of Mr. Hooper's first sermon after he begins to wear it, and what he tells Elizabeth of its import. These clues help illuminate the theme that we all have secret sins that we attempt to hide from the world, and our insistence on trying to hide actually separates us, like a veil, from one another, preventing us from truly knowing each other and being known. The mood, then, is quite sad and sorrowful.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The most obvious is that of symbol.  The black veil symbolizes the dark side of all human nature and is intended to make a statement to the congregation of Reverend Hooper.  It works as far as making him a better minister, but it backfires on him when he refuses to remove it.  Everyone...including his fiancee, begins to doubt him and wonder what sin he is hiding.

Check out the link to the summary and critical analysis of this story in eNotes.  You will learn much more there.

jojo052 | Student

The most obvious is that of symbol.  The black veil symbolizes the dark side of all human nature and is intended to make a statement to the congregation of Reverend Hooper.  It works as far as making him a better minister, but it backfires on him when he refuses to remove it.  Everyone...including his fiancee, begins to doubt him and wonder what sin he is hiding. BUT no one really knows if he commited a sin or if he is just making an example out of himself so someone else will understand what he's been working so hard to do . which is that the " all knowing " knows everything you do , the people should not try to hide sin because there is no " hiding " sin .

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The Minister's Black Veil

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