How does Hawthorne's "The Minister's Black Veil" relate to the Puritans?
The Puritans, of course, were historically a repressive religious (Protestant) group that left England for the New World in hopes of living a life free of the persecution at the hands of those who disagreed with their religious doctrines. Ironically, however, the Puritans established thriving communities with their strong work ethic, and then proceeded to persecute those among them who would not conform to the letter of their law.
The Puritans were dedicated to work to save themselves from the sin in the world. Those who deviated from the teachings of the Bible were punished in a variety of ways. Excessuve drinking was frowned upon. A man could not openly kiss his wife in public. Failure to attend church could land one in the stocks, and if there were a suspicion of "congress" with the Devil, a man or woman would be put to death.
Puritans were intolerant, motivated to avoid sin, while watching carefully for sin in others. Guilt was a great force in the Puritans' beliefs. While they accomplished a great deal, for example, in providing education for all children, their intolerance made it difficult for the church to thrive in a young and changing country.
In "The Minister's Black Veil," by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mr. Hooper, the parson (minister) is perceived to be a "self-disciplined" man, a Puritan trait which would have been admired by the people of his Puritan congregation. In wearing the veil, they believe that if Hooper has not gone insane, he is guilty of a dark and terrible sin.
The veil becomes the center of discussion for all those in the congregation. When Hooper oversees the funeral of of a young woman, the superstitions that guided the Puritans can be seen: when the veil falls away as Hooper leans over the deceased, one woman is sure the corpse "shuddered," and others imagine a vision of Hooper and the corpse walking, holding hands.
People begin to avoid Hooper because he makes them feel uncomfortable; his original sermon upon donning the veil, spoke to the mask all people wear around others to hide their sins. The congregation was greatly...
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