Whats the thesis of "The Minster's Black Veil"?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The thesis of Hawthorne's "The Minister's Black Veil" is essentially the same as that of his story "Young Goodman Brown," which is that everybody has a dark side of his or her character which we all hide behind metaphorical veils or masks for self-protection and self-promotion. In modern parlance such a veil or mask is called a "persona." It is not really us but who we would like the world to think we are. "The Minister's Black Veil" is unique in literature because the minister actually begins wearing a veil to hide his face. This is like a confession that he has wicked thoughts and feelings--if not wicked deeds--to hide from the world. The veil disturbs everybody else in his community because it makes them aware that they are hiding their own guilty secrets behind  assumed expressions of benevolence and integrity. The story should make us ask ourselves if we have anything to hide from the world. Most of us would have to confess that we have at least had a dark thought or two, but most of us are not as concerned with being models of righteousness as people were in Puritan times.


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