What role does Elizabeth in Hawthorne's "The Minister's Black Veil" play?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Fiancee of the Reverend Mr. Hooper, Elizabeth acts as a counterpoint to the brooding minister who resembles another of Hawthorne's characters, Young Goodman Brown, a Puritan also conquered by his Calvinistic theology which embraces the idea of predestination with the dvision of the elect and the reprobate.

The loving Elizabeth comes to the minister in order to "chase away the cloud that appeared to be settling round Mr. Hooper," but when she asks him to remove the veil he dons one day before preaching, the minister refuses her,

"Know, then, this veil is a type and a symbol, and I am bound to wear it ever....If it be a sign of mourning....I, perhaps, like most other mortals, have sorrows dark enough to be typified by a black veil."

His words and his refusal to remove the veil signal the excessive pride of Mr. Hooper as he continues to wear the veil through which he looks darkly at the world and neglects his congregation whom he gives no moral message. Isolated by his own conscience, Hooper begs Elizabeth to not desert him so that there will be no veil in the hereafter to separate them. Again, Elizabeth asks the minister to remove the veil; and again he refuses. Then, Elizabeth bids him farewell, cutting him off from happiness.

Under this pall of Calvinistic determinism the Reverend Hooper lives out his life, "shrouded in dismal suspicions." But, as he enters his last dark hours, the ever-loving Elizabeth appears and tends to him, " a faithful woman at his pillow," a woman unaffected by the dark Calvinism and the crepe that has hung between Hooper and a world that has love.

Read the study guide:
The Minister's Black Veil

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