The Minister's Black Veil Study Guide
The Minister's Black Veil: Themes
The Minister's Black Veil: Characters
The Minister's Black Veil: Analysis
The Minister's Black Veil: Critical Essays
The Minister's Black Veil: Multiple-Choice Quizzes
The Minister's Black Veil: Questions & Answers
The Minister's Black Veil: Introduction
The Minister's Black Veil: Biography of Nathaniel Hawthorne
Introduction to The Minister's Black Veil
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “The Minister’s Black Veil” was first published in 1836 and again the following year in the collection Twice-Told Tales. The story is one of Hawthorne’s early works, but in theme, mood, and subject matter, it reflects some of his lifelong preoccupations. The story centers around Reverend Mr. Hooper, the Puritan minister of a town in New England. He decides to don a black veil, covering his face down to his mouth. This change triggers alarm and suspicion among Reverend Mr. Hooper’s parishioners, who begin to doubt his character and motives. They suspect that he is hiding a terrible sin or secret, and they distance themselves from him, despite his consistently pious conduct. On Reverend Mr. Hooper’s deathbed, he reveals that he sees a black veil on the faces of everyone he sees; the difference is that he wears his veil in open view.
With its grim, gothic tone, “The Minister’s Black Veil” presages Hawthorne’s later masterpieces, such as The Scarlet Letter (1850). The story also foregrounds Hawthorne’s sustained fascination with the place of sin in society and the dynamics of Puritanism, whose hypocrisies Hawthorne sought to reveal in his work.
A Brief Biography of Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–1864) was an American writer born in Salem, Massachusetts. Hawthorne decided to become a writer after graduating from college, but he had to take a number of other jobs during his lifetime to make ends meet. He feared his time in the labor force might compromise his writing ability, but in fact, toil seems to have stimulated his authorship. His work environment during a stint as measurer in the Boston Customhouse is described in the preface to his most famous book, The Scarlet Letter, and his time spent working on an experimental farm resulted in the novel The Blithedale Romance. Despite years laboring at jobs other than those that involved his pen, Hawthorne managed to marry, raise three children, and, most important to the literary world, create a treasury of novels, histories, and story collections before he died at age sixty. Many of his short stories—particularly “Young Goodman Brown,” “The Minister's Black Veil,” and “Rappaccini’s Daughter”—continue to be read and studied today.