close-up portrait of a figure dressed in black wearing a black veil

The Minister's Black Veil

by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Start Free Trial

Why won't the Minister remove his veil for Elizabeth in "The Minister's Black Veil"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The only "answer" that Elizabeth is given from Hooper as to why he has donned this curious veil is one that does not really explain fully the complex reasons for Hooper's dramatic fashion statement. Note what he says to Elizabeth:

"Know, then, that this veil is a type and a symbol, and I am bound to wear it ever, both in light and darkness, in solitude and before the gaze of multitudes, and as with strangers, so with my familiar friends. No mortal eye will see it withdrawn. This dismal shade must separate me from the world: Even you, Elizabeth, can never come behind it!"

Of course, we are not told at this stage in this excellent story precisely what the symbol of the black veil is as it is interpreted by Hooper. However, the vow he has taken to wear it seems to be a personal one that reflects Hooper's awareness of his own sins and his fear of presenting himself as a sinless hypocrite. The veil acts as a constant reminder of his many sins that separate him from others and from God, as Hooper's death-bed confession suggests that the veil is only physical symbol of what is a metaphorical reality for everyone, for all of us have our own black veil of sin that acts as a barrier in our relationships with others and with God.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial