illustrated portrait of American author Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Compare and contrast "Young Goodman Brown" and "The Minister's Black Veil".

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Mr. Hooper appears to be a virtuous minister, but he is actually a sinful man who has decided to veil himself so that others will not discover his sin. Goodman Brown appears to be a virtuous young man, but his brief misadventure in the forest reveals him to be corrupt, and he is disgusted with humanity when he returns home.

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"Young Goodman Brown" and "The Minister's Black Veil" are both dark and disturbing short stories written by Nathaniel Hawthorne in the mid 1830s. They share a preoccupation with universal sinfulness and the dichotomy between appearance and reality.

The principal difference between the two stories lies in...

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their structure. Goodman Brown realizes the depravity of humanity towards the end of the narrative. Though he is still young, a whole life of suspicion and isolation is collapsed into the final paragraph. In "The Minister's Black Veil," the story begins with Mr. Hooper covering his face, and the main body of the narrative is taken up with the attempts of those around him to understand his decision.

Another difference between the stories concerns the agency of the protagonists. Goodman Brown receives a sudden shock from his experiences in the woods and is driven to misanthropy. Mr. Hooper seems to have carefully considered his decision to veil himself, and the precise reasons for this act remain somewhat mysterious, unlike Goodman Brown's motives.

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What are the common discussion points on "Young Goodman Brown" and "Minister's Black Veil" by Nathaniel Hawthorne?

One common discussion point for Nathaniel Hawthorne's two stories "Young Goodman Brown," and "The Minister's Black Veil" is what Hawthorne referred to as "secret sin."  He once remarked that the "saddest of all prisons" is a person's "own heart."  For, guilty secrets serve to isolate people from the world and from their relationships with others.

In "The Minister's Black Veil" the Reverend Mr.Hooper dons a black veil which conceals his face. and the congregation does not know whether he has sinned and wishes to conceal his eyes as "the windows of his soul," or if he has seen something in their eyes that he desires to conceal.  Nonetheless, as a consequence of this ambiguity, the members of his congregation no longer invite him to dinner; they walk the other way when they see him, and his betrothed leaves him after he refuses her request to remove the veil.  This "dismal shade" separates its wearer from his society.  Yet, Mr. Hooper tries vainly to get his congregation to remove their symbolic veils and as he urges,

show his inmost heart to his friend...to his best-beloved...and not shrink from the eye of his Creator. 

If they will do this, Hooper declares that then he will remove his veil.  Sadly, however, they do not reveal their secret sins, and Mr. Hooper dies with his veil on:

...but awful is still the thought, that it moldered beneath the Black Veil!

Likewise, in "Young Goodman Brown," Brown wears the figurative veil of hypocrisy as he believes that he can accompany the old man with the twisted walking stick who resembles his grandfather into the forest at night where the Black Mass is being celebrated.  When Brown sees his wife Faith being tested by the Devil, cries, "My Faith is gone!" and, after watching for a while asks, "But where is Faith?" as he "trembles."  After this experience, Brown hypocritically cannot believe that good exists in anyone when in actuality the true meaning of his cry that his Faith is gone is that he himself has lost his faith.  When his wife, with her innocent pink ribbons greets him the next morning "with such joy," he looks

sternly and sadly into her face, and passed on without a greeting.

From then on, Goodman becomes  a "stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man."  He is isolated by his hypocritical belief that he is the only good man and the others "blasphemers."  When he dies, although there is a "goodly procession," Brown's "dying hour was gloom" in his terrible isolation of his secret sin as well as his isolation from the hearts of others, a death much like that of Mr. Hooper.

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