Reoccurring Themes and Symbols

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By: James Nichols

Reoccurring Themes and Symbols in Different Works by Nathaniel Hawthorne It is no secret that Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Minister's Black Veil" is a parable. Hawthorne intended it as such and even gave the story the subtitle "a parable." "The Minister's Black Veil," however, was not Hawthorne's only parable. Hawthorne often used symbols and figurative language to give added meaning to the literal interpretations of his work. His Puritan ancestry also influenced much of Hawthorne's work. Instead of agreeing with Puritanism however, Hawthorne would criticize it through the symbols and themes in his stories and parables. Several of these symbols and themes reoccur in Hawthorne's "The Minister's Black Veil," "Young Goodman Brown", and The Scarlet Letter. One particularly noticeable theme in Hawthorne's work is that of secret sin (Newman 338). In the "Young Goodman Brown", this theme is evident when young Mr. Brown dreams that he is led by the devil to a witching party. There he sees all of the honorable and pious members of society, including his minister and the woman who taught him his catechisms, communing with the prince of darkness. Upon awakening, the hypocritical nature of his once admired neighbors and the realization of his own secret sin causes him to become terribly disillusioned (Colacurcio 396). The same thing happens in "The Minister's Black Veil," except the reader does not know exactly what secret sin makes Reverend Hooper begin to don the black veil. Many scholars believe that this has something to do with the funeral of the young lady at the beginning of the story. The opinions range from believing that Reverend Hooper loved the girl in secret, to Poe's believe that Reverend Hooper may have actually been the cause of the girl's death (Newman 204). Whatever the reason, the minister's wearing of the veil taints his view of everyone else around him, making all of them look like they are wearing veils as well (Hawthorne 107)....
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