The Minister's Black Veil

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Symbolism is a literary tool that writers use to carry meaning throughout their stories and to give their work more depth. This technique can be used by the author to do one of two things; he clarify and/or simplify the symbolic meanings within the text to allow his intended meaning to be prevalent and unquestionable, or, he can use it to set up multiple possibilities as to the true meaning of the story, thus leaving this open for interpretation by the reader. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story “The Minister’s Black Veil”, we see many examples of symbolism. This story begins with the congregation turning to find that their minister is wearing a black veil upon his face. Throughout the story the meaning of the veil is questioned by the congregation and eventually they turn away from Mr. Hooper because he does not live by their conformist views. Among the many symbols present in this story, the veil itself is the most prevalent and it is evident through the text that Hawthorne intended the veil to symbolize not only the sins of the people, but also their reluctance to accept the idea that they too are sinners. There is some speculation by many as to the significance of the veil; however, evidence points to the idea that it is a representation of sin—explaining why Mr. Hooper felt that he could never take it off. Furthermore, it is through Mr. Hooper’s sermon on “secret sin” (1133) and “those sad mysteries which we hide from our nearest and dearest, and would fain conceal from our own consciousness” (1133”) that he expresses his fear that the congregation has become as blind to their own sin as they are blind to his face. Hawthorne also later writes that some of the congregation has left the church so as to not see the veil, and he suggests that “perhaps the pale-faced congregation was almost as fearful a sight to the minister as his black veil is to them” (1133). This signifies the congregation’s denial in that they cannot stand to look at the veil, and that...
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