Comparing Minister's Black Veil, And The Scarlet Letter, By Nathaniel Hawthorne

1253 Words6 Pages

During the 17th century, the Puritans crossed the sea to grace America with their presence. In an astounding example of foreshadowing, the Puritans set up a patriarchal, semi-authoritarian society based on strangely unforgiving laws interpreted from the Holy Bible. Generations later, Nathaniel Hawthorne is raised in a post-Salem witch trial society amongst Puritans. Hawthorne is devout; however, the unjustifiable actions of his ancestors disturbs him. Hawthorne grew to have deep criticisms of Puritan society, and this became evident in his works. Hawthorne's strongest criticisms of Puritan society show themselves in "Young Goodman Brown," "The Minister's Black Veil," and The Scarlet Letter. Hawthorne knows well that no one is free from sin, …show more content…

Puritan belief lends itself to the idea that outward appearance is often an indicator of inward holiness. Unfortunately, that belief leads to this reaction towards Mr. Hooper whenever he wears a plain, black veil: "'I can't really feel as if good Mr. Hooper's face was behind that piece of crape'… 'I don't like it'… 'He has changed himself into something awful, only by hiding his face.' … 'Our parson has gone mad!' ("The Minister's Black Veil" 410). Mr. Hooper's audience even begins to distrust him, leading one to say "'I would not be alone with him for the world,'" ("The Minister's Black Veil" 411-2). Although Mr. Hooper remains unchanged for the most part, the black veil changes his appearance and the townsfolk's opinion of him. This superficiality, Hawthorne insinuates, should not be characteristic of Puritan communities. One common interpretation of Mr. Hooper's veil is that it represents the secret sin everyone bears. However, given Mr. Hooper's treatment, one would be surprised to learn that everyone is cognizant of that fact. The town is made uncomfortable by Mr. Hooper's sermon on secret sin, and so they ostracize him ("The Minister's Black Veil" 411). Even on his deathbed, people plea for him to take off the veil, and instead he cries "'Why do you temble at me alone?'…'Tremble also at each other!'...'I look around me, and lo! On every visage a black veil!'"(417-8). Hawthorne highlights the hypocrisy of Puritans with Mr. Hooper's ostracization. A Puritan is a hypocrite if they should cruelly treat someone because of appearance or sin as both of these are considered unimportant and unavoidable, respectively, in Puritan

Open Document