Nathaniel Hawthorne’s writings have had the history of relating to a certain times in his life. The stories were not fully based on what he went there or what his family had done, but the idea of them had come his imagination and from his life. The guilt and alienation that “The Minister’s Black Veil” has seems to have a relation to the guilt that Hawthorne felt about what his family had done in Salem. Hawthorne’s desire to separate himself from his family was very strong.
He moved out of Salem and he changed his name by simply adding a “w” to his name to distance himself even more form them. (Ruben Essay, 2). The full detail of the events that took place in connection to Hawthorne’s family is not fully discussed but the humiliation and embarrassment that he felt for the acts they committed followed him throughout his life. Although one can allude that Hawthorne’s imagination was the source of the writing of The Minister’s Black Veil, but is his imagination the only thing that helped him write such tales?
The guilt and alienation that that Mr. Hooper has in The Minister’s Black Veil is related to the guilt and alienation that Hawthorne had because of the things that his family had done in Salem. The behavior of his uncle during the Salem Witchcraft Trials shadowed him for years. He used these tales to represent and demonstrate the shame and the guilt he had felt for so many years and the shame that his uncle should have felt, that he was never able escape. The narrator of the Minister’s Black Veil never details the reason for Mr. Hooper wearing the veil.
The Veil symbolizes the hidden sins that he had committed himself, the sins of his parishioners and the sins of all humans. He carried the sins and the shame of not only himself but of everyone. The veil represents his inability to obtain goodness and righteousness of God. Another factor that leads to the meaning of the veil is the smiles that Mr. Hooper often does throughout the tale. For example on page 193 when he and his wife are having the argument “Mr. Hooper’s smile glimmered faintly” and also on page 199 on his death bed. Father Hooper fell back upon his pillow, a veiled corpse, with a faint smile lingering on the lips”. His smiles are often the same; they come in and grimily fade away. He smiles beneath the veil and this demonstrates the imprisonment of souls that have secret sins. It’s like they are showing themselves for that split second and then they go hide again behind the veil. On page 199 of the text Mr. Hooper speaks before his death: “when man does not vainly shrink from the eye of his Creator, loathsomely treasuring up the secret of his sin; then deem me a monster, for the symbol beneath which I have lived, and die!
I look around me and, lo! In every visage a Black Veil! ” Mr. Hooper is bringing shame to all that had looked at him, not only for their unknown sins but, to all that had started and repeated rumors of his reason for wearing the veil. To the love of his life that had left him for not removing the veil he wears her sins as will. Mr. Hooper wore is veil in openness, which represents the fact that he wore his sins in the open of light not in the closeness of the dark.
He put his sin out for all to see he did not hide them, but they all head theirs and in doing so he was able to see what they tried to hide, he saw that same black veil on their faces as he wore. Montbriand’s essay supports this theory of the meaning of the veil (pages 1-3) with the following quotes. (1) “The assumption that the veil hides something and is donned by Hoper to send a message to the congregation. But critics have overlooked another effect of the veil, which not only hides the face of the wearer from the view but also colors his view of the world”.
This comment supports the fact that the veil is related to the darkness of sin. Not only do others see the darkness when looking at him but he sees this same darkness when he looks out at the world. (2) “The veil as a marker of some specific crime Hooper has committed, the veil as the embodiment of Original Sin, humanity’s tendency to transgress against the laws of God; and the veil as a signal of Hooper’s excessive pride. ” The Veil undoubtedly is associated with the guilt of his sins and other and the alienation he received from other for wearing the veil.
Throughout the text he makes statements that give leads as to why he is wearing the Veil. As a religious person like many I am aware of being washed of your sin’s when you come to death’s door as well as the day God shall return to the earth and take us all. This typical regions belief is displayed. Mr. Hooper makes note of this as well. “There is an hour to come, said he, when all of us shall cast aside our veils. Take it no amiss, beloved friend, if I wear this piece of crape till then. ” Here is representing this and his dedication and determination to wearing the veil.
He will not be separated from it until due time of his death. The whole mood of the tale is gloomy and unpleasant it has this uncertainty at the end that leaves one with several questions as to what was the true meaning and purpose of him having to bear this burden and wear this veil. The end is somewhat giving of the true reason or meaning of the veil, Montbriand’s (p. 1) believed that the events that took place right before Hooper’s death were not as strong as they could have been. The message that was given could have been more powerful and clearer. He waits until his deathbed to say anything about the veil, and even then he speaks rather ambiguously”. I agree with Montbriand’s, but I also feel that this is the style in which Hawthorne writes, for him to have been more forth coming in the end about the true meaning of the veil would have changed the story and the writer and changing himself is not what he wanted to do in order to reach the reader. These same feelings are displayed in an opposite setting in the tale Young Goodman Brown. In one “The Minister’s Black Veil he is covering up the faces of sin and in “Young Goodman Brown he is exposing the faces of sin.
Instead Mr. Hooper head behind the veil of evil and sin, but Mr. Brown brought light to the evil and sin that was going on. Both of these tales tie together the same similar point of view and symbol/symbolism. For one it is the black veil and for the other it is the pink hair ribbons. The connection between the two tales is the symbolism and the point of view the narrator takes. They both have the gloomy feeling of a life lost to sin or faith lost to sin. They both represent faith and losses of it. Either, it being related to hiding behind sins or losing faith because of the sin that surrounds you.
The symbolism in Young Goodman Brown is the pink ribbon which represents Faiths innocence. The point of view of the tale swings back between the narrator and Mr. Brown. The reader gets the thoughts of Mr. Brown and the objective view of his behavior. This technique is similar to that of Mr. Hooper in The Minister Black Veil. Mr. Hoper’s veil represents the Sins. The point of view of this tale also swings back and forth between the narrator and Mr. Hooper, just like with Young Goodman Brown. The only difference is the narrator in this tale is unknown.
We are still privileged to the thoughts of Mr. Hooper and the actions and thoughts of the people around him. There are things in Young Goodman Brown that The Ministers Veil do not have, like romanticism and foreshadowing but, the factors they do share like symbolism and point of view show how Hawthorne’s personal experiences with faith, sin and embarrassment along with his imagination have lead him to write great tales, that all readers can related to and learn from. The connection between a writer’s lives is based on two facts.
The writings they create either express what they went through in their lives or what they dreamed they could be dong in their lives. These two factors are the start of any great writer. Imagination and personal experience go hand in hand. A person’s work is a part of who they are or who they were on some level. The connection between the two tales and several other tales by Hawthorne all represent some aspect of his life and the life he lived. To try and separate the two would only take away from how great of a writer he was.
Ruben, Paul P. Chapter 3: Nineteenth Century to 1865- Nathaniel Hawthorne. ” PAL: Perspectives in American Literature – A Research and Reference Guide. Web. 30 Oct. 2010. http://web,csustan. edu/english/reuben/pal/chap3/hawthorne. html. Hawthorne, Nathaniel and Colacurio, Michael J, Penguin Classics, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Selected Tales and Sketches. New York, NY, Penguin Books, 1987. Print Timothy Montbriand’s. “The Minister’s Black Veil: finding the Meaning of the Veil”. Short Stories for Students. Ed. Marie Rose Napierkowski. Vol. 7. Detroit: Gale, 1998. eNotes. com January 2006. 1 November 2010. .