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The Black Veil of the Minister

. . the covenant of grace steadily hardened into a covenant of barren works, in which an air of sanctimony became an easy substitute for the sense of sanctification (115-6). While Becker is explaining the foundation for the kind of sociopolitical dissent that was to culminate in the American revolution, the atmosphere of sanctimonious society as rendered by Hawthorne is what might be termed the other side of the same coin. Indeed, an inference as to one of the reasons the minister may have veiled himself may be drawn from Becker's observation that "while the covenant became more inelastic, and its rule of life more strictly defined, the call of the world became more insidious and alluring" (Becker, 116; emphasis added). There is in the quiet sincerity and determination of Mr. Hooper an authentic ache for communion with the intent of the divine, and as will be seen hereafter, the impress of the veil may be read as a nisus toward redemption, not only of Mr. Hooper but of the village. But the village will not be redeemed, for Mr. Hooper remains for it only a discomfiting curiosity.

The emotional symbolism emergent in "The Minister's Black Veil" may be observed in the self-imposed isolation of Mr. Hooper, from whose behavior reasons must be deduced rather than ascertained. The veil costs Mr. Hooper all personal relationships, including that of his fiancee Elizabeth, but he does not explain himself; a self-imposed vow of moral silence gives rise to "ambiguity of sin or sorrow, which enveloped the poor minister, so that love or sympathy could never reach him. It was said that ghost and fiend consorted with him there . . . Even the lawless wind, it was believed, respected his dreadful secret, and never blew aside the veil" (Hawthorne, 300-1).

Mr. Hooper's isolation is moral and nonetheless, or for that very reason, socially uncomfortable. At one level he may be said to cloak himself in his collar, yet his torment and isolation ar...

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The Black Veil of the Minister. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 02:54, August 18, 2017, from
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