Symbolism plays a major role in the “Minister’s Black Veil” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It influences the setting of the story and it complements the moral message. The minister, Mr. Hooper, has a lot of faith and is very committed to helping the society to be more faithful and closer to God. He lives a very harsh live being rejected by society and goes through unpleasant moments to achieve his original goal. When he decides to wear the black veil, he was not trying to be mysterious and create a gloomy environment like he did; he had much more than that in mind.
The Black Veil represents the thought of the puritans that sin was an inexcusable mistake, the secret sin and dark side in each individual, and he uses this symbol to teach a moral lesson to the puritan society. Puritan society was very hypocritical and was very close-minded. People thought that sin was an unforgivable mistake. They all know the have sinned and still do not accept the minister with his black veil because they thought he was hiding a secret sin. He is excluded and judged from his very first appearance with the black veil. He has changed himself into something awful, only by hiding his face,” a woman makes this judgment when he first appeared with the black veil. It shows how people made comments and judgments without further knowledge on why the minister was wearing the veil. Similarly, wearing a black veil was something unusual in the town and it brought a tension in the relationship between the reverend and the people of the congregation. At this level, the minister mentions to all the people that they do not accept their natural sinful existence because of prejudice among the society.
He states that even if they do not confess it publicly God will know because He is almighty, “the subject had reference to secret sin, and those sad mysteries which we hide from our nearest and dearest, and would fain conceal from our consciousness, even forgetting that the Omniscient can detect them. ” He is saying that people are empty and how undervalued their faith truly is. Their faith is very superficial. He said this at the sermon and people immediately started to feel guilty for their actions, “ Each member of the congregation… felt as if the preacher had crept upon them, behind his awful veil, and discovered their hoarded niquity of deed or thought. ” It shows how fake people are because they all have something hidden. From this point on people started to fear him and felt uncomfortable around him.
They started to become aware of their sins. Nonetheless, Mr. Hooper thinks people are hypocrites because they reject him for confessing that he has sinned in public when they have all sinned too, “for the symbol beneath which I have lived, and die! I look around me, and lo! On every visage a Black Veil! he emphasizes that there is a hidden sin in everyone and that they are all hypocrites. Even though they are not wearing a Black Veil, everyone has done something evil, that God and themselves know and feel guilty. The black veil symbolizes the dark side and secret sin of all humans even of him. He sees his reflection in a mirror and realizes how terrifying he looks and how gloomy his appearance was, “the black veil involved his own spirit in the horror with which it overwhelmed all others. He sacrifices his own sinless reputation to help the town and it gives the reader an idea of how terrifying he is. In addition, this veil draws a barrier between him and God when he separates himself from human contact, “it threw his obscurity between him and the holy page. ” The veil represents secret sins and that is why Mr. Hooper wears it. He has a secret sin that inhibits him form being near God and it portrays an evil image to the society. Puritans always related strange and mysterious behavior as being something dark and evil.
People were scared of him wearing the black veil, “How strange,” said a lady, “that a simple black veil, such as any woman might wear on her bonnet, should become such a terrible thing on Mr. Hooper’s face! ” This shows how people thought the veil was a sign of evilness and how it made Mr. Hooper evil although he was the same person behind the veil. All the people in town already see the veil related to the devil or something gloomy like him, yet Mr. Hooper does not give up his goal and uses it to teach a lesson impacting people’s lives.
Mr. Hooper has an effect on people by wearing the veil and he uses it to express his original purpose. Everyone on Earth has sinned, “for the Earth, too, had on her Black Veil. ” This shows that Mr. Hooper believed that sin is a part of nature and it is a natural thing to be sinners. Even Earth, His own creation, is hiding her secret under a black veil. Hawthorne says this to show Mr. Hooper’s point that people have an inborn sinful nature and it is not always represented by literally wearing a black veil. In other words, he says that ven people who do not wear a black veil equally have secret sins, “If I hide my face for sorrow, there is a cause enough…and if I cover it for secret sin, what mortal might not do the same? ” People hide their real self to prevent being criticized by society and because they are ashamed of what they have done. He pays a high price in the attempt of teaching society the nature of sins. The people who used to admire him are now afraid and confused so he is forced to live a lonely live. Following this further, he influences people to believe the moral lesson behind his decision of wearing the veil.
He wants people to recognize that they have sinned and he achieves this, “he became a man of awful power over souls that were in agony for sin,” people started to acknowledge that they, “had been with him behind the black veil,” but people only came to him when they needed help otherwise they were still terrified. In general this is what Mr. Hooper was hoping the outcome would be when he decided to put on the black veil; people realizing that sins were not the end of the world as long as you recognized them and regretted them but sins will be with you even when you die and that is why he wants to keep the veil on when he dies.
In conclusion, the black veil illustrates the puritans believe that sin was a mistake with no pardon, the secret sin and evilness, and the way the minister uses it to teach a moral lesson. It is a very powerful symbol in the story that has many meanings and each individual person might interpret the black veil a different way. Hawthorne’s message is that even though you confessed your sin and you repented, it will no be ignored. He demonstrates it with the fact that Mr. Hooper dies with the veil still on. He is basically saying that your sins will always be with you. Mr. Hooper just likes his sins to be in the form of a veil.