Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Minister’s Black Veil” will be examined in order to determine the conflicts in the tale, the climax and resolution.
The conflict involving evil and sin, pride and humility is the direction that Clarice Swisher in “Nathaniel Hawthorne: a Biography” tends: “Hawthorne himself was preoccupied with the problems of evil, the nature of sin, the conflict between pride and humility” (13).
In the opinion of this reader, the central conflicts – the relation between the protagonist and antagonist (Abrams 225) - in the tale are an internal one, a spiritual-moral conflict within the minister, the Reverend Mr. Hooper, and an external one with the world at large represented by the congregation. This evaluation seems to reflect Swisher’s first two considerations of evil and sin, and implicitly reflect the “conflict between pride and humility.” Wilson Sullivan in “Nathaniel Hawthorne” tells where the author got the idea of a conflict between good and evil:
He looked back, deeply back into America’s Puritan past, the era of the New England theocracy, when the conflict of good and evil, freedom and tyranny, love and hatred was more explicit, more rigidly defined, free of the ambiguities of an increasingly pluralistic society, governed by a shared morality (70).
Other literary opinions include morality, evil, guilt in their assessments of the conflicts within Hawthorne’s short stories. Stanley T. Williams in “Hawthorne’s Puritan Mind” states: “What he wrote of . . . . unforgettable case histories of men and women afflicted by guilt, or, as he called it, by “a stain upon the soul” (43). Sculley Bradley, Ri...
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... York: Books For Libraries Press, 1968.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “Minister’s Black Veil.” Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library. http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccer-new2?id=HawMini.sgm&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&tag=public&part=1&division=div1
Kazin, Alfred. Introduction. Selected Short Stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne. New York: Fawcett Premier, 1966.
Sullivan, Wilson. “Nathaniel Hawthorne.” In New England Men of Letters. New York: Macmillan Co., 1972.
Swisher, Clarice. “Nathaniel Hawthorne: a Biography.” In Readings on Nathaniel Hawthorne, edited by Clarice Swisher. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1996.
Williams, Stanley T. “Hawthorne’s Puritan Mind.” In Readings on Nathaniel Hawthorne, edited by Clarice Swisher. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1996.
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