It is the purpose of this essay to show that Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Minister’s Black Veil” is indeed an allegory. M. H. Abrams defines an allegory as a “narrative, whether in prose or verse, in which the agents and actions, and sometimes the setting as well, are contrived by the author to make coherent sense on the ‘literal,’ or primary, level of signification, and at the same time to signify a second, correlated order of signification” (5).
Yvor Winters in “Maule’s Curse, or Hawthorne and the Problem of Allegory” says that Hawthorne is essentially an allegorist (11). Stanley T. Williams in “Hawthorne’s Puritan Mind” states that the author was always “perfecting his delicate craft of the symbol, of allegory” (42). A.N. Kaul states : “In an effort to apprehend and adequately reflect the new complexity of man’s life, he [Hawthorne] molded the venerable – in his case directly inherited – allegorical method into the modern technique of symbolism” (3).
It is quite obvious that “The Minister’s Black Veil” has a secondary signification. There are so many references or allusions to spiritual-moral values in the tale that on the level of secondary signification the Reverend Hooper may be interpretable as the new Adam. R. W. B. Lewis in “The Return into Time: Hawthorne” states: Finally, it was Hawthorne who saw in American experience the re-creation of the story of Adam and who . . . exploited the active metaphor of the American as Adam – before and during and after the Fall” (72). As the new Adam, Reverend Hooper recognizes sin in his life just as did the first Adam; he, as a minister, seeks to help his congregation recognize sin in their own lives so...
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Kazin, Alfred. Introduction. Selected Short Stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne. New York: Fawcett Premier, 1966.
Kaul, A.N. “Introduction.” In Hawthorne – A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by A.N. Kaul. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966.
Lewis, R. W. B. “The Return into Time: Hawthorne.” In Hawthorne – A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by A.N. Kaul. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966.
Williams, Stanley T. “Hawthorne’s Puritan Mind.” In Readings on Nathaniel Hawthorne, edited by Clarice Swisher. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1996.
Winters, Yvor. “Maule’s Curse, or Hawthorne and the Problem of Allegory.” In Hawthorne – A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by A.N. Kaul. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966.
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