Conflicts, Climax and Resolution of Hawthorne’s The Minister's Black Veil

Conflicts, Climax and Resolution of Hawthorne’s The Minister's Black Veil

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    What is the conflict(s) in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Minister’s Black Veil”? Does it resolve after a climax? This essay intends to address these questions.

Hugo McPherson in “Hawthorne’s Use of Mythology” makes a statement regarding the nature of the conflict in the works of Hawthorne:

Everything he has to say is related, finally, to ‘that inward sphere.’ For the heart is the meeting-place of all the forces – spiritual and physical, light and dark, that compete for dominance in man’s nature. …Those who read him as a Christian moralist recognize instantly an opposition between Head and Heart, reason and passion which is related not only to Puritan theology but to the Neo-Classical view of man….(68-69)

 

The conflict involving pride and humility, sin and evil, 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 hatr...


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... 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.

 

McPherson, Hugo. “Hawthorne’s Use of Mythology.” In Readings on Nathaniel Hawthorne, edited by Clarice Swisher. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1996.

 

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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