Essay on External and Internal Conflict in The Minister’s Black Veil

Essay on External and Internal Conflict in The Minister’s Black Veil

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External and Internal Conflict in “The Minister’s Black Veil”        

 
     Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “The Minister’s Black Veil” manifests a duality of conflict – both an external conflict and an internal conflict. It is the purpose of this essay to explore both types of conflict as manifested in the story.

 

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. 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).

 

At the outset of the tale, “The Minister’s Black Veil,” the sexton is tolling the church bell and simultaneously watching Mr. Hooper’s door, when suddenly he says, ``But what has good Parson Hooper got upon his face?'' The surprise which the sexton displayed is repeated in the astonishment of the onlookers: “With one accord they started, expressing more wonder. . .” The reason is this: “Swathed about his forehead, and hanging down over his face, so low as to be shaken by his breath” is a black veil. The 30 year old, unmarried parson receives a variety of reactions from his congregation:

 

``I can't really feel as if good Mr. Hooper's face was behind that piec...


... middle of paper ...


...lives and live uprightly. Such a request entails an ongoing, personal, individual conflict with evil as long as life continues.

 

WORKS CITED

 

Abrams, M. H. A Glossary of Literary Terms, 7th ed. New York: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1999.

 

Erskine, John. “Nathaniel Hawthorne.” In Leading American Novelists. New 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.

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