“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (King James Version, Rom. 3.38 ). This Bible verse appears to encompass Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “The Minister’s Black Veil”. As with many of his works, Hawthorne draws from his puritan heritage and New England childhood. The setting is in a small puritan village by the name of Milferd. The main character, Reverend Hooper, appears one Sunday with a black veil completely covering his face. Thereafter, he never takes it off, despite gossip and judgement from his parish. Inspiration for this parable stems from Hawthorne knowledge of a man that accidentally murdered his friend, and thereafter wore a black veil. Despite this, there is not a defined reason that is given as to why the main character of this story makes the same decision. This is because the concentration of the story is not on why the minister wears the veil, but rather what the veil represents. “The Minister’s Black Veil” is meant to be a parable to teach the theme that all have sinned. Through analyzing this short story, it can be seen how he extends this relentless motif through symbolism, characters and irony.
One of the ways Hawthorne is able to portray the depravity of humanity is through the symbolism of the black veil. The veil is established several times throughout the short story as a symbol. One of the most crucial instances is when the minister’s fiancée petitions him to reveal the meaning of why he wears the veil. Rather than disclosing the reasoning behind it, he responds, “‘Know, then, this veil is a type and a symbol, and I am bound to wear it ever.’” (Hawthorne) By directly stating the veil is a symbol, Hawthorne is challenging his readers to discover the meaning o...
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...fact that the town does not respond with understanding of the human condition, but rather they respond with gossip, and judgment. These traits are sins.
Through deeper examination of the symbolism, characters, and irony in “The Minister’s Black Veil” it is obvious that Hawthorne effectively conveys that all have sinned. This message was highly relevant to the era he lived in. Although it was believed that everyone had original sin, there was much hypocrisy. Despite being written one-hundred and seventy-five years ago, the theme in "The Minister 's Black Veil" can easily be associated with today 's world. Everyone still has faults, and no one is perfect. Perhaps the theme is true in this generation, is because he concentrates on the faults of humanity, which will never cease. No matter what time period this story 's theme that all have sinned will always be relevant.
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