Monday, December 10, 2007

Secrecy and Shame?

Journal No. 16
English 48A

Dr. Scott Lankford
Author I chose: Nathaniel Hawthorne

One of our essay questions wanted us to explain why secrecy had such an important role in Hawthorne and Poe's writings. Below, I have expanded on some of my thoughts about the role that it has played in "The Minister's Black Veil."

I. "He has changed into something awful, only by hiding his face."

II. A parishioner sees Mr. Hooper approaching the church newly adorned in a black veil, covering only his face.

III. Nathaniel Hawthorne has used many different elements in the story "The Minister's Black Veil." He writes about a minister who appears one day wearing a black veil, which he does not take off for anything. The parishioners are all appalled by the idea of a clergyman wearing something so... daring? It appears as though he may be in mourning since this would be a traditional way to dress for a woman in mourning. However, since the minister is a man and he does not seem to be in mourning for anyone in particular, the sight of him is quite frightening to many.

When I initially read this story, it seemed to me that Hawthorne intended for Mr. Hooper to be wearing the veil as a protest or a statement. I felt that Mr. Hooper wanted to point out to his parishioners that they judged people too much by what their appearances were and did not accept people for who they were beyond appearances. In re-reading the story, it seemed that he was making a statement for the parishioners to model themselves after. He encouraged people to repent their sins - even on their deathbeds: "Dying sinners cried aloud for Mr. Hooper, and would not yield their breath til he appeared" (Hawthorne 1318). Is this his intent with the black veil?

Hawthorne leaves the meaning and purpose of the black veil a mystery to the reader, just as it was to the parishioners. Is the black veil representative of something different for everyone who reads about it or sees it? Does it symbolize our worst fears or most hidden secrets? Do we shudder at the sight of it because it reminds us of the evil within us? His writing purposely plays on these "insecurities" and deep sins within to create images much more potent than any that he would be able to describe in words alone.


drscottie said...

20/20 Well,then, whay not answer your own questions?