Sin is an issue that every human being has to deal with at one time or another in his or her lifetime. Sin is dealt with in many ways. Some people try to hide their sins, some try to push them aside and some try to deal with their sins in a more conventional way. The largest place for confessing sins in the world is the confessional booth at a church. People go to tell their sins, and feel cleansed afterwards. But what happens when a man who hears confessions day after day, sins himself. There is no confession booth for the man to go to. He must deal with his sin in his own way; a way that will leave him feeling cleansed. Mr. Hooper, in the parable, or short story, ?The Minister?s Black Veil? dawns a black veil to deal with his sins. The themes in the story that I chose to explore, were character, Mr. Hooper being a minister. And I also chose to talk about symbolism. The fact that Mr. Hooper?s veil is black is symbolic. The shuddering corpse is also a symbol of Hooper?s wrongdoing.
When Mr. Hooper puts the black veil on, he is no longer Mr. Hooper; he is a man that everyone is a afraid of. His relationship with Elizabeth is ruined because of his unwillingness to remove the veil. She cannot accept the fact that the minister must go the rest of his life without revealing his true face. After his first sermon, he did not go to Old Squire Saunders table to bless the food, as he had done almost every Sunday since his settlement. As Hooper is dying, near the end of the story, he is alone and says, ?…men avoided me, and women shown no pity and children screamed and fled…?(328), while others say he was ?kind and loving, though unloved, a man apart from men?(327).
The theme of symbolism is demonstrated numerous times throughout the book. The veil itself is symbolic. Hawthorne could have chosen numerous items that would have had less of an effect on the townspeople. But he chose a veil, a black veil nonetheless. Black is the color of death, the color worn at funerals to represent mourning, grievance, or sadness, and this adds to what Hawthorne is trying to say about Parson Hooper. Hawthorne even says ?Earth, too, had on her Black Veil?(324). The veil covered his face, and by looking into someone?s face and eyes, a lot can be determined about a person. In the story, Mr. Hooper uses the veil to represent the hiding of his sins. Hooper believed that people would wear their veils on Earth, and then they would be removed at a time when our souls will leave our bodies and our secrets will be revealed (Judgment Day), just as brides wear veils and then remove them at marriage.
Another theme explored in the story is character. Hawthorne chose a minister to wear the black veil. It wasn?t a sheriff or a farmer, but a minister. The character was very significant to his message. An ordinary person would probably not have been subjected to the scrutiny that the minister faced. The fact that the wearer was a minister portrays the fact that even the most spiritual mortal beings have impure thoughts, or have committed impure deeds. Such actions are expected from every other person in the community, but only the best is expected from the well-respected minister of the village.
Finally, I think that the funeral held on the day that Hooper dons the black veil is very symbolic and may prove the point that Hooper really did have a secret sin that he was trying to hide, or conceal from the public. It seems ironic that Hooper starts wearing the veil on the same day as the funeral. Possibly the donning of the veil on that particular day had something to do with the death of the young lady, or Hopper had some type of relationship with the woman. In addition, Hooper?s encounter with the corpse seemed quite unusual. While Hooper was bent over the body, ?the veil hung straight down from his forehead, so that, if her eyelids had not been closed for ever, the dead maiden might have seen his face?(323). On onlooker observed, ?at the instant when the clergyman?s features were disclosed, the corpse had slightly shuddered, rustling the shroud and muslin cap, through the countenance retained the composure of death?(323). The corpse was the only person to see Hooper with no veil on. Somehow the corpse saw something behind the veil. The corpse saw what Parson Hooper was trying to keep hidden. Somehow the corpse knew that what she saw was evil and it made her shudder, even in death.
Mr. Hooper?s veil is a symbol of sin, and the dark secrets that we neither want to face ourselves or expose to others. There are various items throughout the story that symbolize the point what Hawthorne is trying to get across. The person wearing the veil is a minister, which shows the theme of character. The veil being black shows symbolism, and the corpse shuddering at the sight of Hopper?s unveiled face, shows symbolism. All of these examples prove Hawthorne?s point.