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Dec 20 2011

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“The Minister’s Black Veil” Summary

“The Minister’s Black Veil” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, was published in 1836 in The Token and Atlantic Souvenir, and begins with Mr. Hooper attending his mass wearing a black veil, and gives his sermon on secret sin, which scares many people. Everyone makes a big deal out of the veil while assuming reasons that they think the minister is wearing it. Most people think that the minister committed a terrible sin or that he is grieving (possibly over the death of a young girl that died the day before the minister began wearing the veil). The minister then attends another mass, a funeral and a wedding, still wearing the black crape across his face. This makes everyone very upset because they’d expected him to have removed it, and because they are constantly reminded of their sins. Although the minister does not see why everyone is treating him so badly and avoiding him, he makes an effort to cheer up the guests with a toast. After getting no response from his toast, he left the wedding in a rush.

Later in the story, the town clergymen finally have the idea to ask the minister why he’s wearing the veil but when they go to confront him, no one can bring themselves to ask. They then push the responsibility of asking on to deputies, who show up at Hooper’s house prepared to ask for a reason. However, when the minister greets them and let’s them in his house, no one can get the question out. They then return to the town’s people, Elizabeth included, with no answer. This really upsets Mr. Hooper’s fiancee, Elizabeth, because she doesn’t like the rumors that people are making up about the minister, so she goes right to Mr. Hooper and asks him to remove the veil and then tell her why he wore it. He refuses to remove it and tells her that he wears it as a symbol of the veils that everyone wears and as a type of mourning. He then tells her that he’s “bound” to wear it as long as he lives and that she can not come behind it. She replies by asking him to remove it again because she’s worried that people won’t believe that it’s a type of mourning. Elizabeth goes to leave and the minister pleads with her to stay. She then asks him to remove the veil just once, to which he refuses.  Elizabeth then slowly leaves, shuddering at the minister’s appearance as she left.

The minister never marries and continues wearing the veil for the rest of his life, often giving sermons on sin and guilt, which made many people upset and yet helped gain many followers for the minister. On Mr. Hooper’s death bed, Elizabeth shows up with many of the respectable clergymen. They then ask him to remove the veil that he donned his whole life, to which, of course, the minister refuses. Before passing away, he tells everyone in the room that they should not tremble at him for wearing the veil. He said that they should tremble at each other because they all wear veils.

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