Digital Humanities

The Minister's Black Veil Wordle


The three words that I chose to describe my story were veil, mystery and fear. All three words appeared in my Wordle very large and were repeated throughout the story. The Wordle was great because I noticed many connections between many words. One common relation that I found was many different words that refer to covering things. Black, crape, cover, piece, shield, veil and hide appeared in my wordle, which points to the main theme of the story. I then searched veil, mystery and fear in the Ngram viewer and found that veil and fear were used much more often during the 1830’s and then decreased in more recent times. After searching for synonyms, I then looked up estranged, sin and appearance in the Ngram viewer and found that estranged was used much more often in the decade to follow the publication of “The Minister’s Black Veil.”

“The Minister’s Black Veil” was published in 1937 and, according to the Ngram viewer, both sin and appearance were used very often between 1810-1840, and then decreased drastically in the years following. Sin and appearance are two main themes of the story, so it’s very cool that the Ngram viewer results reflect the  main concerns of the different time periods. The Ngram viewer results allow you to compare one piece of literature to others published in a time period of your choice. These results reflect the social environment that authors are in, which often influences their writing. Since veil, fear, sin and appearance are used dramitically more often around the time of the publication of “The Minister’s Black Veil,” they were more often written about in these years, so they were probably very common feelings in this time period. Ngram viewers are great sources of outside information, however, I don’t think that these two online resources are very helpful when interpreting literature. Both of these programs emphasized the main ideas and themes of the story, but didn’t give me any inspiration in my interpretation of “The Minister’s Black Veil.”

I love to read because you get to know the character’s more personally from their conversations, little acts they do, like take the stairs to their second floor apartment because the elevator was broken, and even by what character’s notice in town, like all the treeless streets  when you get a few blocks from campus. I get so much out of a story by rereading parts and by making connections throughout the story. The only outside source of help, that I rely heavily on when interpreting a story, is a dictionary because one word can say so much about a character or place. After reading about New Critics, Levi-Strauss, Fish and other literary critics, a very common agreement between them is that you need to look at whats going on in the story and at the plot to take away a better understanding of a piece of literature. Most of these critics feel that you don’t need to look at biographical information or historic events going on at the time of the writing because a good author tells a story with a plot that you can understand fairly well enough by what the author provides. In my opinion, and many others, the setting, plot, character’s, etc, give you everything you need to help interpret a story.

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