Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story "The Minister's Black
Veil" is ostensibly the story of a minister who, for the majority
of his life, uses a black veil to hide his face from his
congregation. This black veil causes those around him to question
all but himself as to the its logic. Additionally, the black veil
creates tension in some, grief in others and endless gossip for
all. The ramifications of "The Minister's Black Veil" have been
under the penetrating light of the critic's microscope for years
and, I have no doubt, will be for years to come. The principal
reason for this is explained best by R. H. Fogle when he suggests
that "many interpretations are possible when an author
consciously works ambiguity as his principal organizational
trope" (Quarterly 21: 344). However, as asserted by Norman German
even "perspicacious critics can have blindspots" (Fiction 21:
41). More significantly, Hawthorne's employment of puns and
biblical references, throughout the story, overshadows other
myths the "The Minister's Black Veil" brings to life.
ameliorate understanding of the veil comes to life only after one
studies these puns and biblical references more scrupulously.
Hawthorne consistently uses puns and the contiguity of
perceptibly dissimilar words. As Norman German notes, however,
these dissimilar words are "related etymologically". (Fiction
v25(1): 41). Puns, which may seem coincidental on the surface,
actually show that Hawthorne uses a carefully thought out process
to strengthen the principal theme of the story. Most revealing is
one of Mr. Hooper's parishioner's who seems "not fully to partake
of the prevailing wonder" (Literature) of Mr. Hooper's
eccentricity. Further on the narrator tells us that "there was
one person in the village [Elizabeth], unappalled by the awe with
which the black veil had impressed all beside herself"
(Literature). Hawthorne associates these statements with
characters who the...