Analysis of Hawthorne's "The Minister's Black Veil" and "The Birthmark"

Essay by ajped45High School, 11th grade August 2009

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It is human nature to allow physical characteristics and appearances blind one from truly distinguishing the internal treasures and values that something or someone may possess. It is a shame that these traits, which are worth glorification, are not given any attention due to a selfish, insignificant external component of one's visage, physical makeup, or visual anatomy. This common attribute of the frail humanity leads society down the path of judgment, defective decisions, and askew ethical foundations. However, if a person were to stray away from this common and unjust terrace, his or her moral substructure would be positively increased to a level far beyond the standard of humanity's mindset; given this is the dishonorable road the common person walks along. Looking beyond one's flaws and defects to determine his or her true charisma and character is a gift that should be cherished immensely. In Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Minister's Black Veil" and "The Birthmark," it becomes clear through symbolism and character that the judgment of physical imperfections can restrain or obstruct one from truly obtaining the gifts or treasures that the criticized person could offer.

In the "Veil," Mr. Hooper and his black veil are utilized to exemplify the potential barrier that a simple physical characteristic can express. For example, just as Mr. Hooper walked into the meetinghouse, "the pale-faced congregation [is] almost as fearful a sight to the minister as his black veil to them" (183). The symbolic significance of the feared and ominous crape is the physical and mental barricade that it creates between Hooper and the rest of the common people, and the feeling of guilt that it advocates. The religious congregation saw Reverend Hooper as a prosperous light through his brilliant spiritual leadership; however, due to this physical disturbance, the puzzled groups of individuals...