Nathaniel Hawthorne: "The Minister's Black Veil" A Study of Puns and Biblical References

Essay by don_whalenUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, March 2003

download word file, 7 pages 3.3

Downloaded 98 times

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...