In depth analysis of “The Minister’s Black Veil”
What point was the minister trying to make to his congregation by wearing a black veil? The effect on his parishioners varied but sadly they missed the point that he sacrificed the remainder of his life trying to make. The Reverend Hooper’s point was that everyone has sins weather they are visible or not, and those who hold onto their secret sins protect them as they would treasures rather then confessing and forsaking them.
The effect on his parishioners varied but they never really understood. The first moment when the people saw the minister’s black veil, it worked as it was supposed to, this is shown by the line “Each member of the congregation… felt as if the preacher had crept upon them… and discovered their hoarded iniquity of deed or thought” (336). However, generally people dislike being called unto repentance; it makes them uncomfortable in their own skin. This is what happened to the congregation and rather then using this opportunity to repent they eventually turned it around on the minister as if he was the one who had some horrible sin and then they were able to forget about their own sins until the end. Many sinners called for Reverend Hopper for their deathbed confessions; in an effort to repent at the last minute. The black veil enabled him to have “power over souls that were in agony for sin” (341). In the end many felt that the minister had “brought them to celestial light [and out of sin]” (341). Yet they treated him so unkindly. There is much Christian symbolism behind that line, as it is a type of Christ. Jesus was treated horribly and he brought the light of his gospel to the Jews and they crucified him for it. Sadly they didn’t understand the true meaning of repentance. Repentance is an on going process not a one time action before death. If they had only humbled themselves and repented daily and strived with all their heart to continually do better they could have lived without the weight of their sins dragging them down.
The minister sacrificed his every happiness in life to try to help his parishioners. He was a man who took his job very seriously and sacrificed everything to help others to heaven. “He was “a good preacher, but not an energetic one: he strove to win his people heavenward, by mild passive influences, rather then drive them thither, by thunders of the word” (336). Helping others to repent and come unto Christ was not only his job but his passion in life. He gave up being popular and loved; living a lonely, misunderstood life in order to bring others back to heaven. This is also a type of Christ. The minister’s friends abandoned him, people thought and spoke ill of him, and in the end he died alone and misunderstood. These are all things Jesus Christ suffered as well only to a much greater extent. The minister sacrificed his own happiness for his congregation to bring them back to heaven. Likewise only in a much greater capacity did Jesus Christ sacrifice his life to atone for the sins of world and save mankind from everlasting death. The minister sacrificed his last breath to help the people understand when he said “for the symbol beneath which I have lived, and died… on every visage a Black Veil” (342). He was trying even on his death bed to help those around see their sins and repent.
The minister’s black veil was a symbol for secret sin; everyone has secret sin and therefore metaphorically everyone wears a black veil. The message was clear in the first sermon he gave while wearing the physical black veil. “The subject had reference to secret sin…” (336). The black veil was meant to represent and emphasize his message about secret sin. He clearly states “this veil is a type and a symbol” (339). It is obvious that a physical piece of cloth is not in its self a sin but is a symbol used to represent secret sin. On his death bed he states “I look around me, and, lo, on every visage a Black Veil” (342). By this he meant that everyone has secret sins. Sin is something we experience only in mortality; there is no sin in eternity. When he is talking to Elizabeth, he was trying to explain the symbolism behind the veil through this physical example. He states “though this veil must be between us here on earth... hereafter there shall be no veil, no darkness” (340). By this he means that secret sins have come between them on earth but that no sins would come between them in Eternity because there would be no sin in Heaven.
Reverend Hooper’s physical black veil representing secret sins was visible while everyone else metaphoric black veil or secret sins were invisible. In his first sermon wearing the black veil, he talked about how “we hide [secret sin] from our nearest and dearest, and would fain conceal from our own consciousness, even forgetting that the Omniscient can detect them” (336). He is pointing out that his parishioners are pretending to be perfect and sinless, while it is a fact in Christianity that the only perfect person ever to walk the earth was Jesus Christ. It is like brushing dirt under the rug and pretending it isn’t there. Just because it appears to be gone doesn’t mean it has magically disappeared; as soon as the cleaning lady comes and cleans under the rug she will find the dirt. It is the same with sins just because we ignore them or pretend they didn’t happen and try to forget about them doesn’t mean they are really gone. The only way to remove sin is through repentance. God knows all and will remember all sins that have not been repented of in the next life. The parishioners didn’t want to see or deal with their own metaphoric black veils or secret sins so they concentrated on the minister’s physical black veil or secret sin instead.
The minister pointed out the secret sins of his congregation in order to call them to repentance. The message was specifically directed at those holding onto secret sin, to inspirer them into confessing and forsaking their sins. Christians believe that the atonement of Jesus Christ has made repentance possible, so that all can be spotless [sinless] and enter into the kingdom of God. It is common knowledge that no unclean thing [sinful soul] can enter into the kingdom of God and that once sins have been forgiven God will remember them no more. According to the Christian faith in order to be forgiven one must confess and forsake their sins. The Reverend Hooper was trying to get his parishioners to do just that. He was asking them to stop holding onto their secret sins and give them to the Lord through repentance. On his death bed he was talking about God and the secret sins of mankind when he said “when man does not vainly shrink from the eye of his creator, loathsomely treasuring up the secret of his sin” (342). By this he meant that those who hold onto their sins rather then repenting will be the ones to tremble in the presents of the Lord.
The parishioners in “the Minister’s Black Veil” never come to understand the meaning of the black veil or the point behind it. Reverend Hooper’s sacrifice was in vein. However, as readers of Hawthorns tragic tale we can heed the warning not to become so prideful that we can’t see our own sins for we are all sinners and have a need of repentance.