Characteristic Of Mr. Hooper From The Minister’s Black Veil
Unveiling the Minister
The short story, “The Minister’s Black Veil” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is a gripping and tragic story, describing the life of a preacher named Mr. Hooper after he places a black veil on his head. For the majority of the story, Mr. Hooper is an admirable character, which is shown through the reasoning behind his actions, his devotion, his morality, and the perspective of the story. The only aspect of the story where Mr. Hooper is misguided lies within the method he uses to reveal his beliefs to the parishioners. The unrelenting persistence he shows in not taking off the veil reveals how strong of a character he really has. What he does is so benign, simply placing a veil over his face, yet the mystery of what it conceals creates a rift between him and his community.
To begin with, Mr. Hooper can be seen as admirable through his actions of putting on the black veil and his reasoning behind it. Although in the story it does not disclose what event directly led him to put on the veil, it can be inferred as a message from God, considering Mr. Hooper is a minister. Right at the beginning of the story, the tone is one of joy as all of the parishioners wait for the minister in the “Sabbath sunshine” (1). Once the minister is spotted, the tone of optimism is crushed, instead becoming solemn and mysterious. Along with the atmosphere of the story, the parishioners also have a change in emotion. The reason behind this abrupt alteration in attitude is the minister, Mr. Hooper, or rather what he wears upon his face: a black piece of fabric covering his eyes and nose. How the townspeople initially react is reasonable; they are confused at this change in appearance. Mr. Hooper, however, does not notice the confusion and acts as if the black veil is not an object of concern, still “nodding kindly” (2) to those around him.
In other circumstances, the black veil would seem innocent. In this case, as Mr. Hooper continues to wear the fabric, it emits an overriding gloom and strikes fear into the hearts of everyone. In a sense, terror is exactly what Mr. Hooper hopes to instill in every man, woman, and child; not fear of Mr. Hooper himself, but of each other. The reason Mr. Hooper puts on the veil is to expose everyone for who they truly are: mortal sinners and liers. Mr. Hooper does not try to be subtle in his meaning for wearing the veil. During the congregation after the veil is exposed, Mr. Hooper preaches about the “secret sin” that man hides in vain from both his “own consciousness” and “the Omniscient” (3). These words directly reveal the motive behind the veil, and as a minister, he has most likely preached similar words. While the words itself are “nothing terrible” (3), the physicality of the black veil has more of a direct effect on the parishioners. In the description of the reaction to Mr. Hooper’s sermon, the word “awe” (3) has a double meaning, both in the sense of fear and reverence. Even as the parishioners are frightened of Mr. Hooper’s black veil, they still feel a form of respect for his radical actions.
Another reason Mr. Hooper is an admirable character through the story is due to his undying devotion towards his religious beliefs. As a minister, Mr. Hooper is obligated to feel passionate about religion, but he ascends this passion, by keeping the black veil over his head through his entire life. The fact that he is willing to risk any friendliness and adoration from the townspeople shows how strong his devotion is. Mr. Hooper believes that everyone wears a black veil identical to his. While it cannot be physically seen on everyone, it is shown through their human imperfection. Wearing the black veil is Mr. Hooper’s way of manifesting mortal sin; everyone wears a veil that hinders them from knowing true love, in this case God’s love. Only in death he believes the veil can be lifted and this love felt. It is his way of preparing everyone for death, and in that death, eternal life. Not many people have this much devotion to religion, even other ministers. This calling Mr. Hooper feels so greatly to spread his ideas of mortality and his steadfast faith exemplifies how respectable he is.
In Mr. Hooper’s quest to expose the black veil on everyone, the community distances themselves from him in fear of this new minister and the mystery the veil conceals. The people in the town are not the only ones afraid of the black veil; Mr. Hooper himself avoids glimpsing at the veil so he is not “affrighted by himself” (8). Unlike those surrounding him, Mr. Hooper cannot run away from the veil. Despite his own fears of the veil, Mr. Hooper continues to carry it on his face, and this determination amplifies how respectable his character is.
The section of the story where Mr. Hooper’s true devotion is displayed is the end, when he lies in his death bed. Reverend Clark asks Mr. Hooper to take off the veil since he is about to die, but the persistent minister refuses. Mr. Hooper then channels his remaining energy into a speech addressing those around him. In this speech, the minister accuses everyone of hypocrisy, saying they only “tremble” at him because of “the mystery” the veil “obscurely typifies” (11). He goes on to say “I look around me, and lo! on every visage a Black Veil!” (11). Here Mr. Hooper candidly states how the veil is a personification of mortal sin. Even though it cannot be physically seen on a person, the veil still hangs over his or her face. Even at the end of his life, Mr. Hooper defends his beliefs, using what little strength is within him.
Another form of strength Mr. Hooper shows throughout the story is his morality. His actions of continuing to do charity for his parish and have the same amiable personality as before shows an admirable fortitude in his moral standards. He does not begin to despise the townspeople for distancing themselves from him, nor does he hate them for running in fear. Instead he helps them. Mr. Hooper continues being friendly in performing his daily duties as a minister, but those he aids do not give him words of thanks. Instead he is regarded with “dread” and “shuddered at” (9). As the story progresses and Mr. Hooper ages, those surrounding him still fear the black veil, but they also develop a sort of fascination of him. “Kind and loving, though unloved, and dimly feared; a man apart from men, shunned in their health and joy, but ever summoned to their aid in mortal anguish” (9). He is treated as if he is no longer a man, yet in regards to sympathy, Mr. Hooper is more human than those he assisted.
A recurring image that conveys Mr. Hooper’s stoic moral standards is his smile. This image is ironic because the act of smiling is usually associated with happiness, but Mr. Hooper’s is described as “sad” (4,7,9,11) and “melancholy” (6). This can suggest how even though Mr. Hooper feels the pain and exclusion that the black veil produces, he has the strength of character to persevere by smiling. “But, even amid his grief, Mr. Hooper smiled” (8). Also, his smile is always described as “glimmering” (4,6,7). This word has a positive tone that suggests that there is still a light behind the black veil. Throughout the story, this “glimmering” smile is never prominent nor lasting, but during Mr. Hooper’s final moments on earth, the smile begins to “linger” (11) on his face. This reveals how prepared Mr. Hooper is to know that he will soon leave the mortal world and arrive in the presence of God.
In reference to all-knowing entities, the point of view of this story is told by the perspective of an outside voice not directly involved in the plot. This is shown through the fact that the narrator can hear the thoughts of all the characters and is present even when Mr. Hooper is present and absent from the scene. This point of view has a great impact in uncovering Mr. Hooper’s character by contrasting his thoughts to the thoughts of those around him. An all-knowing narrator fits in properly with this story, especially since it revolves around religion. Having a narrator that is knowledgeable of all thoughts and reactions to the events in the story implies that God is always watching. This reinforces the theme that the veil is a representation of mortal sin, and that no one can hide from “the Omniscient” (3). Throughout the story Mr. Hooper tries to convey the idea that every human wears a black veil, and there is no way to hide it from this powerful entity.
Finally, the only reason Mr. Hooper can be regarded as misguided is in the manner in which he attempts to convey his beliefs to his townspeople. Creating shock in the natural order of life in the town to reveal paramount ideas of mortal sin would be an extremely effective concept, especially in gathering the attention of the townspeople. In this instance however, Mr. Hooper seems to have unconsciously created too much shock. It was not distinctly predictable that the townspeople would become so frightened of Mr. Hooper as to have “screamed and fled” (11) from him. In this respect, the town is too distracted by his actions to hear what he has to say. This begins at the start of the story, when Mr. Hooper is first seen wearing the veil. Even though Mr. Hooper acts as if everything is normal, everyone else is too “wonder-struck” (2) by the black veil to respond to his greetings.
In retrospect, Mr. Hooper’s character constantly remains honorable throughout “The Minister’s Black Veil.” This is shown through his undying beliefs and moral values, his reasoning for putting on the black veil, and through the omniscient narrator of this tale. The black veil is a manifestation of human imperfection, lies, and sin. To Mr. Hooper, everyone wears their own veil and only after mortal life will it disappear. Mr. Hooper valiantly conveys this message even though the action of wearing the veil afflicts fear upon himself. How the minister remains true to his beliefs unveils his character to show truly how admirable he is.
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