‘The Minister’s Black Veil’ by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Minister’s Black Veil by Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1832

The magic trick:

Horrifying, repulsing, and worrying the church community and reader alike

Classic material here. Very likely you read this in school. I did. Didn’t care for it much. Decades later? I see the error of my ways. This story is so good! What was I thinking?

The story’s central premise is astounding. The minister, as you may have guessed, is wearing a black veil. It traumatizes his church community, as they all try to figure out what it means and why it makes them feel so thoroughly repulsed.

What’s interesting is that we, the reader, are in the exact same position. We, like the parishioners, are horrified by the veil. It is a legitimately scary story. But we’re also curious. We want to know why he’s doing this, and, more selfishly, what it says about us. We navigate the same path as the community in the story, searching for answers.

And that’s quite a trick on Hawthorne’s part.

The selection:

I can’t really feel as if good Mr. Hooper’s face was behind that piece of crape,” said the sexton.

“I don’t like it,” muttered an old woman, as she hobbled into the meeting-house. “He has changed himself into something awful, only by hiding his face.”

“Our parson has gone mad!” cried Goodman Gray, following him across the threshold.

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