How Will the Sinners be Saved
Society often lacks the insight to discern that which is harmful from that which is helpful, or so Hawthorne seems to say in The Minister’s Black Veil. This idea causes the reader to stop and ponder exactly what is being said, and, upon realization of the townspeople’s ignorance, stomp his foot and call out, shouting angrily at the pages before him. Hawthorne writes of this all too frequent attitude and pin points his observation in the minister’s last words:
Have men avoided me, and women shown no pity, and children screamed and fled, only for my black veil? (759)
The townspeople have decided that that which is different is inherently evil. It is this single idea that excites my personal interest. While all six stories were meant to entertain, The Minister’s Black Veil was also meant to educate.
Equally, the delivery of the point sparks interest. Through the use of repetition and dialog, Hawthorne demonstrates his point without intruding into the text with blatant moral commentary. By craftily including the voice of individual members of the congregation, the author incorporates the reader and again states the lesson:
“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.” (752)
And so, in the same manner, by donning the black crape which hangs slightly above his upper lip, the pastor loses his invitation to attend Sunday dinner. “Old Squire Saunders, doubtless by an accidental lapse of memory, neglected to invite Mr. Hooper to his table” (753).
Hawthorne’s style, examples of the ignorance of the townspeople, and the point Hawthorne makes all lead me to elevate this piece over the other five. Through a mastery of language and story construction, characters take on a life into which the reader is hurled, often willingly. But one question remains unanswered: To help save the congregation, Mr. Hooper lost the woman he loved, his friendships, and his Sunday dinner. But how will the congregation be saved if they cannot realize that they too are sinners?