December 8, 2017 General Studies

In “The Minister’s Black Veil” Parson Hooper began wearing the veil one day and refused to share the reason. Even at the quest of his wife-to -be he refused by saying “Never! It cannot be” (340). The sudden appearance of the veil received a wide range of responses, as “some gathered in little circles, huddled closely together, with their mouths all whispering in the center; some went homeward alone, wrap in silent mediation; some talked loudly, and profaned the Sabbath-day with ostentatious laughter” (336).

However “Among all its bad influences, the black veil had the one desirable effect, of making its wearer a very efficient clergyman” (340). As “Dying sinners cried aloud for Mr.. Hooper, ND would not yield their breath till he appeared” (341). This false outcome and the mystery surrounding the veil had given Mr.. Hooper power over his congregation. They feared him, but at the same time, they sensed he had some type of insight. As such, the veil gave Mr.. Hooper a false sense of pride in his ability as a minister, and his ego was inflated by his sense of importance.

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In “The Birthmark”, Elmer, a devout scientist, became obsessed with a small birthmark on his wife’s face. The birthmark had never bothered his wife before, and had even “been called a charm” (344) by mom. The more Elmer looked and thought about the imperfection of his wife’s birthmark, the more it troubled him. Once while looking at his wife’s face “he could not restrain a strong convulsive shutter” (347). As his “scientific studies ever to be weaned from them by any second passion” (344), he believed her birthmark was an “earthly imperfection” (344), in which he as a scientist could improve.

His pride drove him to believe that he could make his wife better than nature had. Again his pride was illustrated in his statement “Even Pygmalion, when his sculptured woman assumed life, felt not greater ecstasy than mine will be” (346). Lemur’s pride is illustrated in his conviction that the one perceived flaw in his wife must be corrected and in his belief that he could control nature and make his wife into his own perfect sculpture. Cold intellectuality is intellect without feeling or conscience. Mr.. Hooper and Elmer both caused hurt and destruction by their cold intellectuality.

In “The Minister’s Black Veil”, Mr.. Hoper’s fiance©e was concerned that the congregation suspected the black veil was a cover up for sin. As illustrated by her remark “there ay be whispers, that you hide your face under the consciousness of secret sin” (339). Even at the pressing of his fiance©e, Mr.. Hooper was still unwilling to remove the veil. His motionlessness reasoning had revealed that the veil was even more important than love, and as a result, they were never married. In “The Birthmark” Elmer was more concerned with science than with being a good husband.

Through his destructive remarks about the birthmark such as that her birthmark “shocks me, as being the visible mark of earthly imperfection” (344), he convinced his wife that a birthmark on her face was an object of repulsion. Although just a tiny birthmark, Lemur’s coldness towards his wife made her feel ugly and unloved. Illustrating that she would do anything to please her husband, Georgian told Elmer that “if there be the remotest possibility of it, let the attempt be made at whatever the risk” (346). Lemur’s cold intellectuality is displayed as his scientific endeavors became even more important than his wife.

In “The Minister’s Black Veil” and “The Birthmark”, Nathaniel Hawthorne uses the theme of isolation as a moral warning. Isolation is a powerful state in which a person feels alone with an overwhelming sense of gloom. In “The Minister’s Black Veil”, As a result of wearing the veil, people were afraid of Mr.. Hooper and as a result he found himself without any friends or companionship. Those in his congregation “would not be alone with him for the world” and wondered “if he “is not afraid to be alone with himself” (337).

Illustrating the depth of solitude Mr.. Hooper was exposed to. In “The Birthmark” Georgian was isolated from the love of her husband as he was obsessed with the science of removing the small birthmark from her cheek. From the disdain he showed for her birthmark, Laymen made her feel so badly about the small imperfection that “at the mention of the birthmark, Georgian, as usual, shrank as if a red hot iron had touched her cheek” (349) and on another occasion “placed her hand over her cheek to hide the terrible mark from her husband’s eyes” (348).

But these outward indications that she was ashamed and felt isolated meant nothing to Elmer, as his quest for perfection. The isolation and solitude that Georgian felt was a direct result of Lemur’s inability to put his wife’s needs above his own scientific interest. Nathaniel Hawthorn’s distinctive cautionary tales remind readers of the recklessness that can result from sinful depravities. In “The Minister’s Black Veil” and “The Birthmark”, Nathaniel Hawthorne uses pride, cold intellectuality, and isolation, as reoccurring moral warnings.


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