“The Minister’s Black Veil” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Subject: Literature
Pages: 2
Words: 625
Reading time:
3 min
Study level: College


The paradoxical nature of hidden secrets makes them both attract the audience’s attention and avert their eyes in fear or disgust. In his short story “The Minister’s Black Veil,” Nathaniel Hawthorne defined as the “producer of the most finished and penetrating of the numerous ‘short stories’” ponders over the mystical nature of hidden secrets and the associated underlying guilt (Charters 522). The story revolves around Hooper, a kind and mild-mannered minister, as well as his parish. As the minister dons a black veil and refuses to take it off, people feel increasingly detached from him and even terrified of his presence, with rumors beginning to circulate. Finally, when the minister dies, the parish members realize that they are wearing their black veils as well, invisible as they might be (Sárdi 2). Focusing on the development of the lead character, placing him in a serene setting of a quiet town, and introducing a third-person viewpoint, Hawthorne makes his statement concerning the danger of hidden secrets particularly poignant.

Central Idea

The underlying idea of the argument concerns the importance of humility in discussing others’ supposed secrets. Hawthorne makes it explicitly evident in his story that everyone has dark secrets to conceal, yet people are particularly vicious when dissecting others’ lives. In turn, the characters, setting, and the third person’s perspective amplify this statement and make it transparent.

Characters and Their Interactions

The idea of all parish members having their hidden secrets and underlying guilt becomes evident in interactions between the characters. Specifically, while initially puzzled, people slowly begin to suspect that the minister hides the terrifying truth about him: “The veil lay heavily on his uplifted countenance. Did he seek to hide it from the dread Being whom he was addressing?” (Hawthorne par. 10). The specified assumption communicated in the quote implies that the parish members project their sense of guilt due to hidden secrets onto the minister and his black veil as a symbol of hiding a dark secret.

Point of View

The introduction of the third perspective into the narrative as the point of view framing tool contributes to the message significantly. By offering an unbiased commentary of the narrator, Hawthorne does not allow the reader to see that the minister is, in fact, innocent: “Each member of the congregation, the most innocent girl, and the man of hardened breast, felt as if the preacher had crept upon them, behind his awful veil” (Hawthorne par. 12). Thus, the revelation of Hooper trying to make people take introspect into their souls becomes an earth-shattering revelation as the novel ends.


Finally, the setting contributes to the notion of hidden secrets and underlying guilt as the inescapable element of everybody’s life. Namely, the serene and quiet setting of the small town appears to be innocuous at first, yet becomes quite sinister as the story unravels: “Sabbath sunshine made them prettier than on weekdays” (Hawthorne par. 1). Though nothing spectacularly terrible is revealed about the citizens, the lingering sense of suspicion remains in place, encouraging the reader second-guess the further development of the plot.


Paying particularly close attention to the protagonist’s character and detailing the setting as untroubled yet quite gossipy, while offering a third-person point of view, Hawthorne amplifies the message regarding the harm of rumors and the power that hidden secrets have over people’s lives and their attitudes. Specifically, the identified elements contribute to making the idea of hidden secrets and underlying guilt as they are perceived by the public leading to prejudices and ostracism. Thus, the story serves as a cautionary tale about the importance of introspection and self-analysis as a way of examining one’s hidden secrets and the associated feeling of guilt as the factors that disrupt one’s relationships with the community.

Works Cited

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “The Minister’s Black Veil.” The Literature Network, 1836, Web.

Charters, Ann. The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. 10th ed., edited by Ann Charters, Bedford/St. Martins, 2018.

Sárdi, Rudolf. “’The Minister’s Black Veil ‘in a Contemporary Context.” Contemporary Issues of Literary Studies-International Symposium Proceedings, vol. 15, 2021.