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Literary Devices in The Minister's Black Veil

Literary Devices Examples in The Minister's Black Veil:

The Minister's Black Veil

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"let the sun shine from behind the cloud..."   (The Minister's Black Veil)

Although Elizabeth does not know the purpose of the veil, this line serves as a metaphor for how Hooper hides his own goodness by wearing the mask of sin. She wants simply to see his face; however, readers understand the veil doesn’t simply hide Hooper’s face, but rather it represents the hidden sins of all humankind.

"pale-faced congregation..."   (The Minister's Black Veil)

Hawthorne uses the descriptor "pale-faced" here to sharply contrast the dark and light visages of Hooper and his congregation. The use of “pale-faced” gives not only the image of fearful or nervous people, but also a direct contrast to the blackness of Hooper’s veil. This contrast presents an image of darkness and light in the scene that could symbolize or allude to the forces of good and evil.

"pulling lustily at the bell-rope..."   (The Minister's Black Veil)

Hawthorne incorporates this description to appeal to the sense of sound of the ominous bellows implied by the church bell. Hawthorne uses this implied sound at the beginning of the story to set a gloomy tone for the entire story.

"All through life that piece of crape had hung between him and the world; it had separated him from cheerful brotherhood and woman's love and kept him in that saddest of all prisons his own heart..."   (The Minister's Black Veil)

Here we recognize the metaphorical significance of the veil: when one keeps a hidden sin on their heart, they lose themselves and they lose themselves and miss out on what life has to offer. Whether the veil symbolizes Hooper’s own sin or all of humankind’s hidden sins does not alter the metaphor, because he dies misunderstood and saddened by the burden of hidden sins.

"Such was its immediate effect on the guests that a cloud seemed to have rolled duskily from beneath the black crape and dimmed the light of the candles..."   (The Minister's Black Veil)

A reoccurring symbol in the story is the contrast between light and dark, with light symbolizing goodness and dark symbolizing evil. Here, the darkness of the veil overcomes “the light of the candles,” perhaps indicating how evil can overpower good.

"The black veil, though it covers only our pastor's face, throws its influence over his whole person and makes him ghost-like from head to foot..."   (The Minister's Black Veil)

Since the veil symbolizes hidden sins, we look for the influence of the veil to have a metaphorical meaning that contributes to the lesson of the parable. This seems to be a metaphor for how secretive sins can change the appearance, emotion, and entire personality of the sinner.

"The subject had reference to secret sin and those sad mysteries which we hide from our nearest and dearest..."   (The Minister's Black Veil)

Ironically, if the congregation had paid attention to the sermon, they might have connected the sermon's subject with the minister’s veil. Readers should connect the subject of the sermon with the symbolism of the veil: the black veil that hides Hooper’s face is a metaphor for the hidden sins we keep close to our hearts but never speak of.

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