The ministers black veil is a parable that was written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The parable bespeaks of a minister who mesmerizes his people when he wears a black veil to conceal his face. The minister, Mr. Parson Hooper is depicted as melancholic man but also as a man placed in high reverence by the members of the society in which he ministers. All is well in this community until one day when the chiming of the church bells summons them to the church and encounter a veiled Hooper (Hawthorne, 1837; Britton, 2010).
The people are puzzled and astonished at the veil covering the whole face of the minister except the mouth and the chin.This is s dramatic change in their village minister that no one had anticipated (Bernado, nd) They fail to understand why he has this veil over his face and no on has the guts to front this question to him. The sermon that Hooper gives later leaves many of these people with unanswered questions concerning the veil and its purpose. The minister never for once takes it out while conducting his mass, in the reading of the psalms, the praying and in the giving of the sermon.
Later, he attends the funeral of a young maiden in the society and as he delivers the requiem mass, some of the people believe that they have seen the spirit of the maiden and the minister go hand in hand.
The veil leads to the break of the minister’s marriage when his wife asks him to take it off and he declines. He lives like this for the rest of his life and as he dies, he scolds the people for weeping at his bedside telling them that they should instead pray for themselves since they all wore black veils to hide their sins.
The concept of morality and sin in this parable
The whole village is mesmerized by the veil on Hooper’s face and that is all they can talk about “...The next day, the whole village of Milford talked of little else than Parson Hooper's black veil. That, and the mystery concealed behind it, supplied a topic for discussion between acquaintances meeting in the street, and good women gossiping at their open windows…” (Hawthorne, 2012). Everybody wondered upon the purpose of the veil on Hooper’s face until when he gave them a sermon on morality and sin and then they started feeling uncomfortable.
The sermon delivered by the minister to the congregation when he wears the veil for the first time touches largely on hidden mortal sin. The veil is viewed as a symbol to represent this sin. People sin all the time but they do not have the capacity to acknowledge these sins so that they can be absolved. Hooper reprimands the people for their hidden sins and tells them that they should wear them out instead of hiding them inside and acting as if they are holy.
Hooper tells the people to acknowledge that no one is holy but they should not hide their sins from the world. In fact, they should let them be known so that they can receive redemption and absolution of their sins and be acceptable before God.
The action of Hooper to refuse taking off the veil even after his wife asks him to makes the people feel very uncomfortable whenever he is in their midst. They take him as a constant reminder of their sins. This is observed later when a couple is being wed and people are having their merry. Hooper attends the wedding with his veil and the mood of the wedding dampens the handsomest couple in Milford village were to be joined in wedlock… When Mr. Hooper came, the first thing that their eyes rested on was the same horrible black veil, which had added deeper gloom to the funeral, and could portend nothing but evil to the wedding. 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…” (Hawthorne, 2012). The change of mood resulting from the veil on the minister’s face became the talk of the village with the mystery surrounding it being hard to unravel. The children were warned to stay away from the minister as his veil held a dark premonition everywhere he went.
The people became increasingly conscious of their actions and their sins. They sought supplications and forgiveness of their sins though confessions. Hooper connected the morality of people to their sins and told them that no one was void of this sin and as such, people had an obligation to seek for forgiveness from their God.
The minister in black veil is one of the most interesting parables in the history of religion. Though not so clear as to the real reason why Hooper decided to wear the veil on his face, it is presumed that the idea he had in mind must have worked out the way he wanted it to. The people were more aware of their sins and they sought forgiveness from God through confessions.