The Minister’s Black Veil A Parable by Nathaniel Hawthorne Nathaniel Hawthorne • 1804 – 1864 • Born in Salem, Massachusetts • Descended from a prominent Puritan family • Believed that evil was a dominant force in the world. • His fiction expresses a gloomy vision of human affairs. Inherited Guilt • One of Hawthorne’s ancestors was a Puritan judge who played a key role in the Salem witchcraft trials. • Another ancestor was a judge known for his persecution of Quakers. • Both Hawthorne’s character and focus as a writer were shaped by a sense of inherited guilt. • He was haunted by the intolerance and cruelty of ancestors. • He was not a Puritan and was born 112 years after the Salem witchcraft trials. Nathaniel Hawthorne • Master of symbolism and allegory • He wrote throughout his life. • After graduating from Maine’s Bowdoin College in 1825, he wrote a novel, Fanshawe. • Soon after the book’s anonymous publication in 1828, he was seized by shame and abruptly burned most available copies of his book. Nathaniel Hawthorne • During the nine years that followed, he honed his writing skills working in a room he called “the dismal chamber.” • This resulted in a collection of stories entitled Twice Told Tales published in 1837. • Although the book sold poorly, it established him as a respected writer. • Gave him sufficient resources and encouragement to continue his writing. Nathaniel Hawthorne • In 1850, he published his masterpiece The Scarlet Letter, a powerful novel about sin and guilt among early Puritans. • This book was extremely successful. • Earned him international fame • He soon wrote two more novels, The House of the Seven Gables (1851) and The Blithedale Romance (1852). Nathaniel Hawthorne • When his friend Franklin Pierce became president, Hawthorne was named American consul at Liverpool, England. • He spent several years in England and traveled through Italy before returning to Massachusetts. • Used his Italian experiences in the novel Marble Faun (1860). • Hawthorne died four years later. • He left four unfinished novels among his belongings. The Minister’s Black Veil: A Parable • Parable: a simple, usually brief , story that teaches a moral lesson. • A type of Allegory which is a story with both a literal and a symbolic meaning. • In subtitling this story “A Parable,” Hawthorne indicates that the moral lesson it conveys is important. Connecting Literary Elements • The veil that Mr. Hooper vows never to remove is a symbol – something that has meaning in itself while also standing for something greater. • To understand the message expressed, analyze veil’s symbolic meaning. • Revealed through responses of parishioners • Revealed in minister’s own deathbed explanation. Reading Strategy • Draw inferences about meaning. • When message of work of fiction is conveyed indirectly through symbols, the reader must draw inferences, or conclusions. • Look closely at details, especially descriptions and dialogue. Inference • Drawing inferences is a way of interpreting a character’s behavior, statements, or an author’s message. • Description Dialogue: • “He has changed himself into something awful, only by hiding his face.” • Inference: Villagers are frightened by the veil. Vocabulary • venerable: adj. commanding respect p. 342 • iniquity: n. sin; wickedness (p.343) • indecorous: adj. improper (p. 343) • ostentatious: adj. intended to attract notice; showy (p. 343). • sagacious: adj. shrewd; perceptive (p. 343) Vocabulary • vagary: n. unpredictable occurrence p. 344 • tremulous: adj. characterized by trembling (p. 345) • waggery: n. mischievous humor (p.345) • impertinent: adj. not showing proper respect (p. 346) • obstinacy: n. stubbornness Connecting to the Literature • A secret, when kept too long can take on a mysterious significance. • It can cause people to fill in the missing story and draw their own untrue conclusions. • In “The Minister’s Black Veil,” a Puritan parson keeps a secret from an entire village for his whole life.
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