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The Dichotomies That Are Presented In Both Human Life And In The Short Story ?The Minister?S Black Veil? As Seen And Written By Nathaniel Hawthorne Essay, Research Paper

We, as humans, and as an integral part of all this things subsisting in this world, survive within a tightly woven network of life. As the peak of this hierarchical organization, we must acknowledge, endure and accept the duality of our disposition. Though, we see ourselves as superior, we are simply survivors. Even our esteemed stature in the all-encompassing pyramidal tendency of Mother Nature, can?t serve to eliminate the trite, yet, overlooked dichotomous nature of Our being. While we are overwhelmed by both the actions of others and ourselves, we remain sheltered from all motives by a thickly woven blanket of ignorance. And in the unconscious effort to cloak untainted perception we ironically elude ourselves into thinking otherwise. Consequently, through self-ministry, our duality perpetuates through our inherent contradiction, which, in turn fosters the dichotomies of our nature. In Nathaniel Hawthorne?s, ?The Minister?s Black Veil?, these hackneyed dichotomies, such as: good and evil, light and dark, mortal and heavenly, are metaphorically illustrated, through countless symbolism, as themes of not only the fictional story, but as real life as well. Hawthorne also uses these dichotomies to help express both the duality and the irony of human nature through his vivid descriptions, specifically within his characters and the extreme nature and temper which distinguish their roles. This methodology exhibits the binary and therefore distinct divisions between the theme?s of the story, a Hawthornian parable for our lives. This connection, made between the significance of the story and human life, is typical of Hawthorne who is an advocate of the notion that human sin, the human heart, and egotism play an inevitable role in human nature.

The catalyst of our creation, according to the scriptures that indiscriminately bind us, is rooted back to the very first sin. This sin committed by the coupled inhabitants of the Garden of Eden, was the first step into humanity. Regardless of your faith, the Creator, of either mankind or the fantasy of our origin, intended life to exist dichotomously and antagonistically. First, the twofold identity of mankind, illustrated within the presence of a sexual diversity, is an exemplifying component of our inherent dichotomy. Simply coexisting with a counterpart explains the phenomenon of mans? need for women. In the scene where Mr. Hooper and his fianc?e, Elizabeth (a name of recognizable power, e.g., Queen Elizabeth) are arguing, Elizabeth leaves him and his obsessive devotion to the veil. It is in this scene that Mr. Hooper?s vulnerability as a man and a person and hence his human nature is most revealed. He begs for her not to leave by saying, ?Have patience with me [...] do not desert me [?] you know how lonely I am, and how frightened, to be alone behind my black veil. Do not leave me in this miserable obscurity forever? (9). In this scene it seems as if he is forced to come out from behind the black veil, or at least the idea of it, implying that he has control over his situation. This, however, is not the case. In a few short moments after the previous quote the argument is over, as is the relationship between Elizabeth and Mr. Hooper. It is just after Elizabeth leaves that the truth of Mr. Hooper?s situation is re-implied and for the first time almost literally stated. Hawthorne describes that, ?[?] even amid his grief, Mr. Hooper smiled to think that only a material emblem had separated him from happiness, though the horrors which it shadowed forth must be drawn darkly between the fondest of lovers? (9). In this narration Mr. Hooper seems as if he is delusional, but more importantly he is in fact out of control. It is clear that his conscious, rational thought is no longer his guide and that he is instead mislead by his unconscious thoughts, which in turn influence his conscious perception. He no longer needs a female counterpart, which is not characteristic of human nature or sanity for that matter, and he is totally driven by his unconscious egotistic motives. Another hint to this notion is when he refers to Elizabeth as a ?friend?, implying his egoism and unrelenting conviction of his cause. This separation from his counterpart also serves to be another significance, coupled with his separation from the townspeople, of the two-parted veil. He is rejected from their love but is in turn, satisfying his egoism, aggrandized by their astonishment, becoming ?powerfully effective? as a priest (The Gale Group 15). The acceptance, by Hooper, of this transition also plays into Hawthorne?s intended irony between his main character and the purpose behind his actions.

In the explanation of mankind?s dichotomy, however, also lies the significance of the human heart and its duplicity as either a place of freedom, love, truth, and boundless security or as a confinement, circumscribed by the false or fearful internalization of truth. Hawthorne describes the human heart as the, ?[?] saddest of all prisons [?]? (page 12). The main character, Mr. Hooper, is, in the story, the prisoner. Hawthorne uses both Mr. Hooper and the townspeople, along with other individuals, to metaphorically describe mankind. In the case of the human heart, Hawthorne depicts Mr. Hooper as someone who has imprisoned themselves within their conscious and unconscious motives. Hawthorne implies that people are not always communicative with themselves in terms of everything that is within them; motives; ideas; perceptions. This lack of true internalization is due to the fact that there isn?t always a clearly paved road linking the heart and conscious thought. In many instances, both in the story and in reality, this path is often vague or unidentifiable, and therefore neither a connection nor an understanding is made. This discrepancy leads to unnoticed, internal confusion between one?s actions and the actual motives behind them. Mr. Hooper is a good person and a commendable priest. He is characterized as loving and gentlemanly, upholding admirable human attributes. Mr. Hooper, being a product of human nature, is also subconsciously egotistic. However, Mr. Hooper concealed his face with a veil, an action motivated by both conscious and unconscious motives. He also acknowledges that his ?[?] veil is a type and a symbol [?]? affirming that he is unaware of his unconscious motives and the irony which he, and mankind, fall victim to. The irony, as referred to Mr. Hooper, symbolically lies within the veil itself. The veil, consisting of two black, semitransparent parts, is ironical in the sense that it is affirming a belief and a cause, while it is at the same time undermining those aforementioned conscious motives. Mr. Hooper?s dedication to the veil is upstanding. However, behind his motives lie the antagonisms that exist in both Hawthorne?s main character and in real people. Mr. Hooper is a man, therefore, inevitably torn between his conscious self and his subconscious, which is in dire need of satisfying his egoism. As a venerable religious man he is linked to God and therefore separated from his mortal needs, as a result of his devotion to heavenly obligation. It would be sinful to think of himself and his personal desires. So in avoiding sacrilege, i.e., ignoring his thoughts, Mr. Hooper unconsciously stores them in the back of his mind, only to be retrieved by his subconscious. This duplicity, of both Mr. Hooper?s motives and people in general, is portrayed through the two folds of the veil. His egoism, in accordance to his devout position and his conscious motives and beliefs, is illustrated as evil through both the blackness and the indistinct visage of the semitransparent veil.

Then our dependence on each others? diversity leads to an exalting of a third party; God. This glorified fabrication (of either its being or its power) empowered by the imagination of masses, serves to be the dichotomy of the perception of being: heavenly vs. mortal. The omnipotence of this third entity, which includes judiciary powers, breeds the dichotomy of good vs. evil, labels that are both earned and judged. All throughout the short story Hawthorne implies that something evil is transpiring. Many critics have commented on Mr. Hooper?s reasoning for the concealment by the black veil. Stibitz, a critic from Southern Illinois University, acknowledges the ideas of other renowned analyses. He, in particular, sites Edgar Allan Poe?s interpretation that Mr. Hooper must have committed a crime (page 183). I, however, agree with Stibitz in the sense that Hawthorne?s reasoning behind Hooper?s wearing of the veil is not necessarily indicative of a heinous crime, i.e., murder, as proclaimed by Poe. The veil represents a wrongdoing of some sort, but Hawthorne purposefully makes the truth indefinite, corresponding to the multiple reasons of the action, in terms of the veil in Mr. Hooper?s case, and in more general terms in the case of mankind. Mr. Hooper?s most evil; human mistake is also shown through the double meaning of the veil, hence, once again, it?s two parts. The veil symbolic of Mr. Hooper?s beliefs about the evil of human secrecy, but also as the irony that overcomes him, negating his conscious premise with his own secrecy, signified by the veil itself. Hawthorne alludes to the irony between Mr. Hooper?s motives and actions within the hopeful connection by the reader of two scenes: one being the imp that imitates Mr. Hooper by running around with a black handkerchief over his face in attempts to frighten his peers. However, his mockery got the best of him and he managed to scare himself. The other scene being the wedding. In this scene Mr. Hooper catches a glimpse of his own reflection while wearing the veil, involving ?[?] his own spirit in the horror with which it overwhelmed all others. His frame shuddered, his lips grew white, he spilt the untasted wine upon the carpet, and rushed into the darkness? (6). Hawthorne uses these scenes to not only be satirical, but to also emphasize the irony, and more importantly, the existence of human internal dualism. We, like Mr. Hooper, are plagued by sinful needs, such as egoism, and the influence of unconscious motives; ultimately leading to the contradiction between intended and overt behavior. Hawthorne also adds dichotomies such as light and dark in these scenes to represent the evil and the irony between the veil, it?s meaning, also hinted by the inappropriateness of the veil at the wedding.

Human nature and the sins that epitomize the dichotomy and antagonism of our being are cleverly depicted through the character of Mr. Hooper in Nathaniel Hawthorne?s short story, ?The Minister?s Black Veil?. Hawthorne is extremely symbolic and presents roles corresponding to human nature, such as the role of egoism, in a vague but powerful manner. He continuously refers back to previous scenes, over exaggerating ideas, to amplify his intentions. His vagueness also serves to mystify his actual meaning, therefore making the possibility of that relationship between the reader and the story that much more intense.

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