Essay on External and Internal Conflict in The Minister’s Black Veil

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External and Internal Conflict in “The Minister’s Black Veil”

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “The Minister’s Black Veil” manifests a duality of conflict – both an external conflict and an internal conflict. It is the purpose of this essay to explore both types of conflict as manifested in the story.

In the opinion of this reader, the central conflicts – the relation between the protagonist and antagonist (Abrams 225) - in the tale are an internal one, a spiritual-moral conflict within the minister, the Reverend Mr. Hooper, and an external one with the world at large represented by the congregation. Wilson Sullivan in “Nathaniel Hawthorne” tells where the author got the idea of a conflict between good and
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. . .

. . . more than one woman of delicate nerves was forced to leave the

meeting-house.

At this point begins the external conflict of the drama – between the minister and the people of his congregation, which will last until his death. Except for the sable veil, Reverend Hooper is quite a compatible and sociable personality:

Mr. Hooper had the reputation of a good preacher, but not an energetic one: he strove to win his people heavenward by mild, persuasive influences, rather than to drive them thither by the thunders of the Word. The sermon which he now

delivered was marked by the same characteristics of style and manner as the general series of his pulpit oratory.

However, on this first day of wearing his black veil there is some peculiar difference in Hooper’s sermon:

But there was something, either in the sentiment of the discourse itself, or in the imagination of the auditors, which made it greatly the most powerful effort that they had ever heard from their pastor's lips. It was tinged, rather more darkly than usual, with the gentle gloom of Mr. Hooper's temperament. The subject had reference to secret sin. . . .

The psychological impact of the veil is that each parishioner feels that “the preacher had crept upon them, behind his awful veil, and discovered their hoarded iniquity of deed or thought”; and “with
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