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Blindness to Sin in “The Tell Tale Heart” and “The Minister’s Black Veil”: Analytical Essay

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In the 19th century, Americans began to explore self expression through literature. Two writers in particular, Edgar Allen Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne, greatly exemplified Gothic and Romantic literature. In both Poe’s short story, “The Tell Tale Heart”, and Hawthorne’s “The Minister’s Black Veil”, the protagonists reach a state of alienation through self-absorption and an incapability to realize their wrongdoings. In the short story, “The Tell Tale Heart”, the narrator lives with an old man, and becomes paranoid by the old man’s eye. Eventually, the narrator is unable to stand the torment, leading him to murder the old man. The narrator cannot accept that he is mentally disturbed which causes his alienation. In “The Minister’s Black Veil”, minister Hooper, a well respected figure begins to conceal his face with a black veil to demonstrate that he has sinned. He refuses to offer an explanation of the sin that provokes him to wear it. He furthers his sin with the act of pride of wearing the veil and it becomes the focal point of his life, this pride causes him to distance himself from those around him, leaving him in solitude. Hawthorne and Poe illustrate through the main characters how having pride in oneself can lead to sin, and self inflicted alienation from society and those around them.

In Poe’s story, the narrator becomes increasingly self absorbed and takes great pride in his tedious plan to kill the old man. This pride and fixation on this task causes him to alienate himself from the old man and commit sin with no remorse until the end of the story when he admits his crime. As he becomes prideful, he fails to acknowledge that he is edging towards insanity. This obsession consumes his entire life, and he spends hours each night watching the old man sleep and constructing his plan to murder him. “You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded—with what caution—with what foresight—with what dissimulation I went to work!” (Poe 1). The narrator is ressauring himself that he is not a madman, and is perfectly sane. He compares his wise precautions to the incompetence of a madman to show that he is beyond and above the inhumane acts of a madman. The narrator praises himself for his plan, cautiously concealing the act. He becomes extremely dedicated to his task, and nothing can distract him from it; “If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence” (Poe 4). The narrator never once doubts his motive or the reasoning behind his intended murder and is consistently reassures himself that he is anything but mentally unstable. The narrator justifies the murder because he must to stop the torment that the “vulture” eye has brought upon him; “Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees—very gradually—I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever” (Poe 1). He faces no problem with the man himself, soley the blue eye. The narrator comes to the conclusion that the only way for his mental suffering to cease, was to end the root of the problem and remove the old man and his eye from his life, leaving the narrator in complete solitude with his sin. The narrator creates isolation through the paranoia that he feels through his relationship with that of the man’s eye, causing himself to become prideful in his task of murdering the old man and further alienating himself completely.

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In Hawthorne’s “The Minister’s Black Veil,” the minister causes his own alienation by becoming prideful in his refusal to remove the veil. He distances himself from those around him, particularly his fiance. This is similar to the narrator in Poe’s story who refuses to accept his mental issues and remains fixated on his task of killing the old man. When he begins wearing it, people have questions constantly regarding the nature of the sin that provoked him to wear the veil. The townspeople are fearful of what they cannot understand; the reasoning behind why Hooper continues to wear his veil without explanation. Those who feel an offense to the minister’s veil feel “… as if the preacher had crept upon them, behind his awful veil, and discovered their hoarded iniquity of deed or thought” (Hawthorne 3). Those who are in the presence of him feel as if he can see through them, and see their inner sin. This can be tied to Poe’s story as the narrator feels a sense of paranoia in the company of the evil eye, feeling that it can see through to the narrator’s sins and thoughts. Wearing the veil begins to take over Hoopers life and dictates his decisions and lifestyle in the sense that he wears it regardless of how others perceive him. The veil and the eye both lead to the main characters isolation as they become the primary focus of the main characters. Individuals in the story take personal offense to Hooper wearing the veil, ‘How strange,’ said a lady, ‘that a simple black veil…should become such a terrible thing on Mr. Hooper’s face!’ (Hawthorne 4). This can be tied back to how the narrator feels about the evil eye in “The Tell Tale Heart”. The veil seems to have the same effect as the eye on individuals. Everyone around the minister is so offended by his wearing of the veil, that it distances him from those he was once close to, in particular his fiance, Elizabeth. By Hooper wearing the veil, Elizabeth pleads for him to take it off for her, but he refuses, “It is but a mortal veil–it is not for eternity! O! you know not how lonely I am, and how frightened, to be alone behind my black veil. Do not leave me in this miserable obscurity forever!’ (Hawthorne 9). As he loses everyone closests to him, the ultimate alienation that Hooper has brought upon himself is shown. Despite being afraid of the veil, he is proud of himself, pride is known in the Bible as the root of all evil, and as he fails to see his sin, Hooper partakes in the deadliest sin of all due to his fixation on demonstrating his sins. As a result of his dedication to wearing the veil and not admitting his sin, he has isolated himself. Similar to how the narrator became dedicated to murdering the old man and couldn’t admit his mental instability.

Both Poe and Hawthorne’s short stories convey how becoming prideful in oneself can lead to ultimate alienation from society or those around them. In Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the narrator cannot accept his mental instability and grows paranoid until he nears insanity and murders the old man, alienating himself from the one closests to him, the old man. In Hawthorne’s “The Minister’s Black Veil,” Minister Hoopers wearing the black veil which causes himself to alienate himself from his society, and his fiance due to his pride in wearing the veil. Both the narrator and Hooper grow self absorbed, taking pride in their rituals. The idea of pride leading to isolation expressed in both stories became a common tie in Poe and Hawthorne’s stories. Poe and Hawthorne show this to convey the universal lesson that failure to comprehend one’s sin can lead to isolation and unknowingly creating sin for oneself.

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Blindness to Sin in “The Tell Tale Heart” and “The Minister’s Black Veil”: Analytical Essay. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 5, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/blindness-to-sin-in-the-tell-tale-heart-and-the-ministers-black-veil-analytical-essay/
“Blindness to Sin in “The Tell Tale Heart” and “The Minister’s Black Veil”: Analytical Essay.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/blindness-to-sin-in-the-tell-tale-heart-and-the-ministers-black-veil-analytical-essay/
Blindness to Sin in “The Tell Tale Heart” and “The Minister’s Black Veil”: Analytical Essay. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/blindness-to-sin-in-the-tell-tale-heart-and-the-ministers-black-veil-analytical-essay/> [Accessed 5 Dec. 2022].
Blindness to Sin in “The Tell Tale Heart” and “The Minister’s Black Veil”: Analytical Essay [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2022 Dec 5]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/blindness-to-sin-in-the-tell-tale-heart-and-the-ministers-black-veil-analytical-essay/
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