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Critical Analysis of Short Stories: The Minister’s Black Veil, A White Heron, The Man Who was Almost a Man

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The Minister’s Black Veil:

Without a doubt, the most important symbol in this story is the Black Veil. To all the people of the town, Hooper’s veil is a sign that he is trying to hide away from a sin that he has committed. Yet Hooper makes it known that he intends the veil to be a symbol of everyone’s general sinfulness. These two could mean the same thing. In other words, the people only focus on the sins of Hooper because deep down they know that they also have sins but would rather not recognize them. This veil becomes an object that the people must observe and look at every day, reminding them that everyone has sins and they should accept it. The veil serves as a reminder of every human condition. At the same time, the veil is just a simple, flimsy, piece of clothing. As soon as he is seen with it, everyone was so quick to judge. They judge him on his appearance, rather than who he is as a person behind the veil. It’s implied that Hooper doesn’t change his personality at all, and he is still a kind and genuine person. He just seems gloomier to the people. This could show us another kind of symbolism that the veil is trying to imply, don’t be so quick to judge.

A White Heron

The White Heron is a major symbol in this story. The heron represents the companionship of the natural world. And to this end, the fluctuations we see in Sylvia’s perspective on the heron represent shifts in her valuation of nature. Sylvia loses track of her fondness for all things natural when the hunter comes along and decides to find the heron and lead him to it. After finding the heron, the moment they have together changes her whole perspective. She is unable to give up its location due to the connection she has with the bird and what it represents for her. Also, the tree she grew up with is another major part to this story as it has grown alongside her as she was growing into herself. At first, she was a shy girl at the start of her climb, but at the end, as she looks down the tree she is described as a girl who has grown into herself and has become a strong and confident women who knows what she stands for. Because of her journey into maturity, she is able to resist the hunter who only wants to kill the white heron for a “specimen” and enjoy nature for its true beauty.

The Man Who was Almost a Man

I believe one of the themes of this story is the search for power. Dave is trapped in a life that he is no power in. He must obey his parents, work and never be paid, and endure all the abuses from others. The idea of owning this gun becomes an outlet for Dave. He believes this gun will not only bring him power but also show that he is a man. The death of Jenny limits this future when he is forced to repay the price for her. This story could also be about coming of age. Dave must overcome many struggles to be a mature adult. Dave discovers that owning this gun however has only brought him more responsibilities. When he realizes all the problems the gun has brought him, he leaves showing that indeed he isn’t ready to be a man. Another example of Dave not being ready for adulthood is shown through all his lies. Dave lies countless amounts of times to get a gun and avoid punishment. I also believe the gun is. symbol of power and independence. Dave sees the gun as a solution to all his problems. He believes that owning a gun would somehow bring him independence and get the older workers to stop treating him like a child. After Jenny’s death, he fantasizes about shooting Mr. Hawkin’s house which shows he has learned nothing and has only made him crave being a man even more. Personally, I think many can relate to this story. Although maybe not to this extent, many children want to grow up faster than intended. They want to stop being treated like children and want to be treated like an adult. However, none of them are aware of the responsibilities.

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Party Down at the Square

This story is of a boy who witnesses a lynching. The whole town is attending this “party”. With the storm causing confusion, an airplane crashes and kills a young woman. Despite this, the crowd turns back to the death of the young black man. After the emotional experience of the night, the narrator falls ill, causing him to be mocked by his southern relatives. At this time, racism seemed to heavily exist. This is obvious by the events taking place as well as N-word being used several times throughout the story. At the square, everyone was screaming and yelling, ready to kill the man. The narrator even describes in detail on the horrible burning of him. Although he mentions wanting to leave the situation, he can’t help but keep his eyes on the sight. This is also shown when the woman was killed by the wire in the quote, ‘I was trying to see if she wasn’t blue too, or if it was just the sparks, and the sheriff drove me away.’. This also is interesting because he doesn’t show really any feelings towards the male getting burned, showing that racism could be a reason the narrator is unreliable. This example also shows a theme of this story as well. I believe the bystander effect is shown here. The narrator mentions how he is disgusted physically by the events but continues to view them. Therefore, he is fitting in and watching. He is powerless and doesn’t stand up.


This story is written in first person by a young boy named Charlie. Throughout the story, the theme of disappointment is evident. Charlie gets no opportunity to speak to his father that he hasn’t seen in three years. Instead, at each bar and restaurant, his father is disrespectful to each of the employees that they encounter. We also have evidence to believe that Charlie’s father is a drunk. The first sign of this is when Charlie tells the readers he can smell whiskey off his father at the train station. Despite Charlie telling us that he could feel that this man was his father, there is a sense that Charlie never gets to know or understand who his father really is. At no stage does Charlie communicate with his father nor does his father truly communicate with Charlie. All Charlie sees is his father being rude to everyone and only caring about ordering alcohol. At the beginning on the story, it sounds like Charlie was excited to meet his father but by the end, it seems Charlie might regret having met his father. We can also assume alcohol is a symbol in this story. It disconnects Charlie from his father. It is possible that the author is trying to show us that people who depend on alcohol can result in an individual becoming rude and selfish. At the end of the story, Charlie tells his father he must go. Although he said he had to catch a train, it is possible that Charlie had seen enough of his father. Maybe this suggests that Charlie saw a side of his father that he didn’t know existed and maybe this goodbye suggests Charlie never saw his father again.

Doctor Jack-O-Lantern

One of the main themes in this story is the struggle for acceptance in the coming of age. The main character, Vincent, can be described as a quiet child from an orphanage with poor hygiene who became lonely and rebellious after moving to his new school. When Vincent arrived at his new school, his school mates made fun of him. Not only were his teeth green, the clothes he went to school in were very old and to small. The ridicule he faced made him feel very lonely and depressed. After making up a story and lying to the whole class, he was outcastes even more by his classmate. Vincent then spent the next few days hiding in an alley due to the constant verbal abuse he was receiving. After having enough, he writes bad words on the walls in the alley way. He never really got into much trouble; however, he lies once more an tells some boys that Miss Price beat him with a ruler for it. The boys realize what a great mood she is in and realizes that Vincent is lying again. They start joking and making fun of him. Vincent, embarrassed, runs and draws dirty pictures of Miss Price on the wall. To me, this story is a perfect example of why not to lie. Vincent, trying to fit in, lies to try to be one of the crowds. Vincent discovered all too well the negative effects of lying. Because of his lying, he ended up sealing the fate of not being accepted. I am sure we have all lied and experienced the negative effects of lying, but we must learn from our mistakes unlike Vicent had in the beginning.

Dead Men’s Path

The story begins with Obi being appointed as headmaster of Ndume Central School. Obi believes in bringing “modern methods” to the school and believes the others are less educated because they still carry on the older traditions. The primary conflict in this story is between old traditions and new ones. This is shown through the ‘almost disused path’. They view these as more sophisticated and progressive for the children. The garden is meant to be a visual symbol of the separation of the village and its past ways from the school and its future potential. Once obi confronts a teacher about the path, the teacher explains the cultural importance and how it links the village shrine to the villagers ‘place of burial’. Obi becomes angered and wants it blocked off. Through this, the priest shows us, despite his physical shortcomings, he will use every bit of his limited energy to advocate for the history and rites of his community. The battle the priest alluded to happens and Obi’s school is left in shambles by the village or the priest who likely did it as a way of standing up for their ancient traditions and way of life. The school does need to be introduced to new and modern ways of learning. We can’t stay stuck in the past forever, although I don’t believe it should be shut out completely. Online schooling is an example of these new and modern teachings. This is something good that has developed from modern teachings.

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Critical Analysis of Short Stories: The Minister’s Black Veil, A White Heron, The Man Who was Almost a Man. (2022, July 14). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 10, 2023, from
“Critical Analysis of Short Stories: The Minister’s Black Veil, A White Heron, The Man Who was Almost a Man.” Edubirdie, 14 Jul. 2022,
Critical Analysis of Short Stories: The Minister’s Black Veil, A White Heron, The Man Who was Almost a Man. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 10 Jun. 2023].
Critical Analysis of Short Stories: The Minister’s Black Veil, A White Heron, The Man Who was Almost a Man [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jul 14 [cited 2023 Jun 10]. Available from:
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