Representation of Parson Hooper's Sacrifice in The Minister’s Black Veil by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Life does not come easily; everyone must sacrifice something. While some people sacrifice the bare minimum, other will sacrifice everything. These sacrifices are what truly define their character and moral values. Those who sacrifice the most are the ones that display these traits boldly and with the most passion. In “The Minister’s Black Veil” Nathaniel Hawthorne uses the sacrifices Mr. Hooper makes to illuminate mankind’s values of altruism and love.

One of the biggest and most obvious sacrifices that Mr. Hooper makes is the severed relationship with his community. The people in the community treat Mr. Hooper like he has something to hide. There are many secrets that the community members hide from others. However, as Boone argues, “The irony of the veil, though, is that, although its function is the concealment of sin, it actually, in the minister’s case, functions to expose sin.” The community thinks Hooper has something to hide because of his veil, but he is, in fact, openly showing sin. This sin, however, is the community’s sin, which Hooper has taken onto himself for the community (Boone). People also no longer want to be around him anymore. When Hooper adorns the veil, he effectively becomes estranged from the community. After one of his sermons, “None… aspired to the honor of walking by their pastor’s side. Old Squire Saunders… neglected to invite Mr. Hooper to his table” (Hawthorne). Hooper’s spot in the community has been fiddled with. Instead of giving him large amounts of respect and time, the community stays away from him. In this way he has completely sacrificed his connection with the community. Mr. Hooper’s connection with the community has been destroyed. He sacrifices an important part of life, social interactions, in order to help this community.

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Another with whom Mr. Hooper had to break bonds with was his fiance. The two of them loved each other dearly. However, Mr. Hooper knows his purpose on earth. Elizabeth confronts him and “loses a certain relationship with the person that she loves, only to gain a different relationship with him later” (Deines). One of the hardest things a person can do is lose their lover, and Mr. Hooper has lost a lover because of his veil. However, this sacrifice is for the betterment of the entire community. The gain of the “relationship with [Mr. Hooper] later” is also a betterment of Elizabeth. Mr. Hooper is adamant about his task. His discussion with Elizabeth reveals this. In this discussion, Mr. Hooper begs Elizabeth “It is but a mortal veil… Do not leave me behind this miserable obscurity for ever.” (Hawthorne). If Hooper ever would have taken off his veil, it would have been in this conversation. Hooper loves Elizabeth so dearly that it is a big sacrifice to make her suffer even slightly in order to keep to his cause for the greater good. Mr. Hooper has made one of the biggest sacrifices by giving up his lover for his cause. The taking on of the sins of the community by Mr. Hooper had to come first.

There is one relation which is the closest, the relation that a person has with themselves, and Mr. Hooper lacks this. He is not at home with himself. However, as Davis argues, “Hooper takes this drastic measure not for his own sake, but to show, through his example, what his parishioners seemingly could not otherwise see.” In this way, he is not sacrificing just to sacrifice; he does not want to be at unease with himself. He sacrifices to guide his parishioners to be better. The other side of the severed relation with himself is his aversion to mirrors and reflective surfaces. It can be seen that Mr. Hooper is frightened by himself, or at least uneasy. When Mr. Hooper would see a “glimpse of his figure in the looking-glass, the black veil involved his own spirit in the horror with which it overwhelmed all others. His frame shuddered, his lips grew white” (Hawthorne). He does not neglect his duty for his community because of his disunion with himself. He is clearly uneasy with the black veil that he has adorned. The fear of his own reflection reflects the power of his veil, and demonstrates the lengths a person will go to for their community. It is difficult to sever ties with one’s own self. The power of the veil allows for the accomplishment of this task, although no one would do this unless they had to, like Mr. Hooper did. His renouncement of his connection with himself exemplifies the characteristic of altruism.

Mr. Hooper has seemingly lost everything. He loses a fiance, a sense of ease with himself, and a good relation with the community. However, in reality he has just traded these things. He has made a sacrifice. When people make a sacrifice, they stay true to their purpose and sacrifice all that is necessary. But this is not a small sacrifice; this is a defining sacrifice. People who make defining sacrifices do not sacrifice just to sacrifice, they sacrifice for others. Mankind is not always nice, but when it comes down to it, people know what they will sacrifice. These sacrifices are what exhibit true human values, like altruism and love.

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Representation of Parson Hooper’s Sacrifice in The Minister’s Black Veil by Nathaniel Hawthorne. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 17, 2024, from
“Representation of Parson Hooper’s Sacrifice in The Minister’s Black Veil by Nathaniel Hawthorne.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
Representation of Parson Hooper’s Sacrifice in The Minister’s Black Veil by Nathaniel Hawthorne. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 17 Jul. 2024].
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