In The Minister’s Black Veil by Nathaniel Hawthorne, readers are introduced to a lively church with a respected Minister named Reverend Mr. Hooper. The scene opens up to one particular Sunday when Mr. Hooper walks into church wearing a black veil that covers up his eyes. The church-goers are stunned and confused by Mr. Hooper’s apparel. The reason for the veil is unknown to the reader throughout the story but Mr. Hooper’s dedication to wearing the veil points to Mr. Hooper hiding a sin or is acting to engage his congregation to realize their own sins. In line paragraph 22, Hawthorne states, “At that instant, catching 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, he spilt the untasted wine upon the carpet, and rushed forth into the darkness. For the Earth, too, had on her Black Veil.” This line is a sign of realization from Mr. Hooper. Though Hawthorne never explicitly states what led to Mr. Hooper to wearing a veil, readers can infer that he, himself, can not look at his reflection without being disgusted. This fact further develops the theme of sin and one’s own culpability through the symbol of the black veil. Hawthorne uses very strong opposing characters to bring out each character’s personalities. Mr. Hooper is a very loving character that only wants affection from the people around him, especially his partner, Elizabeth, who ends up resenting and leaving him for refusing to take of the black veil. “Lift the veil but once, and look me in the face,” said she. “Never! It cannot be!” replied Mr. Hooper. “Then farewell!” said Elizabeth. She withdrew her arm from his grasp, and slowly departed, pausing at the door, to give one long shuddering gaze, that seemed almost to penetrate the mystery of the black veil. But, 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.” This intense scene develops both the characters in their individual way. Hawthorne uses the dramatic tone of Elizabeth to bring out the passionate need of affection of Hooper’s character. He uses the veil to bring out the resentment boiling within Elizabeth because of this.
In Hawthorne’s story Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment, readers are introduced to four elderly folk that represent the different desired fortunes: Power, Money, Youth and Beauty. The character’s lives have slowly diminished and each are yearning for their youth. Dr. Heidegger, provides the four characters with water from the Fountain of Youth warning them to not make the same mistakes they did when they were younger. The drink works for only a brief moment, only long enough for the characters to start making the same mistakes again, dropping the liquid to the ground and forcing the potion to wear off. Once the characters have fallen old again, the yearn for more and insist on finding the fountain of youth again and drinking from it for the rest of their lives. Hawthorne develops the theme of foolishness of human nature through the usage of a superficial substance, like the Fountain of Youth water. “But the doctor’s four friends had taught no such lesson to themselves. They resolved forthwith to make a pilgrimage to Florida, and quaff at morning, noon, and night, from the Fountain of Youth.” The last line of the story sums up the theme as it shows the foolishness of the characters and how when taught a lesson, they will never learn from their mistakes. Characterization is a major part in this story. Each character represents a pillar in society. One represents power, one represents money, one represents Youth and one represents Beauty. The four characters come together and are united all under a damaged life and the want to be youthful. In the first paragraph, readers are introduced to each one of the characters and can individually see their place in society and how age has personally affected them. Hawthorne does a wonderful job creating the characters to represent each side of society and to illustrate the theme of the story.