The Minister’s Black Veil

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The young woman Character Analysis

The young woman, who is being buried on the day that Hooper first wears his veil, has no lines in “The Minister’s Black Veil,” but it’s been suggested by some readers that she is the story’s most important character. Edgar Allan Poe argued that she and Hooper were lovers, and Hooper’s decision to cover his face is caused by his guilt after her death.

The young woman Quotes in The Minister’s Black Veil

The The Minister’s Black Veil quotes below are all either spoken by The young woman or refer to The young woman . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Puritanism and Piety Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of The Minister’s Black Veil published in 2011.
The Minister's Black Veil Quotes

The clergyman stepped into the room where the corpse was laid, and bent over the coffin, to take a last farewell of his deceased parishioner. As he stooped, the veil hung straight down from his forehead, so that, if her eyelids had not been closed forever, the dead maiden might have seen his face. Could Mr. Hooper be fearful of her glance, that he so hastily caught back the black veil?

Related Characters: Reverend Hooper, The young woman
Related Symbols: The Black Veil
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation, Mr. Hooper attends the funeral of a young woman who has died very recently. He bends over her dead body, so that his veil hangs down. Even though the young woman of course can't look back at his exposed face, Hooper quickly covers himself again. Some critics, including Edgar Allan Poe, believe that this scene is the "key" to understanding the entire story. According to Poe, Hooper committed adultery with the young woman, and is wearing the veil to punish himself for his sexual sinning.

Poe's interpretation is only one point of view in the general debate over Hooper's behavior. In the simplest terms, the question is: is Hooper wearing a veil because of a specific sin he committed, or is he acting out of a more general belief in man's sinful nature? Hawthorne doesn't answer this question either way, but his choice to include this scene between Hooper and the young woman might provide evidence for the former point of view. The very fact that Hooper starts wearing a veil the day after a young woman dies suggests that the two events are somehow linked. But perhaps Hawthorne is testing us: just like the townspeople themselves, we the readers would rather "gossip" about Hooper's specific actions than see the broader symbolic purpose of his veil.


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The young woman Character Timeline in The Minister’s Black Veil

The timeline below shows where the character The young woman appears in The Minister’s Black Veil. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Minister's Black Veil
Puritanism and Piety Theme Icon
Appearance, Perception, and Interpretation Theme Icon
Hooper gives the afternoon service, which includes a funeral service for a young woman . Hooper’s black veil seems appropriate for the occasion. When he bends over the woman’s... (full context)
Puritanism and Piety Theme Icon
Sin and Guilt Theme Icon
Teaching by Example Theme Icon
Isolation Theme Icon
...the funeral, Hooper delivers a moving sermon in which he expresses his certainty that the young woman is in Heaven, and his hope that everyone in the congregation is living a moral... (full context)