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Essay on Nathaniel Hawthorne

In: English and Literature

Submitted By dami1603
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Who would live up to a human being’s potential, someone who fits in or someone who goes against society? This question relates to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Minister’s Black Veil and Herman Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener. The protagonist of these two stories symbolize how you have to do what you believe, even if society discourages you from doing what you want.
Bartleby is someone who decides to do what he believes in. He repeatedly said “I prefer not to”. That was his response for everything if he did not want to complete any tasks demanded by his employers. This reveals characterization on the part of the author. He learned to not go along with the system. This evinces how Bartleby’s behavior got the best of him but it also raises the theme of Bartleby doing what he wants to do instead of what society wants him to do.
The antagonist of the story is the lawyer. The lawyer shows how people can change in the way he became sensitive. But the lawyer didn’t change enough, he just slightly changed. He became compassionate towards Bartleby and wanted to help him. He also went from selfish to indifferent over a person, but still felt the same chafing and ambiguous attitude amongst everyone else. This proves that he was just into his money only and he always went along with what society wants. This brings up the theme of conformity, and how the lawyer saw everyone superficially before hiring Bartleby.
In a simple way, the minister of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story demonstrates the complex nature of the sins we hide. Reverend Mr. Hooper wanted people to face their sins in order to live a better life. By wearing a black veil, he thought he can accomplish this task. Instead of people seeing the good in the veil, everyone saw the hectoring alacrity of the veil. The veil symbolizes the way people hide their sins, feelings and vulnerability. Reverend Mr. Hooper was committed to helping people to do better. Part of his job as a minister is to help his parishioners become more honest with themselves as well as others.
The minister tried to get people to stop pretending. He kept trying to help people realize the wrong they do in hiding their sins and wanted to help them become true to themselves. Without trying, he made them start to question their purpose in life. For example, Hawthorne writes “dying sinners cried aloud for Mr. Hooper, and would not yield their breath till he appeared”. Furthermore he used the black veil to send a message. Hawthorne also has the minister state “if I hide my face for sorrow, there is a cause enough, and if I cover it for a secret sin, what moral might not do the same?” He felt by using the veil, people will open up and stop pretending.
Even if society discourages you from doing what you want, still do what you believe in. This message is what seems to appear between these two stories. Just because society expects us to conform, doesn’t necessarily mean we have to go by conformity. It’s better to trust yourself and be honest with yourself even if society disagrees with you.

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