Analyzing the Text
“The Minister’s Black Veil” is set in a village as stated by the line, “The old people of the village” (2). The story also takes place in a church/meetinghouse, as demonstrated by the line “A rumor of some unaccountable phenomenon had preceded Mr. Hooper into the meetinghouse” (47-8). The setting of this story relates to the ideas of the writer as they characterize the small town mentality as well as the religious fears of sins. “The Pit and Pendulum” takes place predominantly in a Toledo dungeon as demonstrated by the lines 131-5. The dungeon setting emphasizes the terror of the story.
We discover the character of Poe’s narrator through his reaction to the things happening to him. This technique of slow discovery helps maintain the mystery of the story. Hawthorne uses a similar technique. We discover Mr. Hooper’s personality through his interactions with other people, slowly throughout the story. This uncertainty and slow development sustains the mystery of the Veil. However, Poe’s use of perspective gives us a one sided glimpse at the narrator while Hawthorne’s perspective allows the reader to see Mr. Hooper through the eyes of other people.
“Pit and Pendulum:” (p>“Minister’s Black Veil:” (passage 456-462), the dark and ominous tone is evident in the great fear of the characters present, “in mutual affright” (456). The reader is invited into this fear with the vivid description of Father Hooper’s corpse. The “faint smile” (457-8) is alarming and terrifying because it is paradoxical. The repetition of ‘veiled’ throughout the passage enhances the dark mood, as the secrecy around the veil drastically increases. The passage (and the short story) ends on this word, thereby demonstrating its significance.
Hawthorne uses ambiguity in the ending of the short story, when Mr. Hooper is saying his last words, “On every visage a Black Veil” (455). Yet again, Mr. Hooper discusses the Veil but refuses to directly identify what it is. In such, the story ends with this residual ambiguity which increases the horrified, but curious, feeling of the reader. Poe uses ambiguity to enhance interest in the beginning of his story when the narrator cannot remember what happened to him (64-80). This passage engages the reader, as the narrator’s lack of memory enables the reader’s imagination to take over (helped of course by Poe). It also increases the sense of horror.