Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Minister's Black Veil

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Perfection is an idea that has challenged man in his own society, but is man actually capable of obtaining and maintaining a complete and steady state of perfection within his own inner being? As Plato would say, “Perfection cannot exist without the ‘idea perfection’ in the mind of an individual.” There is really no accurate state of perfection that exists in human nature. Perfection is determined by the different interpretations given to it man himself.

Many times man is caught in a trance to become better than his spiritual father, God. Many individuals believe that if they can outdo their Creator than they will obtain a “free scholarship” to the University of Heaven that contains the best teachers in the universe, rated number one above Harvard University. Yet, doesn’t this mean that to outdo God would make man his own god? This would be hypocritical to everything that man attempts to teach his fellow species in church every Sunday from the biblical scriptures. In that case man would be worshipping his own identity and following his own set of “commandments,” refusing to follow what Jesus Christ established centuries ago. The battle for perfection continues today as many individuals strive to live a pure life like the Creator of heaven and hell. So does this mean that the Creator and His Son only love those with pure hearts and souls? Jesus himself loved Mary Magdalene, the prostitute in the biblical era, some much that he was willingly to teach her the correct path to heaven and peace, leading her to become one of the most prominent Christian figures in the Roman Catholic Church.

The famous first “true” Christian writer, Nathaniel Hawthorne, wrote a series of short stories that deal with the “fall of man’s society” as well as the hypocrisy that occurs in the church today, leading man to break the first commandment, “ Thou shall have no other Gods before me.” Each short story is connected with the other in many important factors such as hypocrisy in the church and man becoming his own God. Hawthorne utilizes great imagery of biblical illusion in his work to bring his message across to “the sinners of our Father.”

In Hawthorne’s, The Scarlet Letter, the minister, Arthur Dimmesdale represents that all people are just human and potentially they are entitled to commit mistakes in their life. Dimmesdale lives a thousand faces but the primary face is that of hypocrisy as he is faced with a battle against his own conscience. Dimmesdale has committed the ultimate sin, yet his cowardly reputation restricts his mouth from reciting the truth to his fellow villagers. Dimmesdale has acted against everything he has preached in his sermons. The minister is no hypocrite! He is perfect!

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This is the reputation that man has interpreted for the authorities of the Holy Church, demonstrating the “perfection” of God here on earth. Because Dimmesdale is a minister he is not entitled to make any mistakes himself; he is paralleled to Jesus Christ who taught his people “truth and honor” for one another. The bible only gives you the human interpretation, which man has created over the years but the real truth lies undiscovered. Only Jesus could tell his people about the life he lived here on Earth free from evil and temptation. In a symbolic way, he did not live a life free from evil and hate for he was persecuted for the sins of all mankind. We all make up part of our Father and through our sins we cause him to lose His sense of purity.

Hawthorne illustrates through the character of Pearl, the sin of Dimmesdale, that she is the perfect “perfection” that man battles for in life here in their society. She is symbolic of God’s pure forgiveness of mankind’s sins against themselves. Pearl also symbolizes that true perfection is maintained only as a natural birth of your own identity. The vision of Pearl is a constant reminder to Dimmesdale that he has sinned against his Father and has failed to keep his commitment to the church of his Creator. Dimmesdale foreshadows the actions of one other character created by Hawthorne Mr. Hooper.

In The Minister’s Black Veil, the character of Mr. Hooper, the hypocrite of his congregation, symbolizes man’s quest to surpass his own Creator and judge his people based on the laws of hypocrisy. The black veil which lies upon the face of the minister is symbolic of the distance which he has placed himself from his congregation. He is too perfect for the presence of his sinners. Likewise, the congregation can sense that their minister has not been faithful to them.

The minister displays his cowardness through wearing the veil, which distorts his image of the world around him. Although the veil distorts the images from his sight, the small light, which he can see through his mask, symbolizes God’s hope for Mr. Hooper. God will not give up on this individual, causing the veil to remain transparent rather than opaque. The veil also serves as a reminder to society that they have caused a veil to form between themselves and their Creator every time they choose to sin against His will. Through the veil, Mr. Hooper attempts to hide his sins and cover his track in the ministry. The character of Mr. Hooper is that total opposite of Jesus Christ, who never once shunned himself from society because he was too perfect.

Although Mr. Hooper displays the acts of hypocrisy in his church, leading to him become God himself, he does teach a valuable lesson to his congregation. “ Why do you tremble at me alone?” “Tremble also at each other! … “I look around me, and lo! on every visage a Black Veil!” Mr. Hooper reminds his society that my making faces at him and gossiping about him around the church, they too have sewn a black veil on their face. They have sinned without knowing it. His entire congregation has become hypocrites of their own. They have also attempted to play the role of God through trying to judge Mr. Hooper for the veil that symbolizes “the fall of man’s society.” Man will cause his own destruction as Hawthorne has displayed through Dr. Rappaccini in his next story.

One of the most symbolic works of Hawthorne is Rappaccini’s Daughter, the story about a doctor who will go to any extent to gain powerful knowledge about life and the nature around him. In this work of Hawthorne, Dr. Rappaccini enacts the role of God by creating an experiment out of his na├»ve daughter. Her father’s experiment causes for Beatrice to bring death to every thing she lays her hand upon. Hawthorne utilizes a great biblical allusion in this story about the hunger for power and the deadly power of love. The scene with Beatrice and Giovanni are symbolic of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and story of the tree of life. Giovanni falls in love with “the plant experiment” out of lust; he falls in love with her after the fact that he sees her beauty. He is tempted to visit her in the garden, arriving with purple flower that is symbolic of the apple of sin. The flower wilts after Beatrice infects it with poison. This is symbolic of the rise of Death. After Adam and Eve ate the apple from the tree, God created death. Death is inherited as part of our life when we are born into this world. The flower’s wilting signifies all the sacrifices which man must make in life to survive in his constructed society.

Dr. Rappaccini emotionally and physically “rapes” his daughter from life after his sins are the result of his beautiful Eve’s death. Once again man has tried to succumb the power and knowledge of his own Creator and results in a total tragedy causing the death of many innocent lives. Dr. Rappaccini “would sacrifice human life, his own among the rest, or whatever else was dearest to him, for sake of adding so much as a grain of mustard � seed to the great heap of his accumulated knowledge.” The flower from the garden of life is symbolic of his own sacrifice of his daughter to gain this knowledge, which his brain hungers. Dr. Rappaccini has gone against every word that is read in the bible. His greed has overtaken his soul; he no longer loves his daughter but views her as the experiment that will gain him that “grain of mustard-seed of knowledge.” He has become a hypocrite of society’s rules to love and protect your loved ones.

Hawthorne has utilized these characters to teach us humans’ valuable lessons about the world around us. Should they been forgiven or condemned for their ignorance to realize that God is the supreme being of the world? If man continues to seek for happiness in the idea of perfection, he will remain lost in melancholy for eternity. Hippocrates believed that moderation, harmony, and a “sound mind in a sound body” lead an individual to a healthy lifestyle, physically and emotionally. Antithenes believed that true happiness lies in not being dependent on such random and fleeting things. Perfection will only be an idea that has no true definition. According to St. Augustine, evil comes from mankind’s disobedience. The good will is god’s work and evil is the falling away from God’s work. We are entirely at his mercy.

No one can judge the creations of Hawthorne because we have all committed sins in our life. He, who has not sinned, be the first to cast the first stone at these characters. Condemning these characters would only put you in their place as hypocrites of the church. They can receive “financial aid” for being the minority of society so that they can still get accepted into the University of Heaven. But are these hypocrites truly the minority or are they the majority that can be found around the corner in the hall of your school. We must remove the black veil that we each wear before we can make any statements. We must review our past, accepting our own faults and condemning ourselves first before condemning our neighbor. Man should live a life full of peace and happiness within their heart rather than competing with each other for the power of “perfection”. We are God’s family and if we destroy ourselves amongst each other it is like symbolically crucifying him once again. Hypocrisy is a natural instinct of man and he must learn to overcome it before ever developing the “idea perfection.”

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