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Literary comparison of the Ministers Black Veil by Nathaniel Hawthorne and A Doll House by Henrik Ibsen

Literarycomparison of the Ministers Black Veil by Nathaniel Hawthorne and ADoll House by Henrik Ibsen

Onetruth that is explicitly analyzed upon reading the two books “TheMinisters Black Veil by Nathaniel Hawthorneand Ibsen’s “adoll’s house”is how the society views those who go against their status quo. Inboth cases, it is evident that there is the use of symbolism to bringout the major themes such as the plight of women and hypocrisy in thesociety. In a doll`s house, for instance, symbolism is depictedthrough images of a lighted lamp, macaroons, stove, black shawl,visiting cards among others. This, in turn, plays a crucial role inhighlighting the issue of gender equality in a male chauvinisticsociety. Consequently, in theminister’s black veil, themain symbolism is shown by the veil which the Reverend Mr. Hooper isfond of wearing to depict the secret life which the city inhabitantsprefer to hide from reality. In analyzing and making a comparisonbetween the two readings, it is evident that the authors haveeffectively used symbolism to show major themes such as hypocrisy andsacrificial role of women in the society.

Briefsummary of the readings

TheDrama in Henrik Ibsen’s story is centralized around the majorcharacter Nora and Torvald. Ibsen also introduces another femalecharacter in the play by the name Mrs. Linder. As is the case withNora, she has also faced a lot of challenges as a woman. She tellsNora that when her husband died, she was left with nothing, nochildren, and money. The women narrate to each other what they hadgone through with their husbands. Nora had also borrowed some moneywhich she had used to fund a trip to Italy, although she had lied toTorvald her husband about the source of the money, she had also doneher best to return fully repay. The other sections of the story arefull of blackmail, deceit, and dishonesty. It is these happeningsthat eventually cause Nora to leave her family in pursuit ofself-discovery in a society characterized by hypocritical beliefs andstereotyping on women.

NathanielHawthorne’s book is about the actions of one Reverend by the nameMr. Hooper. He comes to meet his congregation wearing a blacksemi-transparent veil that obscures the rest of his face and onlyleaves the chin for the people to view. As a result, his worshippersbecome restless, and they begin to speculate about the significanceof the veil. His preaching for that day is about secret sin, and itis evident from the look of things that the congregation are not verycomfortable with this particular topic. Even at a funeral, he stillwears his veil. Only Elizabeth manages to gather courage and ask himto take it off. Although the veil has its benefits because he is ableto convert more people, his wife leaves him, and he eventually diesand is buried with the black veil on his face.


Comparinga Doll House by Henrik Ibsen and the Ministers Black Veil byNathaniel Hawthorne

Thereare similarities in the two readings, and this is likely because theyboth attempt to depict drama about the society. In Ibsen’s writing,the images of visiting cards, lighted lamp, macaroons and Christmastree are some of the most symbolic elements in the play thatfacilitate theme development. In the first scenes, the images of theChristmas tree, for example, can be interpreted to symbolize life.The well-maintained room and Christmas celebration mean merriment andhappiness in the family and good marriage. There is also thementioning of fire, and this can be interpreted to mean life andwarmth. However, the setting soon changes because by the beginning ofthe second act, the Christmas tree have been stripped and the candlesburned from their sockets.

InNathaniel’s TheMinisters Black Veil, Mr.Hooper’s dressing symbolizes the hidden nature of guilt and howawful human nature can become sometimes. He uses the sermon toacknowledge the problem of sin in his current society. It is evidentthat by dressing in that specific way, he is trying to make thepeople aware of the darkness within themselves. As a result, Mr.Hoppers thus advises everyone to wear a black veil. There is also anongoing rumor in the reading that Hooper could have committed anatrocious sin such as adultery and that the black veil is a symbol ofrepentance and shame for his actions. It is evident from the readingthat the black veil is a representation of the secret life that everyperson has in his or her heart. The fact that Mr. Hooper is unable totell his fiancée the reasons for his behavior and not willing toshow his face to the lady affirms that he could have committedadultery.

InIbsen’s “adoll’s house”the burned candle and decreased light in the room suggests theparallel decline in energy in Nora’s mind. The fact that a table iseven introduced in the third act shows that the setting has changedand there are serious dialogues. Additionally, introducing the tablerelate to a popular English idiom “Turn the table for someone”which literary mean reverting the situation from a master to apartner to a commander and his or her pathetic follower. At thispoint, it becomes evident that there is the need for women to takeaction and be their savior. Nora uses symbolism to show that womenneed to rescue themselves from the existing bondage and excessivesubmission because it has a lot of negative impacts. The opening ofthe hail Hall in the third act can also symbolize Nora`s exit (Ibsen,1989).

InNathaniel’s TheMinisters Black Veil, theblack veil is a symbolic representation of sin and sinfulness in thesociety. At one point, one woman quotes that the Reverend`s veil isone of fear and annoyance and she does not like it. According tothem, Mr. Hooper has changed into something awful by hiding his facefrom the rest of the people to see. There is no clue on what couldhave led to these turn of events. Additionally, since Mr. Hopper doesnot also deny the possibility of committing adultery, the black veilcan also be a representation of some of the challenges that womenwere facing. It is evident that despite Elizabeth being Mr. Hooper`sfiancée, he does not confide in her when it comes to far-reachingand personal issues (Hawthorne, 2015). Despite the unlimited effortput by Elizabeth to try and convince him to remove the veil from hisface, he does not relent on his stand, and he is even buried with theitem.

Avery important symbolic action in Henrik Ibsen’s a dolls house iswhen Nora shuts Helmer behind in his house and walks out. Throughoutthe play, one of the central themes was woman`s identity in a maledominated society. It is evident from the reading that women made alot of sacrifices. In the play, Nora has indomitable magnetism, andit is this character that enables her to make courageous choices. Heractions show that she is a protector and a survivor. Nora slammingthe door behind her and exiting can be interpreted to mean the newwoman has finally decided to leave behind the male dominated societyand male made values. Additionally, it could also represent themodern woman’s revolutionary steps of self-discovery. The societyexpects women to have limited roles, for example, they should becaretakers of their children and their husband and not participate inserious decision making because all these responsibilities have beenleft for men (Ibsen, 1989). Her action of slamming the door is,therefore, an open revolution to the plight of women and anindicating that enough is enough and there is a need for equality inmarriages as opposed to a scenario where only one person makes allthe family decisions.

Onecan also say that the black veil and Mr. Hooper`s life symbolizesmorality. The author uses the Hooper`s veil to teach that whether anindividual faces it or not, everyone is guilty of a certain sin andit is very important for an individual to acknowledge his mistakesbecause judgment awaits everyone. His technique of suing a veil torepresent hidden sin is an effective method of reaching out to hisfollowers. The veil represented ways and practices of the Puritansand people today. It was a reminder of the undeniable truths andsecrets that many people members of the society were unwilling toadmit. It is for these reasons why Hooper uses a parable to influencehis fellow church members on the significance of self-refection.Hooper, therefore, takes the lead in helping his fellow human beingsto realize that everyone sin (Hawthorne, 2015). Additionally, sincesermons are only had one a week, the veil was an effective method ofpassing his intended message because the town inhabitants had toadopt to seeing it every day.

Otherelements of symbolism in Henrik’s a doll’s house include Nora’starantella dance which she performs in a frenzy mood. From anindividual’s perspective, this could symbolize dance of life as isportrayed through his statement to Helmer when she says that her lifedepends on it. The tarantella bite (poisonous spider) is symbolic toKrogstad’s betrayal and Helmer’s oppression. Additionally,evident that the stove symbolizes Nora’s response to emotional andphysical warmth. There are various instances where Nora walks nearthe stove for no apparent reason. For example, when she fearsKrogstad’s visit and is experiencing some discomfort, he decides tolight some fire to escape from him. She also walks over to the stovewhen Dr. Rank declares his love for her.

BothTheMinisters Black Veil by Nathaniel Hawthorneand Ibsen’s “adoll’s house”are thus illustrations of some of the societal challenges. In thefirst case, women the vulnerable population and they are oftenvictims of violent and oppression as is shown by major characterssuch as Nora and Linda. They are always at the mercy of theirhusband, and when there are conflicts, they tend to suffer more asopposed to their male counterparts. Linda, for instance, claims thatshe lost everything after her husband`s death. Consequently, there isan element of social challenges faced by women when Mr. Hooper isspeaking to his fiancée. It is evident that despite the existingrelationship between them, Mr. Hooper still does not trust herenough. There are also themes such as hypocrisy and status quo withinthe society.


Itis thus evident that both authors have effectively used symbolism toshow major themes such as hypocrisy and sacrificial role of women inthe society. In Henrik Ibsen`s a Doll` house, the major theme is theplight of women because the play highlights some of the challengesthat women experience in a male dominated society. They are oftenignored and not allowed to take part in essential decision-makingprocesses even when the choices made will directly affect their livesand relations with their children. Symbolism, in this case, isdepicted through various items such as a lighted lamp, macaroons,stove, black shawl, visiting cards among others. Additionally, Nora’saction of slamming the door is also symbolic of the frustration thatshe has been experiencing. Consequently, the major theme in NathanielHawthorne`s minister`s black veil is morality and the hidden natureof guilt. The author effectively uses the veil to show that it isalways very important for people to acknowledge their mistakes andwrong doings so that they can get on the right path.


Hawthorne,N. (2015).&nbspTheMinister`s Black Veil.Book classic.

Ibsen,H. (1989). A Doll`s House.