The Minister's Black Veil Thesis Statements and Essay Topics

Below you will find three outstanding thesis statements for “The Minister's Black Veil” by Nathaniel Hawthorne that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in the text and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of “The Minister's Black Veil” in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from The Minister's Black Veil by Nathaniel hawthorne, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.

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Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Concept of “Secret Sin” in “The Minister's Black Veil

In Nathaniel Hawthorne's “The Minister's Black Veil” there are many secrets, many dark areas, both literal and metaphorical. These secretive aspects are not centered just on the minister himself, but on all the people in the quiet town. This is evidenced by their reaction to his sermons about secret sin and while the argument could be made that their discomfort is the result of the unsettling presence of the veil itself, an argumentative essay on “The Minister's Black Veil” could also suggest that, as the Minister himself suggests, all people in the town are guilty of secret sin. For this essay, explore the nature of secret sins throughout the story. For an added challenge, in your thesis statement, do not even discuss the Minister (he is worth an essay alone) but instead look the Puritan community and its relationship with the concept of darkness and sin. For help with this essay idea, look to the last quote at the bottom of the page that begins with “in the veil's gloom” and consider the ways the townsfolk's “true” natures are brought out by the presence of a man who himself may be guilty of a secret sin.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: The Representation of the Puritan Community in “The Minister's Black Veil”

In this story, much like other works by Nathaniel Hawthorne (most notably The Scarlet Letter, Young Goodman Brown, and the Birth-Mark, to name a few) the Puritan community itself is one of the most vital “characters” presented. Because Hawthorne paints these Puritan towns with such homogeneity (notice how all the townsfolk have the exact same reactions and thoughts to nearly every situation) the reader gets the sense that this is, of course, a very tight-knit community, but one that, as a result of their closeness, becomes incredibly closed-minded. While this is especially true in The Scarlet Letter (and it would make for a great comparison or compare/contrast essay on the two) it is worth looking at the way the townspeople are, in themselves, the central character of the story as well as the “setting” and motivating force. Keep in mind that the community creates the conflict in this story—it is this pressure that creates the tension. Along these lines, your essay on “The Minister's Black Veil” should look at “communal” reactions and should evaluate how these influence the story and, if you have room in your conclusion, a reader's perception of this historical period and culture. A good starting point for this statement (or a way to narrow it down for something shorter) would be to look at the Puritan's superstition, for example, and how this is a community-wide response to the Minister's mysterious choice to don the black veil.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: Symbols in “The Minister's Black Veil”

Like many other works by Nathaniel Hawthorne, this story is heavily reliant on symbols as narrative devices. There are many to choose from, including the color black, for instance, The most obvious (and easiest to write an essay about because there are numerous directions you could go) symbol is the veil itself. The black veil is a symbol for many different aspects in Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story. For this essay, pick one function of the veil and devote a few paragraphs to its extended meaning. For example, the black veil can mean “veiling” one's eyes against reality, covering the face in shame, a desire to see the world through a darker lens, and of course, as the minister says, it is a symbol of secret sin. For this essay on “The Minister's Black Veil” use this (or another) symbol and close with an argumentative conclusion in which you discuss how symbols, as opposed to pure narrative action, create meaning in this story.

Suggestion For Writing About “The Minister's Black Veil” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

When writing critically about a work of literature, especially for an academic setting, many instructors will not condone your use of pure speculation without textual support. This is being mentioned now because a favorite topic of debate in essay form is devoted to wondering if the Minister donned the veil because he hader. Adult relations with the dead girl's body (or another woman). While this is fun for class discussion, there is very little textual evidence to support this. And okay, the writer of this PaperStarter thinks it's a moot point not worthy of scholarly debate. There you have it. Any notions to the contrary are welcomed by emailing PaperStarter.

* For a freely accessible full summary and analysis of “The Minister's Black Veil” click here *

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