- 人間文化研究 (ISSN:21889031)
- no.4, pp.93-121, 2016-02-26
In "Mosses from an Old Manse" (1846), Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-64) paradoxically dropped off his mask to blurt, "So far as I am a man of really individual attributes, I veil my face." In making sure of his hidden undissembled intention regarding the author-reader communion, this paper treats "The Minister's Black Veil" (1836), a short fiction written during Hawthorne's apprenticeship to become a professional writer. "The Minister's Black Veil" depicts the unintelligible behavior of the Reverend Hooper, who wears a black veil. Critics are divided over the problem of whether Hooper merits praise or harsh criticism. Existentially aware of the meaning of life, or to use Heidegger's phraseology, Dasein, Hooper warns his parishioners, it seems, of how foolish it is to stay ignorant in plausibly blissful daily activities. If closely inspected, however, Hooper is far from being an Existentialist. He forcefully imposes the same identity as sinners on one and all parishioners, in the name of Puritanism and its dogmatic doctrine, the notion of total depravity. He shows unawares his totalitarian inclination toward essentialism ---- the sort of attitude that Existentialists denounce. Furthermore, he neglects to hold communion with his parishioners and even with God, and thus incarcerates himself in his own solipsistic realm. When we recall the author's above-mentioned confession of "I veil my face," we confront this question: How close is Hawthorne to Hooper the veiled minister? The Deconstructionist Paul de Man points out that, because of its etiological definition of speaking about something other than itself, the deconstruction of the allegory is part of the allegory itself. From this perspective, we can understand that it is impossible for Hooper to allegorically represent the w/Word(s) (of God), the Origin, and the Cause (of Sin) with the use of his black veil, the proxy, symbol, letter, and or language with which he hopes to allegorically convince the congregation of the Puritan notion of total depravity. Aware of how he appears to the eyes of his parishioners, Hooper stops associating with them. He is openly avoided and secretly ridiculed by men and women, young and old. In these adverse circumstances, the degree of their misapprehension over the reason for his veil deepens all the more. In a negative way, Hooper exemplifies the process of what the leading Deconstructionist Jacques Derrida calls "Differance" and attests to Derrida's insistence that allegory deconstructs itself. More than a decade after publishing this story, Hawthorne became a canonical writer by dint of his masterpiece, The Scarlet Letter (1850). But around this time he also suffered severe hardships, most of which sprang from misunderstanding on the part of his contemporaries : he was expelled from the sinecure position at the custom house, targeted in a hate campaign by Charles Upham, and incurred the displeasure of locals through his sarcastic depiction of the locally employed officers at the custom house. Moreover, since the 1980s, Hawthorne's support for Franklin Pierce, the notoriously pro-lavery politician who went on to win the presidency, has induced left-minded critics to undermine the writer's literary reputation. In his apprenticeship to become a professional writer, Hawthorne already depicted his future self in the image of Hooper. Portraying both Hooper's liability to be a victim of misapprehension and his resigned acceptance of this fate, the author predicted the fate that was to befall him later in life and after his death. Through the Reverend Hooper, Hawthorne paradoxically allegorized his own nature of veiled otherness in the form of desacralized allegory/parable, and conveyed the difficulty of how to face the unexposed foreign self.