Nathaniel Hawthorn, novelist and short story writer, was one of the greatest American authors of the 19th century. One of Hawthorne’s best-known works is The Scarlet Letter, which marked the beginning of his reputation as a major writer. Nathaniel’s characters were individuals who suffered from inner problems and were often consumed by their own passion. His stories rarely show a happy ending and they always leave us with the confusion that the author’s message cannot be completely understood. For example The Minister’s Black Veil and The Birthmark are two different stories but in both stories the main character suffers of inner conflicts caused by cold intellectuality, pride and isolation.
In Hawthorn’s story The Ministers Black Veil the main character reverend Hooper suddenly and inexplicably chose to wear a black veil for the rest of his live. The story takes place in the puritan period during which the general feeling was that everybody was born with original sin. Sin is a major theme here as it is in Hawthorne’s other works although it is more uncertain. Whether Mr. Hooper was self-punishing by wearing the veil because he was guilty of an awful sin or not is unclear. What is clear is that reverend Hooper suffered of inner problems, even though he continues behaving normally it seems that he was either mourning or hiding something. Isolation can be the cause of Hooper’s problem, since he decided to wear the veil the people of the village became disturbed and his fiancé worries about a rumor concerning Hooper’s mental stability. Elizabeth, Hooper’s fiancée, tries to find out what is behind the sudden appearance of the veil but his answer does not satisfy her. Although he begs her not leave him in his loneliness, he tells her that he cannot take the veil off for the rest of his life. He states “ There is and hour to come… when all of us shall cast aside our veils. Take it not amiss, beloved friend, if I wear this piece of crape till then” (Hawthorn p.339). This quote is a perfect example of Hooper inner problems caused by pride, cold intellectually and isolation.
In Hawthorn’s story The Birthmark, the main character, Aylmer, is obsessed with nature and perfection that in a vain effort to create something he only destroys. Georgina, Aylmer wife is an obedient, patient, and humble woman, which with the exception of the birthmark on her cheek is a perfect beautiful woman. Aylmer is an 18th century scientist who is totally and completely committed to his work, and his entire life has been about figuring out the way nature works. He doesn’t like Georgina’s birthmark and right after their marriage he let her know that she would be perfect if it were removed. From here to the end of the story Aylmer is determined to find a way to remove his wife’s birthmark. After trying different things Aylmer finds a potion that he believes will remove the imperfection of her face, Georgina drinks it and the birthmark fades away but as a consequence she eventually dies.
Aylmer suffers of pride, cold intellectuality and isolation. As a consequence of his inner problem he end’s up killing his wife. At some point in the story he got so obsessed with subverts nature that he isolates himself to accept his wife as she is and he became a victim of his own pride by not giving up in his fight against nature. As Aylmer states “There is no taint of imperfection on thy spirit. Thy sensible frame, too, shall soon be all perfect”(Hawthorn, p.352) is a good example of his obsession with perfection showing his cold intellectuality state of mind.
Through The Birthmark and The Minister’s Black Veil, Hawthorn describes how his main characters, reverend Hopper and Aylmer, suffer from pride, cold intellectuality and isolation. Both characters are being punished by their own pride. A pride that creates an isolation from the people they love and they don’t realized because their cold intellectual.