The Minister's Black Veil by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Teacher Guide by Kristy Littlehale

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our High School ELA Category!

Ministers Black Veil Lesson Plans

Student Activities for The Minister's Black Veil Include:

While Nathaniel Hawthorne is probably best known for his novels The Scarlet Letter and The House of Seven Gables, his archive of short stories is actually quite extensive. Hawthorne gained the reputation of being the contradiction to the new Transcendentalist movement taking hold at the time, with his works often examining the darker side of humanity. This actually kept him from forming a deeper friendship with his pals, Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. While Transcendentalism focused on the possibilities of mankind’s potential, Hawthorne’s characters routinely examined the very real limitations and potential destructiveness of the human spirit. In particular, “The Minister’s Black Veil” explores the themes of sin, guilt, secrecy, and isolation, aspects of the human condition that Transcendentalism tends to ignore or forget.

The Minister's Black Veil Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Plot Diagram | “The Minister’s Black Veil” Summary

Copy Assignment

A common use for Storyboard That is to help students create a plot diagram of the events from a story. Not only is this a great way to teach the parts of the plot, but it reinforces major events and help students develop greater understanding of literary structures.

Students can create a storyboard capturing the narrative arc in a work with a six-cell storyboard containing the major parts of the plot diagram. For each cell, have students create a scene that follows the story in sequence using Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.

Example "The Minister's Black Veil" Plot Diagram


On Sunday morning, the people in a small, 17th century New England Puritan community are shocked when their minister Mr. Hooper comes to church wearing a black veil over his face. It is made of black crape, and it obscures everything except his mouth and chin.


The congregation can’t put their finger on why, but Mr. Hooper’s black veil brings out a very deep-seated horror within each person. Everyone feels like he can see their deepest secrets and sins as he gives his sermon on secret sin. He wears it to a funeral where it should have been appropriate, but it makes the funeral even more frightening for attendees. He also wears it to preside over a wedding, and the bride and groom see it as an evil omen.

Rising Action

Everyone in town talks about Mr. Hooper’s veil, but no one gains the courage to ask him directly about it, except his fiance Elizabeth. She gently tries to persuade him to remove the veil, but he tells her that it is a symbol that he is bound to wear for the rest of his life. When he refuses to remove the veil, Elizabeth leaves him. Mr. Hooper wears it for many years after, and he becomes a comfort to those who are dying and believe that he alone can understand their sins.


Mr. Hooper eventually becomes known as Father Hooper, and serves until he is on his deathbed from old age. Elizabeth comes to be at his side, along with Reverend Mr. Clark from Westbury. Mr. Clark tries to get Father Hooper to remove the veil before he dies, and Hooper suddenly grabs the veil and holds it tightly to his face. He shoots up in bed with the last of his energy and tells everyone that their faces hold their own black veils.

Falling Action

The people in the room look at each other in fright. Father Hooper falls back with a faint smile on his face.


Father Hooper is buried with the veil still on his face.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Create a visual plot diagram of “The Minister’s Black Veil”.

  1. Separate the story into the Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.
  2. Create an image that represents an important moment or set of events for each of the story components.
  3. Write a description of each of the steps in the plot diagram.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

Copy Assignment

Start My Free Trial

OSCAR for "The Minister's Black Veil"

Copy Assignment

As students read, a storyboard can serve as a helpful character reference log. This log (also called a character map) allows students to recall relevant information about important characters. When reading a novel, small attributes and details frequently become important as the plot progresses. With character mapping, students will record this information, helping them follow along and catch the subtleties which make reading more enjoyable!

For this character map, try using “OSCAR” so that students can analyze multiple aspects of a character.

Other Character's Comments

What do other characters say about the character?
“‘I don’t like it,’ muttered an old woman, as she hobbled into the meetinghouse. ‘He has changed himself into something awful, only by hiding his face.’”

What does the character say about others or themselves? How can we infer meaning and traits from what a character says?
“‘It is but a mortal veil - it is not for eternity! O! you know not how lonely I am, and how frightened, to be alone behind my black veil. Do not leave me in this miserable obscurity forever!’”
Physical Characteristics

What does the character look like? What descriptive words are used to describe them?
“Though reckoned a melancholy man, Mr. Hooper has a placid cheerfulness for such occasions, which often excited a sympathetic smile where the livelier merriment would have been thrown away. There was no quality of his disposition which made him more beloved than this.”
Author's Attitude

How does the author feel about this character?
The narrator highlights Mr. Hooper’s sadness at how his veil separates him from friendship and makes him feared among the townspeople and, especially children. Yet, his call to the higher duty of wearing the veil outweighs his loneliness.
Reader's Reaction

How do you, as the reader, feel about the character?
The way that Mr. Hooper is described makes him sound odd; however, he also seems very sad. The veil separates him from everyone, including his fiance, and he dies without any living relatives around him.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Create a character map for the major characters.

  1. Identify the major characters in "The Minister's Black Veil" and type their names into the different title boxes.
  2. Choose a Storyboard That character to represent each of the literary characters.
    • Select colors and a pose appropriate to story and character traits.
  3. Choose a scene or background that makes sense for the character.
  4. Fill in Textables for OSCAR: Other Character's Comments, Character's Speech, Physical Characteristics, Author's Attitude, and Reader's Reaction.
  5. Save and submit the assignment.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

Copy Assignment

Start My Free Trial

Analyzing Theme and Symbolism in “The Minister’s Black Veil”

Themes, symbols, and motifs come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify themes and symbols from the story, and support their choices with details from the text.

Themes and Ideas to Discuss

Sin and Secrets

One theme found in “The Minister’s Black Veil” is sin and secrets. The Puritan community in particular is concerned with how their sins will impact their chances for getting into Heaven. Their fear of sin leads them to label many pleasures as sinful. However, in their quest to eradicate sin, many members of the Puritan community lead hypocritical lives; others committed sin in order to protect the community (like the judges in the Salem Witch Trials). It is the fear of their deepest, darkest secret sins being found out that leads members of Mr. Hooper’s community to shun him, as they see their transgressions reflected in the veil that covers his face. They realize that it is much like the metaphorical veils they wear over their daily lives, in order to hide their sins.


Another theme found in “The Minister’s Black Veil” is guilt. The secret sins that the people of the community hide brings them a sense of shame, arising from their guilt of having committed these sins. Mr. Hooper, in particular, seems to be trying to atone for a sin he has committed, and sees the veil as appropriate punishment for whatever it is he did. Some have theorized that Mr. Hooper is trying to atone for Original Sin, which gives root to all other sins. As the townspeople watch Mr. Hooper live with the veil for his remaining days, they are reminded that they may not have yet atoned for the sins they’ve committed, and they feel guilt and fear at his approaching silhouette on the street.


An additional theme found in “The Minister’s Black Veil” is isolation. Mr. Hooper’s willingness to "wear his sin on his sleeve" (or face, if you will), leads him to be ostracized by the members of his community who once embraced him. He is no longer invited to dinner, people do not want to walk next to him or talk with him for very long, and his fiancee leaves him. The only people who do want to speak at length to him are those who believe they are under the veil with him - the sinners of the community, the tormented of conscience, and the dying. This leads to a life of isolation for Mr. Hooper, who is sad and frightened by his circumstances. As he dies, he tells those in the room to stop being so afraid of him and to look at each other - everyone wears a black veil. They are all covered by their sins, their guilt, and their secrecy. Perhaps if more people had figured that out, they would not have shut Mr. Hooper out.

Motifs & Symbols to Look For

The Black Veil

The symbol in “The Minister’s Black Veil” is, of course, the black veil. Made of a fabric typically worn at a funeral, the black veil covers all of Mr. Hooper’s face except for his mouth and chin. While people can still see his faint smiles, they fear the veil and what it means. Allegorically, the veil is a symbol of the sin that separates people from God, and from each other. Since every person sins, every person is separated from perfection by the guilt and secrecy of their own veiled sins. Hooper’s veil gave the Puritans the opportunity for a scapegoat to fear, rather than deal with their own inherent sinful natures.

Start My Free Trial

“The Minister’s Black Veil” Vocabulary Lesson Plan

Copy Assignment

Another great way to engage your students is through the creation of storyboards that use vocabulary from “The Minister’s Black Veil”. Here is a list of a few vocabulary words commonly taught with the story, and an example of a visual vocabulary board.

Example Vocabulary Words

  • crape (crepe)
  • sexton
  • iniquity
  • hoary
  • torpor
  • spruce
  • semblance
  • abstracted
  • variance
  • vagary
  • intimate
  • omniscient
  • knell
  • bugbear
  • celestial
  • indecorous
  • profane
  • mitigate
  • ostentatious
  • waggery

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Demonstrate your understanding of the vocabulary words in “The Minister’s Black Veil” by creating visualizations.

  1. Choose three vocabulary words from the story and type them in the title boxes.
  2. Find the definition in a print or online dictionary.
  3. Write a sentence that uses the vocabulary word.
  4. Illustrate the meaning of the word in the cell using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.
    • Alternatively, use Photos for Class to show the meaning of the words with the search bar.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

Copy Assignment

Start My Free Trial

Puritan New World

Hawthorne held quite a bit of guilt over his family lineage, which included the infamous Judge John Hathorne, who presided over the Salem Witch Trials. Here are some of the tenets of Puritanism which Hawthorne’s ancestors believed guided their lives:

  1. God is the sovereign being of the universe, and controls all things.
  2. Certain people had already been chosen by God to go to Heaven, known as "predestination", and there was nothing they could do to change His choice.
  3. The only way for a Predestined to get into Heaven was to combine their good fortune with hard work.
  4. Humanity is born naturally depraved because of Original Sin, and it is people’s duty to work hard to overcome their innate sin.
  5. Anything unnatural (famine, disease, deformities, etc.) are attributed to the Devil or witches, who are agents of the Devil.

Original Sin

For students who are not familiar with the Adam and Eve story or the concept of Original Sin, consider having them read the story from Genesis 3.

This will help students understand that the Puritan (and modern Christian) belief that no one is born perfect, and that everyone sins. This concept is essential to understanding the allegory of the veil in this Nathaniel Hawthorne short story, "The Minister’s Black Veil".

Essential Questions for “The Minister’s Black Veil”

  1. What is sin?
  2. What are secrets people hide from the world?
  3. What are some reasons why people keep secrets?
  4. Why do people gossip about others?
  5. How can guilt separate a person from others?

Image Attributions

Help Share Storyboard That!

Looking for More?

Check out the rest of our Teacher Guides and Lesson Plans!

All Teacher Guides and Lesson Plans Ed Tech BlogElementary SchoolMiddle School ELAHigh School ELAForeign LanguageSpecial EdUS History and Social StudiesWorld History

Our Posters on ZazzleOur Lessons on Teachers Pay Teachers
© 2018 - Clever Prototypes, LLC - All rights reserved.
Start My Free Trial
Explore Our Articles and Examples

Try Our Other Websites!

Photos for Class – Search for School-Safe, Creative Commons Photos (It Even Cites for You!)
Quick Rubric – Easily Make and Share Great-Looking Rubrics
abcBABYart – Create Custom Nursery Art
Prefer a different language?

•   (English) The Minister's Black Veil   •   (Español) El Velo Negro del Ministro   •   (Français) Le Voile Noir du Ministre   •   (Deutsch) Der Schwarze Schleier des Ministers   •   (Italiana) Black Veil del Ministro   •   (Nederlands) De Minister Black Veil   •   (Português) O Véu Negro do Ministro   •   (עברית) הרעלה השחורה של השר   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) الحجاب الأسود الوزراء   •   (हिन्दी) मंत्री के काले घूंघट   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Черное Вуаль Министра   •   (Dansk) Ministerens Black Veil   •   (Svenska) Ministerns Black Veil   •   (Suomi) Ministerin Black Veil   •   (Norsk) Ministeren Black Veil   •   (Türkçe) Bakanın Siyah Örtüsü   •   (Polski) Czarna Zasłona Ministra   •   (Româna) Ministrul Black Veil   •   (Ceština) Black Veil Ministra   •   (Slovenský) Ministerský Čierny Závoj   •   (Magyar) A Miniszter Black Veil   •   (Hrvatski) Ministarski Crni veo   •   (български) Черният Воал на Министъра   •   (Lietuvos) Ministro Juoda Veil   •   (Slovenščina) Ministrice Črna Veil   •   (Latvijas) Ministra Black Veil   •   (eesti) Ministri Black Veil