The Long Black veil, is a song composed by Johnny Cash and expresses numerous elements similar to the ones discussed by Nathaniel Hawthorne in The Scarlet Letter. These two pieces of literature expounds on the theme regarding the sin of adultery that ultimately hurts the characters in the stories. In the song Long Black Veil, a man is falsely charged with murder. However, he fails to give an alibi since, on the night when another man was killed, the man was having an affair with the wife of his best friend, and he claims that he would rather die and take their dirty secret to the grave than to tell the whole truth (cash, 2nd stanza). The man is sentenced to death while the woman punishes herself for not having saved her illicit lover’s life by wearing a “long black veil”. The experiences of Dimmesdale and Hester in the scarlet letter, reminds the audience of the biblical story of Adam and Eve, in both situations, sin led to great suffering and expulsion. In June 1642, a big crowd gathers in the town of Puritan to witness an official punishment of a beautiful young woman, Hester Prynne, who had supposedly been found guilty of adultery and therefore was to wear the Scarlet A, a symbol of an affair and adultery, on her dress as a symbol of shame (p, 227). She is sent to prison, and after her release, she lives in the furthest end of the town earning a meager living out of his needlework. Hester claims that, according to her, the scarlet letter is her passport to the many regions where other women in puritan society dared not to tread .Generally, the punishments that the major characters go through acts as the consequences of their adultery.
Both authors using sin in their literature is further designed to show the beginning of the events that ultimately ruins the respective characters’ lives. Nonetheless, although it is not said out in open, it becomes apparent that Arthur Dimmesdale and Hester Prynne committed the sin of adultery and Hester ended up becoming pregnant. “Come up hither, Hester, thou and little PearlYe have both been here before, but I was not with you. Come up hither once again, and we will stand all three together!" (p. 133). She becomes convicted for sinful acts. The character in the long black veil says” I'd been in the arms of my best friend's wife" (cash, chorus). Similar to the characters in the scarlet letter, the man in the song also commits adultery when he is not able to give an account of where he was during the night when a man got killed since, he had spent his time with the wife of his friend. He does not want to tell the judge the truth, he becomes convicted for murder and is executed. Except for Hester, none of the characters is willing to admit to the sin of adultery.
The punishments that end up destroying the characters’ lives are worsened by the fact that they fail to tell the whole truth about their sinful acts. When Hester was found guilty and was asked to confess, whom she had committed the sin with she said, “Never It is too deeply branded. Ye cannot take it off, and would endure his agony, as well as mine!" therefore making the punishment harder on herself (p. 57).” On the other hand, when the man in the song was asked by the judge to give an account of where he was during the night of the incidence he totally refused to do so, "I said not a word, though it meant my life" (cash, 3rd stanza). He refused to give an alibi because he was trying to save his best friend’s wife reputation thus innocently carrying the blame the murder which sees him punished through execution. Therefore, it is evident that both the man in the Song and Hester tries to keep their illicit love secret since they do not wish to hurt their partners. However, by doing this, they only manage to destroy or hurt themselves.
In conclusion, it becomes palpable that deception and secrecy can end up destroying a person’s life. The man in the long black veil and Hester paid for their acts of sins in varied ways. While the man got executed for a crime he did not commit, Hester, on the other hand was forced to wear the Letter A on her dresses as punishment for their sins. In addition, both the woman in the song and Dimmesdale had very guilty consciences regarding what happened to their partners thus inflicting pain and remorse as punishment on their sides. Although sometimes committing a sin might be inevitable, it is always advisable that one openly admits to their sins than to lie and torture themselves with a guilty conscience.
Cash, Johnny, “Long Black Veil”, Marijohn Wilkin. Columbia Records. 1959.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The scarlet letter. Oxford University Press, 2007.