Reverend Mr. Hooper approached the “meeting house” Sunday morning to preach his sermon as he did every Sunday, but on this day, he wears a veil that normally signifies mourning. The veil represents the good minister’s guilty conscience that masks a secret sin he harbors in his soul. From Hooper’s first sermon with the veil, the congregation recognizes the darkness he hides with the crape. The sermon makes “reference to secret sin, and those sad mysteries we hide from our nearest and dearest,” possibly Hooper’s.
Later, the minister attends a funeral where the town’s people feel “the minister and the maiden’s spirit were wailing hand and hand. ” In this scene, the inner death of the Reverend’s soul gives him a connection with the deceased. The guilt seizes the minister at the wedding he performs for the “handsomest couple in Milford. ” He catches a look at himself in a mirror and “the black veil involved his own spirit in the horror with which it overwhelmed all others. ” Obviously his guilt overwhelms him at this happy occasion. The sin he harbors in his soul also changes him and separates him from society.
At first, Old Squire Sanders does not invite the minister to breakfast. As he continues to wear the veil, “the gentle and timid would turn aside to avoid him…the children fled from his approach. ” Even his fiance leaves him because he cannot clear his clouded conscience. Mr. Hooper explains to Elizabeth, “I hide my face for sorrow. . . I cover it for secret sin. ” That sin keeps him from happiness with Elizabeth. The reverend does connect, however, with other sinners. He uses the veil for “one desirable effect. ” The veil’s “gloom, indeed, enabled him to sympathize with all dark affections. Converts felt “they had been with him behind the black veil,” signifying they share that secret sin Hooper hides. The Reverend’s “soul hath a patient weariness until that veil be lifted,” and the secret sin weighs on the minster’s soul. His soul must go to heaven in order to be saved. Unfortunately, “on this earth” his soul suffers. While he remains human, his soul will bear the burden of sin. Not until God takes his soul can his body finally be cleansed from his impurities. Mr. Hooper wears the black veil to demonstrate to others the guilt he feel being a sinner.
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