Nathaniel Hawthornes, The Ministers Black Veil is a story of willful sacrifice towards an eternal cause. Father Hooper, the main character of the story, appears one day with a black veil covering his visage. Questions arise as to what is the reason to this peculiar practice. (And it remains a mystery throughout the story, one can only hypothesize on its meaning.) Below, we will discuss some of the possible reasons for wearing that veil.
There are several instances, where Hawthorne hints to the reader, one of the multiple meanings of the black veil.
The first is found in Hoopers sermon to the church -Those secret sins, and those sad mysteries that we hide from our nearest and our dearest- Hawthorne, reveals here, the idea that all individuals, including parishioners of the church, hide their secret sins. He presents the illusion that, we try somehow to hide our wickedness from God.
This is the reason Hooper wears the veil. Not to hide his sins, but to openly declare his relationship with humanity as being a sinner.
In doing this, he thrusts a stone edifice between him and humanity. He has become a dissenter, because his ideologies were opposite of the majority. The people, question his sanity and form hypothesiss on his reason for wearing the veil. He becomes feared by the children, ostracized from his former society, and imprisoned in his own heart.
The veil symbolically serves multiple purposes. First and foremost, the veil serves to keep Hoopers face from anyone, who considered him a role model, which, ironically is everyone.
He felt that it was inappropriate to be a role model, when he himself had sorrows dark enough to be typified by a black veil. Behind the veil lies his hidden shame which he chose to make public as a form of humility. The veil served as a visual testimony to all that he was a sinner, and therefore, a member of humanity.
Later, Hooper, has a vision where he sees a veil on all the parishioners. And lo! On every visage a black veil! which brings in another meaning of the veil. This time, the veil is what hides the parishioners secret sins. It therefore serves two contradicting purposes. The veil, (in the parishioners case) hides the parishioners sins from the public, and reveals, Hoopers sins to the public. This statement is justified in the end, when, on his deathbed, Hooper revealed that the veil concealed nothing, rather it revealed the fact of concealment (again another paradox.) It was to be an example to all others, showing them the folly of hiding their evils from a God that sees all.
He wore his veil as a visual reminder of his own guilt and sin. His symbol of confession lead him to be excluded from society, because people were in denial of their own sinful nature. He took his crusade to the grave. Where underneath that veil, his flesh turned to dust. Even in death he was faithful to his cause. Hawthorne wrote this tale to exemplify the Puritan battle of sin and evil, and their impossible quest to satisfy the strict rubric of a perfect.