What is it about a black veil that makes women faint, children stop playing, and cause adults to be afraid? In the story "The Minister's Black Veil" the main character, Mr. Hooper, decides to start wearing a black veil and refuses to take it off despite the fact that he is a pastor. Upon close examination, the reader discovers that the black veil worn by Mr. Hooper is a symbol of separation and secret sin.
The first thing the veil represents is separation of two kinds. The first kind of separation is between the pastor and his congregation. A pastors job is to be connected to his people and be an approachable figure to them. When Mr. Hooper comes into the church wearing the veil, immediately the people become nervous about him. Some even doubt it is Mr. Hooper "Are you sure it is our parson?" (Hawthorne 390). The effect the veil has on the people is not something that goes away. The more he wears the veil the more division there is with him and his people. "In this manner Mr. Hooper spent a long life, irreproachable in outward act, yet shrouded in dismal suspicions; kind and loving, though unloved, and dimly feared; a man apart from men, shunned in their health and joy, but ever summoned to their aid in mortal anguish" (Hawthorne 396). "he never willingly passed before a mirror, nor stooped to drink at a still fountain, lest, in its peaceful bosom, he should be affrighted by himself" (Hawthorne 395). Despite the separation from his parishioners, he continued to wear the veil, which then leads to the separation of Hooper from himself.
The second type of separation is separation from happiness. Elizabeth, the fiancé, tried to convince him to take it off for her, but he would due no such thing. The veil was bringing darkness into his heart, thus the start of his separation from happiness. "But that piece of crape, to their imagination seemed to hang down before his heart, the symbol of a fearful secret between him and them" (Hawthorne 393).