close-up portrait of a figure dressed in black wearing a black veil

The Minister's Black Veil

by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Start Free Trial

Because the committee fails to pose the question they set out to ask the minister, what does Hawthorne suggest about human nature?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Because the committee formed to address Mr. Hooper about the black veil cannot bring themselves to ask him about it, Hawthorne seems to be suggesting that Mr. Hooper's realization -- that we all are all inherently sinful but attempt to hide this fact from everyone else -- is true.  

It is as though they cannot ask because, as Mr. Hooper said in his first sermon after he began to wear the veil, we each have some "secret sin, [...] sad mysteries which we hide from our nearest and dearest, and would fain conceal from our own consciousness [...]," if it were possible to do so.  If they ask him, directly, why he wears this veil, they will have to hear the answer, and this truth is not something they wish to hear because they (and we, according to Hawthorne) would all prefer to put it out of mind, to forget the truth of our tarnished souls.  We each fail to accept our own secretly sinful natures, so how could we ever acknowledge such a thing to our communities?  To hear Mr. Hooper's answer would mean that the committee, and so the entire congregation that they represent, would have to publicly grapple with the truthfulness of Mr. Hooper's answer, and this is clearly not something they are willing to do.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team