The protagonist of Hawthorne's classic short story "The Minister's Black Veil" is Mr. Hooper, who decides to wear a black veil, covering his eyes, nose, and the majority of his face. Only Mr. Hooper's mouth and chin are exposed while he wears the veil. Mr. Hooper wears the black veil as a symbol to represent the various ways individuals conceal and hide their darkest sins. In the austere Puritan society, public reputation is paramount and citizens go to great lengths to hide their sins from public view in order to maintain an unblemished reputation and persona. Even though Hawthorne never exposes Mr. Hooper's secret sin, the minister continues to wear the black veil as an outward sign of his guilt and shame.
The minister's black veil has a dramatic effect on how others perceive him and the majority of his congregation is initially terrified by his ominous persona. On the first Sunday that Mr. Hooper wears the veil, he preaches a sermon on secret sin, which is both poignant and accurate. Despite losing many friends and experiencing a lonely existence, Mr. Hooper continues to wear the black veil until the day he dies.
The minister's black veil reflects Hawthorne's understanding of Puritan society, where self-righteousness and pride motivate people to hide their sins. Hawthorne was fascinated by the way guilt and sin influenced a person's conscience. Similar to Mr. Hooper, Hawthorne recognized that the majority of society was more concerned with their self-image and reputations than living honest, humble lives. Hawthorne's decision to choose the black veil as a symbol for concealing one's secret sins illustrates his unique view of humanity and self-image. Hawthorne recognized that self-righteous individuals were just as guilty and corrupt as everyone else but utilized different methods of concealing their sin, which is reiterated by Mr. Hooper's final words.