How does the uncertainty over why Mr. Hooper wears the veil affect the meaning of the story "The Minister's Black Veil"?

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price7781 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Mr. Hooper’s black veil is just plain weird, and to show up unexpectedly with it on one day is just as bizarre.  People in his congregation cannot figure it out, and even as Hooper preaches about sin in the Sunday service, the question of the meaning of the veil overshadows the sermon’s message.  Rumors start to buzz around town, and people are afraid of Hooper.  They refuse to walk alongside him, and children begin to mimic him.  When he refuses to reveal his face to his fiancé, Elizabeth, she leaves him and breaks off the engagement.  Hooper remains a lonely man full of conflict, and the veil’s message is not getting through to people because he refuses to explain it.  Perhaps if he explained its purpose, people would be able to understand its symbolic meaning: that we all have sin that we hide.  Instead, it just isolates him and causes a rift with his congregation.  Only those on their death beds who are ready to confess their sins seem to understand the veil’s meaning.

Hooper needed to be more forthright about the veil and what he was attempting to show the congregation.  If he had done that, perhaps his life wouldn’t have been so sad and tragic, and the town’s people could have learned from him.  Instead, his bold move is for naught as the mystery of the black veil outweighed its intentions.  As readers, we end up seeing Hooper not as a hero who changes people’s hearts or faith, but as a failure whose purpose was never understood.

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