In Puritan times, sin was a constant topic of conversation; in fact, Calvinists of the Puritan era believed that people were predestined by God either to be saved from sin or damned. With this constant awareness of sin and its threat, not only to one's soul, but also to one's position in the community, the Puritans were often ill at ease around other members of the congregation and their minister in Hawthorne's "The Minister's Black Veil."
Given this environment of suspicion, when Mr. Hooper, the minister himself, dons a veil, the Puritans react in a customary fashion, feeling threatened and deeply disturbed by this gesture. Some suspect that Mr. Hooper has "changed himself into something awful." Their puzzlement over his action is twofold: Mr. Hooper may himself be guilty of a specific sin that weighs upon his conscience or that is revealed in his face as a disfigurement, or he wishes to expose the inherent sinfulness of the congregation. The ambiguity of his action would surely cause almost anyone to wonder. And, it is certainly an inclination of anyone in the Puritan community who has a "secret sin," as Hawthorne calls it, to worry that his/her secret has been discovered.
Whatever the reasons for Mr. Hooper's wearing of the veil, he, too, is also affected since his view of the world is now shaded grey, thus darkening his perspective. As he becomes alienated from the congregation and his fiancee by his adamant refusal to remove his veil giving rise to even more suspicion of sin on his part, Mr. Hooper's point of view finds only a single focus: sin. Added to this Puritan focus, the community's tendency to look outside themselves--to evil forces or beings--instead of acknowledging the potential for evil within themselves alienates him even further. For instance, at the funeral for a young lady, people suspect that Mr. Hooper may have had a relationship with the "young maiden," and this is the reason that he hides his face. Also, "a superstitious old woman" witnesses Mr. Hooper's bending over the corpse; when the veil tips so that his eyes are revealed to the corpse, he hastily catches the veil and returns it, but not before the "corpse had slightly shuddered."
It is this atmosphere of superstition and fear of condemnation for any sins one has that eventually effects the separation of Mr. Hooper from the community. Hawthorne's parable exposes these grievous flaws of Puritanism, a religion that in its terrible suspicion of sin and its consequent superstitions generates an evil itself.