How Did His Congregation Regard Mr Hooper

How does the congregation regard Mr. Hooper before and after he wears the veil?

Expert Answers

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

As the congregation gathers in the meeting house, the sexton cries, "But what has good Parson Hooper got upon his face?"  When another member of the congregation repeats "good Mr. Hooper," indications, then, are that the minister is well-liked and respected.

However, when the perception of "good Mr. Hooper" changes, so, too, do opinions.  "I don't like it," one old woman peremptorily exclaims:

'He has changed himself into something awful, only by hiding his face.'

Others, too, become uncomfortable with the veil's ambiguity; they are overcome with "perturbation." Indeed, it is this ambiguity which causes some to become angry, others to believe the minister has "gone mad," and still others to become unnerved and leave the gathering.  The veil has cast a dark tone upon the day.  Although he believes that "something is amiss with Mr. Hooper, the physician of the village observes,

...the strangest part of the affair is the effect of this vagary, even on a sober-minded man like myself.   The black veil, though it covers only our pastor's face, throws its influence over his who person, and makes him ghostlike from head to foot.  Do you not feel it so?

This ambiguous influence of the veil upon the soul of the viewer leads Mr. Hooper's own fiancee to leave him when he refuses to remove the veil, telling his love that the veil is a symbol that he is bound to wear in mortal life.  Finally, as he lies dying, Father Hooper, as he has come to be called, yet refuses to lift the veil.

'Why do you tremble at me alone?' cried he, turning his veiled face round the circle of pale spectators.  'Tremble also at each other!  Have men avoided me and women show no pity, and children screamed and fled, only for my black veil?  When the friend show his inmost heart to his friend; the lover to his best beloved; when man does not vainly shrink from the eye of his Creator, loathsomely treasuring up the secret of his sin, then deem me a monster, for the symbol beneath which and lived, and die!  I look around me, and, lo! on every visage a Black Veil!'

While Mr. Hooper's veil may screen his secret sins, it is also symbolic of the spiritual veils that others wear in the duplicity of their outward behavior and inner "secret sins" as Hawthorne terms the private evil of people.  The ambiguity of the veil leads the people to wonder if Mr. Hooper knows their "secret sins," so they repudiate him or avoid him in their own guilt.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Before Mr. Hooper began wearing the veil, the congregation held great respect for him. In fact, it was a tradition that he be invited to dinner after each sermon. After the sermon, there were many who were also ready to offer their praises of his message. He was always welcome at any celebration, especially weddings.

After Mr. Hooper began wearing the veil, the congregation became uneasy around him. He wasn't invited to dinner, People started avoiding him, and no one wanted to converse with him after his message. He did perform a wedding ceremony the following evening, but the veil cast a gloomy mood over what should have been a celebration. His fiancé left him because he would not remove the veil even for her, causing her to become suspicious of his reasons for wearing it. His sermons became more powerful because the congregation believed that Mr. Hooper could see into their souls. The veil secluded Mr. Hooper from the townspeople, leaving him to live a lonely life and ultimately die alone, even though he was surrounded by people he knew, including his ex-fiancé.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial