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.