In Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story "The Minister's Black Veil," why does a deputation from his congregation want to speak to him and what is the result?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A deputation from the Reverend Hooper's church wishes to speak to him because the congregation feels that he will cause a scandal if he continues to wear the veil. However, after an disconcerting visit with Mr. Hooper, the deputation defers the matter to the synod because they interpret the veil as symbolic of "a fearful secret between him and them."

The effect upon the congregation of his church is immediate when Mr. Hooper first presents himself at the pulpit. It creates a feeling of dread that the minister, whose face cannot be seen, may perceive in them some "hoarded iniquity of deed or thought." It is this fear that some secret sin of theirs may be perceived which causes the reactions of the congregation. In addition, to the members of the congregation it is also as though Mr. Hooper has now become a stranger because they cannot see him:

....they longed for a breath of wind to blow aside the veil, almost believing that a stranger's visage would be discovered, though the form, gesture, and voice were those of Mr. Hooper.

Since they cannot see the expressions on his face, the people fear what the minister sees, and, above all, what he may know about them. Mr. Hooper's wearing of the black veil causes the congregation consternation about their own hidden sins, and they fear discovery. They also worry about what sins of his own that he may be hiding.

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The Minister's Black Veil

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