Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic story of personal and public guilt provides readers with the chance to read about the search for self in two ways: as it is explored by the author, and as it is explored by the main character of this tale, Mr. Hooper. Like many of Hawthorne’s stories, it peers into the darkness in the human soul. Mr.Hooper’s black veil, which he wears as a symbol of his own sinful nature, comes in the end to represent the guilt of human beings more generally—especially as it is contained within the world-view of the early American Puritans. Readers can benefit by speculating g upon Hooper’s personal demons and guilt, as well as by a consideration of Hooper’s deathbed call for all his congregation to examine the invisible “black veil” of guilt that they wear, but fail to acknowledge.
The question as to why the minister begins to wear the black veil is purely a speculative one: the story offers no easy answer to this question. One might prompt readers to examine the question, therefore, in its due complexity. Readers should be encourage ed to explore not only specific sources of sin, but the larger question of human guilt. Why the minister sees veils on all around him is suggestive of the guilt that is shared by all human beings.