From the time that he dons the black veil and ascends the pulpit, the congregation of Mr. Hooper becomes unnerved, sensing that "the minister's veil is a fearful secret between him and them." However, Hawthorne writes, the fiancee of Mr. Hooper is, at first, "unappalled by the awe which the black veil had impressed" everyone else. In order to dispel the rumors about the minister, she comes to him:
As his plighted wife, it should be her privilege to know what the black veil concealed.
Like the others of the congregation Mr. Hooper's fiancee, Elizabeth, determines to learn why the minister covers his face so, but he refuses even her, saying that a time will come when they all will cast aside their veils. Rather abashed by these words, Elizabeth tells him she does not understand, and asks him to at least let the congregation see his face. Nevertheless, in his "gentle, but unconquerable obstinacy," the minister replies,
If I hide my face for sorrow, there is cause enough...and if I cover it for secret sin, what mortal might not do the same?"
At this point, "like a sudden twilight in the air, its [the veil's] terror fell around her." Trembling, from this experience, Elizabeth gives Mr. Hooper a "shuddering gaze." He asks her, "And do you feel it then, at last?"
Elizabeth senses what the Calvinist/Puritan theology termed the "depravity of man." In an epiphany of recognition, Elizabeth identifies herself in the community of mankind that is wicked from birth. Secret sin lies in all, and she is no exception. The veil between her and the man she has loved can no longer hide from herself her sins, and she shudders at her recognition of her hypocrisy in feeling virtuous as "the horrors" are "drawn darkly between the fondest of lovers."