What was the subject of Mr. Hooper's sermon on the day he began to wear the veil?  How did the veil affect his topic?  

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

During the first sermon that Mr. Hooper gives once he begins to wear the veil, he addresses "secret sin, and those sad mysteries which we hide from our nearest and dearest, and would fain conceal from our own consciousness, even forgetting that the Omniscient can detect them."  In other words, Mr. Hooper talks about the fact that every human being has a secret, sinful nature; however, we try to hide that nature from all our fellows -- indeed, we try to forget about it ourselves as well -- and we can even delude ourselves into thinking that God, himself, is unaware of our secret sins.  And although Mr. Hooper delivers the sermon in much the same way as he ever has, gently and beseechingly rather than violently and threateningly, his audience considered it to be "the most powerful effort that they had ever heard from their pastor's lips [....] and [...] the hearers quaked."  Thus, it must bear the stamp of truth because they feel it to be more persuasive and evocative than any other sermon of his that they have heard. 

The veil's symbolism, then, is the subject of this sermon.  It is a tangible representation of our desire to hide our true natures from the world.  If one fears revealing their secret sinfulness to the world, it is as though they hold up a figurative veil between themselves and everyone else.  Therefore, when Mr. Hooper discusses this sinfulness that we insist on trying to hide, he is really explaining what the veil, itself, means.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The subject of Reverend Hooper's first sermon while he is wearing the black veil concerns secret sin. The narrator mentions that although Reverend Hooper's sermon is delivered in his familiar fashion, the presence of his veil and his emotional investment in the message makes Mr. Hooper's sermon particularly powerful. The congregation feels the direct impact of Mr. Hooper's message and trembles as they contemplate their secret sins. Mr. Hooper's sermon concerning hidden sin strikes a chord with his audience, who cannot wait to leave the church. The congregation is filled with guilt and remorse after hearing Reverend Hooper discuss their deepest, darkest sins, which people tend to conceal from even their own consciousnesses.

Reverend Hooper's veil symbolizes each individual's secret sins and represents the metaphorical veils that every person wears to conceal their darkest transgressions. The ominous, enigmatic nature of the veil also emphasizes the personal subject of the sermon. The unsettling topic of secret sin is brought to the forefront and seems inescapable when staring at the minister's veil. Overall, the black veil adds an integral aspect to the sermon, which makes the congregation feel uncomfortable. 

Read the study guide:
The Minister's Black Veil

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