Throughout the narrative of Hawthorne's story, "The Minister's Black Veil," the congregation has been threatened by the veil that the minister has donned. While they at first suspect him of sin, as they come more into contact with him, the members of the congregation become more introspective, and they seem anxious about what Mr. Hooper may perceive from behind his veil, for they cannot interpret the meaning of his "sad smile" without seeing his eyes.
The longer that Mr. Hooper wears his veil, the more disturbed the members of the congregation become, fearing that their own sins have been exposed. And, much like the members of Hester Pyrnne's community in "The Scarlet Letter" who walk the other way when they see Hester approach, lest his face reveal something that incriminates them, or makes them feel their own guilt, Mr. Hooper's congregation bury the minister with his veil intact, reinforcing Hawthorne's theme of the Puritans' "secret sin" and the unredemptive culture of Puritanism.
Still, Mr. Hooper himself has refused to remove his veil, so the reader is left with some ambiguity as to what the minister himself may have done. Since part of the title of the story is "A Paradigm," perhaps the veil is a model for even the readers' "secret sins."