close-up portrait of a figure dressed in black wearing a black veil

The Minister's Black Veil

by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Start Free Trial

Why is it surprising that no one in the congregation talks to Mr. Hooper about the veil when he first starts wearing it? What might this reaction reveal about Puritan society and beliefs?

It is surprising that no one talks to Mr. Hooper about their discomfort with the veil because the parishioners are quite scared of it. Their fearful reaction may be because of the Puritan deference to authority figures, especially to religious authority figures.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Ordinarily, you'd think that Mr. Hooper's parishioners would want to talk to him about his unusual habit of wearing a black veil all the time. After all, it makes him appear rather odd, and truth be told, it scares the living daylights out of many of them.

A deputation of Mr. Hooper's parishioners do actually try to confront him. When they go to see him, they're so embarrassed and uncomfortable at the whole situation that their courage deserts them. So Mr. Hooper continues wearing his black veil without anyone challenging him.

What this shows more than anything else is the level of deference that Puritan congregations traditionally paid towards their religious leaders. Pastors such as Mr. Hooper were important authority figures in the community, providing moral and spiritual leadership. Mr. Hooper himself is a well-respected figure in town. He's never previously given his parishioners reason to suspect that all might not be well with him.

It's understandable, therefore, that his parishioners are so reluctant to confront him about his wearing of the black veil. They don't believe that it's their place to inquire as to why Mr. Hooper has taken to behaving strangely. In this hierarchical Puritan society, people on the whole are reluctant to challenge authority figures. They are especially loathe to challenge those with spiritual authority like Mr. Hooper.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team