Analyzing the Text
Line 83, 161, 281. The ambiguity makes the meaning unclear. Just as the characters within the story do not truly know what the Black Veil means, the reader is not allowed to know completely either. In such, the Black Veil comes to mean what the reader feels, and so takes on various meanings.
Their conversation tells us that Mr. Hooper is a somber/solemn man. His lack of fear about the possibility of scandal tells us he is a confident man, certain in his action, “gentle but unconquerable obstinacy”( 282). But he is also frightened, as shown by his outburst when Elizabeth gets up to leave.
The veil symbolizes the secret sin, the ones you do not speak out loud. This is first mentioned in the sermon Mr. Hooper gives, “those sad mysteries which we hide from our nearest and dearest” (83-4). All people have these as Mr Hooper suggests when he says, “If I cover it for secret sin, what mortal might not do the same?” (280-1). The discomfort his veil gives all of his congregation indicates that they in some way know this and are forced, through his wearing of the veil, to face their own flaws.
His last words suggest that all people wear a Black Veil upon their face, hiding their sins beneath a facade. It suggests that people believe openness to be true if they can see it, but that this is not so. We see this in the line “the mystery… has made this piece of crape so awful” (450). As Mr. Hooper covered his face in mystery, others are unable to read it and so distrust it — but he argues that everyone has a Black Veil which hides their identity and sins. The final image, of his face decomposing beneath the Black Veil, suggests that even in Death, we cannot know everything about a person.