The small, early American town that the story, "The Minister's Black Veil", takes place in, is a quite provincial town. Its inhabitants are normal people who, when confronted with a foreign entity, respond with ignorance. Nathaniel Hawthorne uses symbolism and a black veil to convey his message of the incorrectness of early American actions towards things of a foreign nature. The black veil symbolized the all too familiar urge to hide one's private life, the necessity for people to look past other's surfaces, and the hypocrisy of a society's customs.
The private sector of a person's life is something that not many people are allowed to enter. When Parson Hooper begins to wear the black veil, he puts up another form of protection to keep people further away from his private life, something that people already wonder about. The veil symbolizes the barricade that everyone uses to hide his or her personal life, the things that happen behind closed doors.
When one of Hooper's parishioner's queries, "I wonder he is not afraid to be alone with himself" (189), she exhibits the kind of wonderment that the people of this small provincial town have regarding the private lives of others. The village physician even takes his part in the town-wide suspicion of what is behind Mr. Hooper's mysterious black veil, when he observes that, "[s]omething must be amiss with Mr. Hooper's intellects" (189).
The simple black veil also indicates the necessity for people to become more accepting of things that are foreign to them. Mr. Hooper's town stopped communication with him all because of the black veil that he wore on his face. Nothing of his character changed at all but the simple fact that he was now wearing a veil over his face disturbed the people of his town to the point where they ceased interaction with him. When Hooper's "wife", Elizabeth, demands, "Lift the veil but once, and look me in the face" (194), she proves the point that she, as well as the rest of the town, has a fear of the unknown that is powerful enough to ruin the bond between lovers. The veil represents many things, courage to be an individual, fear to be unveiled, but most of all, obstinacy of ignorance. The people of Parson Hooper's town were ignorant of the fact that different isn't bad and everything they believed in was absolute hypocrisy; Hooper was simply trying to mirror their imperfections through his mysterious black veil.