Reverend Hooper enters church with a mysterious black veil over his face, causing quite a stir among his parishioners. He delivers a sermon on secret sin and the things we hide from those closest to us, "even forgetting the Omniscient can detect them." After the meeting, the congregation discusses the minister's oddity, trying to interpret its meaning. The Reverend then presents a funeral sermon with his black veil still screening his face.
Mr. Hooper was to conduct a wedding that evening and continued, to the disappointment of the newlyweds, to wear the veil. The entire town spoke of little else the next day. No one dare ask the minister to remove the veil or to explain its presence except for his fiancee. He claimed it was a sign of his sorrows and refused to remove it. That was the last attempt to remove the veil. The veil establishes a barrier between the reverend and all human sympathy, causing children to flee and others to peep behind gravestones to get a look at his face.
He became a highly respected minister in New England, notwithstanding the black barrier. The Reverend Clark tries to persuade Hooper, on his death bed, to remove the veil. His reply: "Why do you tremble at me alone? Tremble also at each other! Have men avoided me, and women shown no pity, and children screamed and fled, only for my black veil? What, but the mystery which it obscurely typifies, has made this piece of crape so awful? When the friend shows his inmost heart to his friend; the lover to his best beloved; when man does not vainly shrink from the eye of his Creator, loathsomely treasuring up the secret of his sin; then deem me a monster, for the symbol beneath which I have lived, and die! I look around me, and, lo! on every visage a Black Veil!"
The minister is buried, still wearing his veil.