Without a doubt, the most important symbol in “The Minister’s Black Veil” is the black veil itself, but what it symbolizes is more complicated than it seems to either Hooper or the townspeople. To the townspeople, Hooper’s veil is a clear sign that he is trying to atone for a grave sin. Yet Hooper implies that he intends the veil to be a symbol of mankind’s general sinfulness, not any specific wrongdoing. It’s possible that these two interpretations of the veil are one and the same; in other words, the townspeople focus exclusively on Hooper’s sinfulness because, deep down, they recognize their own, and don’t want to acknowledge it.
At the same time, the veil — a thin, flimsy, article of clothing, is a symbol of the superficiality of Puritan society. The townspeople of Milford judge Hooper on his appearance, not his behavior or his character; indeed, it’s implied that Hooper himself doesn’t change at all after he puts on the veil — he only seems gloomier to the townspeople because of the veil covering his face. Finally, Hooper’s veil could symbolize his pride. Although he hides his face from the town, doing so paradoxically makes him more visible to others — in this sense, Hooper could be seen to be arrogantly raising himself above his peers.