Orual’s veil represents her tendency to hide a part of her, not only from others, but also from herself. The King initially forces her to wear a veil to his wedding to hide her ugliness. Later, she decides to permanently don a veil after Psyche’s exile. This act undermines the King’s power over her, as she voluntarily hides her ugliness, and when he commands her to remove the veil, she refuses in her first act of defiance against him. She realizes that the veil makes her mysterious, as people must guess what it hides. Though the veil gives her power over others, it also separates her from them, representing the way she’s cut herself off from human feeling after the loss of Psyche. By hiding her face, she becomes almost less human altogether. Perhaps she unconsciously tries to imitate the gods, who seem to her to be veiled in mystery and whom she feels Psyche chose over her.
Furthermore, Orual dons her veil around the same time that she begins to bury her old self deep within her and transform herself into the Queen. The veil, then, helps her rid herself of Orual, whose face she wears, and become someone new. Perhaps the veil even performs some sort of transformation, because the next time Orual goes into public without her veil, she believes her face has changed into that of Ungit. As the face of Ungit exposes her inner, unacknowledged character, this would mean that the veil ultimately made her face into a truer representation of herself.
The Veil Quotes in Till We Have Faces
My second strength lay in my veil.... [A]s years passed and there were fewer in the city... who remembered my face, the wildest stories got about as to what that veil hid.... Some said... that it was frightful beyond endurance; a pig’s, bear’s, cat’s or elephant’s face. The best story was that I had no face at all; if you stripped off my veil you’d find emptiness. But another sort... said that I wore a veil because I was of a beauty so dazzling that if I let it be seen all men in the world would run mad; or else that Ungit was jealous of my beauty and had promised to blast me if I went bareface. The upshot of all this nonsense was that I became something very mysterious and awful.