Hester Prynne, through the eyes of the Puritans, is an extreme
sinner; she has gone against the Puritan ways, committing adultery. For
this irrevocably harsh sin, she must wear a symbol of shame for the rest of her life. On the breast of her gown, in a fine red cloth surrounded by an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold thread, appeared the letter 'A.' Hester's scarlet A serves as a public symbol of her private sin. Because Hester is able to declare her guilt openly, she is freed from excessive remorse, and her sin serves to enrich and dignify rather than to destroy her. The letter makes her stronger and more an individual. As foreshadow as Hawthorne speaks of the scarlet letter, ..It had the effect of a spell, taking her out of the ordinary relations with humanity and enclosing her in a sphere by herself, Hester indeed does isolate herself, and stays .... out of the sphere of social activity.. and moves out to an isolated cottage. Hester decides that Here....had been the scene of her guilt, and here should be the scene of her earthly punishment, the torture of her daily shame would at length purge her soul and work out another purity than that which she had lost; more saintlike, because of the result of matyrdom. Hester Prynne, therefore did not flee. This is where she sinned, this shall be where she suffers and gives penance.

As expected, Hester is at first shunned and humiliated by the townspeople, who ignore their own faults and project them onto Hester, and then later their children project them onto Pearl, who does not have the divine maternity of Hester, who can do no wrong. Hester behaves with decorum and grace,
helping others who are hungry, sick, or in need. Slowly the disdain of
the townspeople turns to admiration, ...Many people refused to interpet the scarlet A by it's orginial signification. They said it meant Able... and Hester becomes a
respected person in a Puritan society by overcoming one of the harshest
punishments, the scarlet letter.

All in all, in the conclusion of the book, Hawthorne demondstrats to us that Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmsdale, whom both commited the same sin, but dealt and lived with it in completly different ways, were ultimately both forgiven. We learn that their graves were next to one another, but ..with a space inbetween, as if the dust of the two sleepers had no right to mingle. but, in the end Yet one tombstone served for both. Finally, we are left with:

On a Field, Sable, The Letter A Gules.

Arthur Dimmesdale is his own worst enemy. He hates himself and must physically inflict pain upon himself. He thus typified the constant introspection wherewith he tortured, but could not purify, himself to never forget what he has done. He lacks the courage to risk his important position in society by admitting his sin publicly, but is unable to achieve any inner calm while living with his hypocrisy. To Dimmesdale, it is bad that Hester is shown publicly as a sinner, but people forget that. What is far worse than public shame is Dimmesdale's own cruel inner shame. Publicly he becomes more and more passionate and effective in his sermons and moral counsil to his congregation. Privately he is torn with self-hatred, and his body wastes away because of the remorse and knowing what only he and Hester know gnaws at his soul. He has not confessed, therefore he knows he can't begin his true penance, thus never being forgiven. He finally has the courage to do so at the hour of his death.


The Scarlet Letter