This means that life is a matter of change, and nothing can remain constant forever. Hester Prynne, the protagonist of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, is a clear example of the growth of a human being over a period of time. Her character and way of viewing life varies throughout the novel, as she goes from a prideful and glorious woman, to ashamed and hollow, to an example of redemption and self-empowerment.
Before her public penitence in the scaffold, Hester is shown as a strong-willed and impetuous young woman. In this same scene, she shows a sense of irony and disdain. This is seen in the elaborated scarlet letter A on her bosom, which "seemed to express the attitude of her spirit, the desperate recklessness of her mood, by its wild and picturesque peculiarity" (51). Later on, she is said to be "the image of Divine Maternity." With the baby in her arms, she looks angelic; yet she's standing there because of sin, and the child is the result of it. Furthermore, the fact that she has an affair also suggests that she once had an extremely passionate nature.
But it is what happens after Hester's affair that makes her into the woman with whom the reader is familiar. Shamed and alienated from the rest of the community, she becomes unfilled and indifferent. "It was a sad transformation, too, that her rich and luxuriant hair had either been cut off, or was so completely hidden by a cap, that not a shining lock of it ever once gushed into the sunshine. (.) [T]here seemed to be no longer anything in Hester's face for Love to dwell upon" (150). Yet, Hester becomes a kind of compassionate maternal figure with respect to society: she cares for the poor and aids them. "Her breast, with its badge of shame, was but the softer pillow for the head that needed one" (148). In fact, the people in town start saying that the letter glistening on her bosom means able instead of adulterer.