In Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Scarlet Letter guilt and its effects are a constant theme. The story is based on the results of guilt as an effect of sin. The first character who is exposed to this guilt is Hester, who struggles more openly with this problem. On the other hand the Reverend Dimmesdale suffers alone with a searing guilt which ultimately leads to his demise.
Hester is the most immediately affected by guilt, which is openly shown to the public by the scarlet letter, that she bears on her clothing. Another visible sign of her guilt is the embodiment of it in Pearl, who is the direct result of Hester's sin and is therefore a constant reminder of guilt for both Hester and Dimmesdale. Pearl is also always doing something to further her mother's guilt. The first thing she recognizes in the world is the scarlet letter, she often throws things at the letter, and she even makes one for herself out of seaweed. Hawthorne even shows her as an A herself Hester make her a beautiful red dress that is vaguely shaped like an A, and the townspeople see her as a little scarlet letter walking along side of Hester. Guilt leads to leads to Hester's isolation mentally, and through the law and banishment to the peninsula she becomes isolated from society. Hester is constantly reminded of her guilt the most obvious example is when she travels to the governors mansion, and the description of her image as she looks into a breastplate of a suit of armor, "the peculiar effect of this convex mirror, the scarlet letter was represented in exaggerated and gigantic proportions, so as to be greatly the most prominent feature of her appearance. In truth, she seemed absolutely hidden behind it"(72). The reflection of the scarlet letter is made to look larger than life, just like society blows it out of proportion in the beginning of the novel. This occurs during a time when Hester is questioning herself due to her guilt, and she even question whether it is worth living if your life is so tainted.