All of Hawthorne's work is one form or another of "handling sin". All of his stories are those of persons whom some crime, or misunderstood virtue, or misfortune, has set by themselves, or in a worse companionship of solitude (Symons 1597). The Scarlet letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne explores sin and its consequences. The focus of attention is Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth. Each of these characters sin in a unique way. Hester sins by committing adultery. Dimmesdale sins by breaking his vow of chastity, and then hiding his deed. Chillingworth sins by acting upon his desire for revenge, and by torturing Dimmesdale. Hester and Dimmesdale suffer from shame and guilt throughout the novel. It was a sin for which Hester Prynne was damned by society, and for which Arthur Dimmesdale damned himself (Loring 1).
Hester is made to publicly acknowledge her sin. A scarlet letter "A" is permanently placed on her dress to symbolize her adultery, and she is made to stand on the scaffold with her baby for several hours of public humiliation. This is her punishment, the heaviest that man can afflict upon her. Hester is to stand as a warning to others tempted as she was (Hawthorne 13). Hester becomes a social outcast and lives on the outskirts of town. Pearly, her lively and uncontrollable daughter is the daily living proof of her sin. .
Man had marked this woman's sin by a scarlet letter, which had such potent and disastrous efficacy that no human sympathy could reach her, save it were sinful like herself. God as a direct consequence of the sin which man had thus punished, had given her a lovely child, whose place was on that same dishonored bosom, to connect her parent forever with the race and descent of mortals, and to be finally a blessed soul in heaven.(Hawthorne 14).
Hester is a woman full of motherly love that she showers on Pearl. Hester dresses her daughter with pride and holds her head up high.