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You're right ... we learn many things. These are a few that I think are important:
She leaves the prison with "the combative energy of her character," ready to deal with the rest of her life, no hiding, but dealing with what awaits her.
We learn that she has skills that will enable her to support herself, despite her isolation from the rest of the community. She seems to be able to provide the community with adornments that no one else can, so she becomes an important part of the economic life of the town.
We learn that she has thought of moving to Europe or her homeland, but has decided that this will not work for her. Her "sin" is part of her and part of her life, and cannot be escaped by changingher location. (Also have to wonder if her love for Dimmesdale played a part in this decision.)
What she compelled herself to believe — what, finally, she reasoned upon as her motive for continuing a resident of New England — was half a truth, and half a self-delusion. Here, she said to herself had been the scene of her guilt, and here should be the scene of her earthly punishment; and so, perchance, the torture of her daily shame would at length purge her soul, and work out another purity than that which she had lost: more saint-like, because the result of martyrdom.
We learn that she is kind. Although she does not make a lot, she shares what she has freely with the poor of the town, despite the fact that they do not respond with kindness.
Except for that small expenditure in the decoration of her infant, Hester bestowed all her superfluous means in charity, on wretches less miserable than herself, and who not unfrequently insulted the hand that fed them.
We also learn that she has some strange power to discern the sufferings and guilt of others. This seems to happen often in Hawthorne ... Dimmesdale, Hooper, Hester --- all have suffered and through their suffering have become better ministers and more understanding people.
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