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Hester, shunned by the Puritan community, comes to transcend it, and by the novel's end, is a source of comfort for the afflicted in that community, as one who had suffered "A mighty trouble." Hawthorne makes note of the various meanings of the letter "A" in the novel; at first it stands for "Adulterer," then at various times "Angel" and "Able." Hester was able to effect this heroic transformation by accepting the consequences of her actions, unlike Dimmesdale, and she ultimately triumphs over them.
Hester is a heroine because she has the courage to 'own' her indiscretion. We must remember that Hester is not a Puritan, however living in a Puritan community she understands that her actions have led her present circumstance. She wears the scarlett 'A' and dresses Pearl in scarlett red not because it condemns her, but because it sets her free. Hester can be seen as a heroine to those who are willing to not only see the truth, but are wiliing to put their very soul on the truth... no matter the consequences. Truth is truth, courage is courage, and integrity has no alternative.
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