In Chapter XIII of The Scarlet Letter, seven years have transpired since Hester's ignominy on the Puritan scaffold. In this time of alienation, Hester has endured her loneliness and turned it to reflections. Having developed her soul and inner strength, Hester's bosom with its "badge of shame," becomes the pillow on which troubled heads rest. Her nature shows itself "warm and rich" for having suffered, and she offers comfort and an unjudgmental ear that offers empathy to others. In fact, her letter now symbolizes "Able" because Hester offers others a "woman's strength."
Ironically, "the rulers, and the wise and learned men" of the community who condemned Hester for her adultery, now are "acknowledging the influence of Hester's good qualities ...." They begin to view the scarlet letter now as a token of her good deeds. When strangers talk with them, they point to Hester:
"It is our Hester,--the town's own Hester,--who is so kind to the poor, so helpful to the sick, so comfortable to the afflicted!"
Although the Purtian hypocrites then relate the "black history" of Hester at the same time, they confirm a sacredness to her scarlet letter, much like the cross on a nun's bosom.