Begun in nineteenth century Europe Aestheticism emphasized sensory values over moral or social. It represents the same tendencies that symbolism did such as darker side of human nature. According to David Hume, aesthetic judgment emphasizes sensitivity to pains as well as to pleasure which escape the rest of mankind.
With respect to Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne examines the sensually repressive code of Puritanism, a code creates the impossibility of spiritual perfection and denies the nature of beauty. The Reverend Dimmesdale represents this denial of spiritual perfection as, having to hide his sin with Hester and repress his passionate nature, it becomes impossible--even tortuous--for him to arrive at spirtual perfection. Likewise, the priest of The Thorn Birds, Ralph de Bricassart, is unable to reach any such perfection as he is hampered by his passion for Maggie and his desire for the high offices of the Church and wealth.
Parallels certainly exist between the characters of Hester Prynne of The Scarlet Letter and Maggie of The Thorn Birds. For, they are both victims of oppression in a world of religious morality, and they make sacrifices in the name of love (an aethetic quality).