It is Hester who best illustrates Nathaniel Hawthorne's theme that he expresses in Chapter XXIV "Conclusion":
Be true! Be true! Show freely to the world, if not your worst, yet some trait whereby the worst may be inferred!
From the beginning of the narrative, Hester's sin is highly visible; she wears almost unabashedly the A upon her breast, "fantastically embroidered with gold thread." Because she must wear the mark of her sin, and because she accepts this condition, there is no hypocrisy within her. Thus, her good deeds are eventually recognized by the community as genuine, so much so that they reinterpret the meaning of her scarlet letter as signifying "Angel" or "Able." So positive a symbol does the A become that in Chapter XIII, Hawthorne writes that
the scarlet letter had the effect of the cross upon a nun's bosom. It imparted to the wearer a kind of scaredness, which enabled her to walk securely amid all peril.
Through her admission of sin, Hester is able to regain some redemption from her wrongdoing and acquire self-respect as well as respect from others.
On the other hand, there is a veil of falsity that covers the soul of the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale. For, like other Puritans, he carries loathsomely his secret sin within the dark chambers of his heart, and like a worm, his hypocrisy eats away at him in his vain shrinking from his Creator. And, despite his self-flagellation and other self-imposed punishments, the weaker Dimmesdale cannot rid himself of his guilt. Thus, his sin blackens his life until, desperate for relief, he confesses.
The Puritan minister represents for Hawthorne the Puritan guilt that he himself carried; its hypocrisy he abhorred. Hester Prynne, marked by the hypocritical Puritans and imprisoned as a criminal, proves that a sinner can, indeed, be redeemed. For this reason, Hester Prynne, the one who is "true," is clearly the superior character of the parable of The Scarlet Letter.