When she first goes out on the scaffolding with all eyes on her, we are told Hester Prynne finds the ordeal
almost intolerable to be borne .... she felt, at moments, as if she must needs shriek out with the full power of her lungs, and cast herself from the scaffold down upon the ground, or else go mad at once.
The humiliation is terrible for her, especially as the crowd is so solemn. Later that day, back in her prison cell,
Hester Prynne was found to be in a state of nervous excitement that demanded constant watchfulness, lest she should perpetrate violence on herself, or do some half-frenzied mischief to the poor babe.
The ordeal, in other words, initially drives her to the brink of suicide or insanity.
However, we also learn from her actions on the scaffold that Hester is a very strong person. She refuses to reveal the name of the man who impregnated her, feeling not only a desire to protect him, but that he should have the moral courage to confess on his own.
Hester also shows her strength of character in not leaving the area and starting her life anew in place where nobody would know who she was. She prefers to stay put and atone for her sin by embracing her role as social outcast and working to live an exemplary life. The humiliation she has undergone does not break her but makes her stronger and a better human being.