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It depends on which occasion you are referring to. In the beginning, she merges to public scrutiny with a quiet dignity and defiance. She retreats into memories of her past to deflect the humiliation she must endure. The second time, she is much less composed. She is worn down, and appears to suffer the consequences much more openly .
Hester assumes her humanity rather than fight against it; in many ways, her “sin” derived from her acknowledgment of her human need for love, following her husband’s unexplained failure to arrive in Boston and his probable death. She is criticized by the women of the town for her elaborate embroidery of her scarlet letter, the symbol of her shame: its ornate design seems to declare that she is proud, rather than ashamed, of her sin. In reality, however, Hester simply accepts the “sin” and its symbol as part of herself, just as she accepts her child. Although she can hardly believe her present “realities,” she takes them as they are rather than resisting them or trying to atone for them.
Hester has been in prison for three months. At first, she pulls the baby closer to her, as if ashamed, but then she walks with grace and dignity to the scaffold to endure three hours of public humiliation. Her walk shows how strong her character is, as she raises her head in pride and displays a "burning blush" and a "haughty smile". Her actions are "marked with natural dignity and force of character, and stepped into the open air as if by her own free will." Hester is tall, "with a figure of perfect elegance on a large scale." People are amazed at her beauty, and she "was ladylike, too, after the manner of the feminine gentility of those days; characterised by a certain state and dignity, ..." The people who knew her before she went to prison were amazed at her appearance because she seemed to make "a halo of the misfortune and ignominy in which she was enveloped." Hester looks more like a woman of nobility than a prisoner and seems not to have physically suffered as a result of her imprisonment. She "seemed to express the attitude of her spirit, the desperate recklessness of her mood, by its wild and picturesque peculiarity." Hester wants to show the onlookers that she loves her baby and plans to raise her as best she can.
What most noticed about Hester, however, was "that SCARLET LETTER" , and the people were spellbound by it.
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