With equisite embroidery boldly displayed upon her breast, Hester, in her defiant pride, stands on the scaffold before the townspeople. At this point in the exposition, Hester is yet a beautiful young woman of passion. However, as the narrative progresses, Hester's personality, like the meaning of the letter, changes as mentioned until the letter, a mere symbol, overtakes the person of Hester. In Chapter XVII, when Hester attempts to free herself of the grey cap that dulls her once luxurious hair and when she casts off the letter that falls on the other side of the brook, she later must replace it before her daughter Pearl will return to her. When she essays to leave her past behind and return to England, Hester finds herself returning to America and her little cottage. As she approaches the threshold in a grey dress, she unlocks the door so long closed.
On the threshold she paused,--turned partly round,--for, perchance, the idea of entering all alone, and all so changed, the home of so intense a former life, wa more dreary and desolate than even she could bear. But her hesitation was... long enough to display a scarlet letter on her breast.....But there was a more real life for hester Prynne here, in New Englan, than in that unknown region where Pearl had found a home
Hester is defined by the letter A.
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Throughout the novel, Hester becomes a stronger and more respected woman. Through her good works, the town grows to respect her. Your question didn't specify what part of the novel you are referring to so it's difficult to frame a complete answer to your question. Hester's growth and the town's people's opinions of her change throughout the novel. At first, she is thought of as an adulteress and the town leaders consider taking Pearl from her. By the middle of the novel, Hester is earning the town's respect. The "A" is becoming known for "able" because of her good works towards the poor and needy. Town leaders even consider allowing her to take off the scarlet letter but Hester says "it is too deeply burned" upon her chest. By the end of the novel, the "A' stands for "angel" because Hester has become known not only for her good works but also because she has helped so many during emotional turmoil, as well. Because she faced up to her sin, she became stronger, while Dimmesdale becomes weaker as he tries to hide his sin.