Confronted with Dimmesdale's misery, coward though he be, and with Chillingworth's evil, Hester's tenderness as well as her energy for life and love are re-charged: "Hester Prynne resolved to meet her former husband and do what might be in her power for the rescue of the victim" (Hawthorne 121). Of the role of gender in this transformative confrontation, Baym writes,
Bloom, Harold, ed. Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. New York: Chelsea, 1986.
Hester tries to teach Dimmesdale what she has taught herself about repentance and forgiveness: "You have deeply and sorely repented. Your sin is left behind you" (Hawthorne 138). However, Dimmesdale has condemned himself, a victim of the Puritanism Hester has always defied.
That "haughty smile" and unabashed look are evidence that Hester stands in defiance of the strict standards of behavior the community sets forth. However, she is not so much in defiance that she refuses to wear the letter. In fact, she has herself sewn on the letter, in accordance with the judgment against her for her adultery, but she has elaborated on the judgment (and the letter) in a way which itself defies that judgment:
the dark-haired Hester Prynne, emerging to mount the pillory, babe in arms, is presented as a virtual madonna, despite the token of self-denunciation which she has embroidered into her attire (Levin 74).
On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold thread, appeared the letter A. It was so artistically done, and with so much fertility and gorgeous luxuriance of fancy, that it had the effect of a last and fitting decoration to the apparel
When one reads the passage itself, however, suggestions of a far more complex and down-to-earth character appear: "She took the baby on her arm, and, with a burning blush, and yet with a haughty smile, and a glance that would not be abashed, looked around at her townspeople and neighbours" (Hawthorne