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The stigma gone, Hester heaved a long, deep sigh, in which the burden of shame and anguish departed from her spirit. O exquisite relief! She had not known the weight, until she felt the freedom! (18.11-12)
So, it is the letter that makes Hester feel guilty—or does she actually accept the blame for her actions? Here, it seems like all the guilt and blame are sewn up into the letter. When she takes it off, she takes off the guilt as well.
For years past she had looked from this estranged point of view at human institutions, and whatever priests or legislators had established; criticizing all with hardly more reverence than the Indian would feel for the clerical band, the judicial robe, the pillory, the gallows, the fireside, or the church. (18.2)
How the tables have turned. Hester was judged by the clerical band and judicial robe, and now she's criticizing it in turn. Why does she stick around, then? If she judges it and finds that it's not all it's cracked up to be, why does she continue to let herself be confined by its laws?
Thus, we seem to see that, as regarded Hester Prynne, the whole seven years of outlaw and ignominy had been little other than a preparation for this very hour. (18.4)
If you throw people out of your community, then you shouldn't be surprised if they refuse to live by your rules. Hester is so over the Puritans right now.