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Ooh, now it's time for a description of the solemn way Puritans observe any act of punishment, from the execution of a hardened criminal to a child's whipping, all "solemnity of demeanour" and "meager… and cold" (2.2).
That's right: talk back to your parents, and instead of getting your smartphone taken away, you get whipped. Publicly.
The town mean girls gossip while they wait to watch Hester Prynne's punishment.
One says Hester should have been executed. Another says that Hester's punishment is way too light—just a letter A on the bodice of her dress, which could be easily covered up.
And then there's the third one, who scolds all of them and says that she's sure Hester Prynne will feel the mark every day.
When Hester Prynne appears in the doorway of the prison with her 3-month-old daughter in her arms, the women get seriously ticked off. There's the letter A on her chest all right, but she's embroidered it so it's actually become beautiful.
The townspeople think she's mocking them and mocking her punishment.
Not so fast, says that same woman who scolded them before (we like this lady): she's certain that Hester felt each stroke of the needle in her heart.
Now the fun begins. Hester walks to the center of town, where she's placed in the pillory (a wooden structure where criminals are displayed to jeering crowds).
Standing there, she thinks of her mother, her father, and an unnamed scholar (weird), and she realizes that her scarlet A will always mark her as an outsider.
She squeezes her little baby so tightly that it starts crying, which we're pretty sure is SYMBOLIC.