check out our:
It was none the less a fact, however, that, in the eyes of the very men who spoke thus, the scarlet letter had the effect of the cross on a nun's bosom. (13.35)
Hester's scarlet letter might be the community's version of justice, but it ends up being a judgment on them: she shows up the community by being better than all of them.
The judgment of God is on me," answered the conscience-stricken priest. "It is too mighty for me to struggle with!"
"Heaven would show mercy," rejoined Hester, "hadst thou but the strength to take advantage of it." (17.43-44)
Where Dimmesdale can only see judgment, Hester sees mercy. Is mercy a kind of justice? Or does it operate on a totally different scale?
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?