Face it: we've all made mistakes. (Even Shmoop.) But there's a difference between "Oops!... I Did It Again" and "He's a killer just for fun." Or is there? Not according to the townspeople and magistrates of The Scarlet Letter. To them, sin is sin: it has to be punished publicly and harshly. But Dimmesdale offers us a hierarchy of sin—a crime of passion, like the one he and Hester committed, isn't nearly as bad as betraying the human heart by mercilessly plotting to destroy a man. That earns you a mark from the Black Man himself—without all the pretty embroidery.
Whether a sin is committed secretly or not, it ends up affecting everyone.
Hester and Dimmesdale may not be angels, but Chillingworth is actually transformed into a living devil by his sin.