The story begins with Hester having to go on the scaffold and stand there for three hours with her shameful sin exposed for all to see. A group of women is having a discussion in the crowd and one-woman states, "At the very least, they should have put the brand of a hot iron on Hester Prynne's forehead.
She may cover it with a brooch, or such like heathenish adornment, and so walk the streets as brave as ever".
She lives a quiet, somber life with her daughter, Pearl, and performs acts of charity for the poor.
She is troubled by her daughter's unusual fascination with Hester's scarlet "A".
He angrily exclaims that the child's father, the partner in the adulterous act, should also be punished and vows to find the man.
He chooses a new name, Roger Chillingworth, to aid him in his plan.
As Hester approaches the scaffold, many of the women in the crowd are angered by her beauty and quiet dignity.
When demanded and cajoled to name the father of her child, Hester refuses.
However, as the novel progresses, the letter changes in significance.
The letter on Hester's breast begins to break her down. The letter is a constant reminder of what she has done.