Seven years have now passed since Pearl's birth. Hester has become more accepted by the community, and the embroidered scarlet letter has evolved into a "symbol of her calling," not just her sin.
The symbol of Hester's punishment now is a mark of her personal skill as a seamstress.
Nonetheless, Hester still lives on the outskirts of town, her hard life has stolen her beauty and spirit, and she now dwells in the realm of thought and solitude, not passion. She doubts whether her own life is worth living, and contemplates murdering Pearl and then committing suicide.
Hester's reputation improves, but because of her sin Puritanism says she'll never reach heaven. By withholding forgiveness, Puritanism makes it pointless for sinners to stop sinning.
Hester decides that she must help Dimmesdale by confessing that Chillingworth was her husband, thereby revealing the vengeful motive behind his harsh treatment of Dimmesdale.
Hester, the "sinner" intends to save Dimmesdale, though "innocent" Dimmesdale never tried to save her.