About three years pass. Hester, now free from prison, decides not to leave Boston. She takes Pearl to live in an abandoned cabin on the outskirts of town.
Hester's sin drives her to the border of society and nature.
Hester supports herself as a seamstress. The same people who pay her for her work, including Governor Bellingham, continue to shun her.
Puritan hypocrisy: they'll employ a "sinner" to suit their own needs.
Hester grows increasingly lonely. Pearl, her only companion, is a constant reminder of the source of her alienation: sin. Hester is determined to keep the meaning of the scarlet letter a secret from Pearl.
Like Chillingworth and Dimmesdale, Hester conceals a secret. These secrets harm those who keep them and those from whom they're kept.