How does the plot, characters and themes support this?
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I think Hawthorne considers both ideas. Hester being alone in the New World and feeling cast off and abandoned when her husband does not show up makes her vulnerable to feelings that she shares with the minister. However, the sin then causes a domino effect of reactions including Pearl, the self-flagellation of the minister, the condemnation of the town, and the huge sin of Chillingworth trying to determine the father of Hester's child.
Hawthorne was a Puritan, and he spent his life upholding the moral principles dictated by his beliefs. None-the-less, if you look closely at his novels, you'll see that each of his stories portray sin in all its forms as devastating to the sinners, that sin has a far more debilitating effect on the sinner than it does anyone else. His characters sin, and then face the consequences of their decisions. On the one hand, Hester faces public punishment, the consequences of Pearl's birth make her an outcast, but they also make her strong. Dimmesdale, on the other hand, is destroyed from the inside out by his sin. No one could have punished the man more than he punished himself. What was worse? Was it the sin? Or was it the public and private punishments caused by the sin? I'd have to say that in Hawthrone's eyes it was the latter.