The Scarlet Letter Chapter 2
The townspeople talk about the prison's captive, a woman named Hester Prynne, who is being held for the crime of adultery. She leaves the prison with her three-month old daughter (the proof of her sin), Pearl, and proceeds through a throng of whispering people to the town scaffolds, where she will stand for the entire morning, until an hour past meridian.
She is not put in the stocks, but rather holds her daughter and stands alone for all to see. Being marked a sinner and displayed before the town is part of her punishment.
The townspeople get a first glimpse of the Scarlet Letter, 'A' for Adultery, which Hester will be forced to wear from that day forward. The townspeople are both impressed by the skill of the embroidery and shocked by its beauty.
"On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold-thread, appeared the letter A. It was so artistically done, and with so much fertility and gorgeous luxuriance of fancy, that it had all the effect of a last and fitting decoration to the apparel which she wore; and which was of a splendor in accordance with the taste of the age, but greatly beyond what was allowed by the sumptuary regulations of the colony." Chapter 2, pg. 50.
The Scarlet Letter is in sharp contrast to the traditional clothing of the Puritan settlers. During this ordeal, Hester recounts in her head memories of life before she left England for the colonies - her father, her deceased mother, and a scholar with a deformed shoulder - the left one slightly higher than the right, a man later identified as Roger Chillingworth. It appears that this man was her husband.