Chapters 13 through 18 of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter move by slowly, with the focus around Pearl, Dimmesdale and Hester. I was surprised how little "love" was demonstrated by a couple that had a child together, let alone wanting to flee to Europe together. Barely more than a hand-holding event shows an example of the affection the reverend and Hester have for each other.
Hester herself seems to have been forgiven by the townspeople through her years of good deeds and helpfulness to those of the village, but at the same time hasn't forgiven herself. "Do you see that woman with the embroidered badge?" they ... would say to strangers. "It is our Hester, —the town's own Hester, —who is so kind to the poor, so helpful to the sick, so comfortable to the afflicted!"
In the chapter where Hester and Arthur are in the forest, the topic of forgiveness comes around again. Dimmesdale will not forgive himself, but Hester makes it a point to tell him that God will forgive him if he does. The judgment of God is on me," answered the conscience-stricken ... priest. "It is too mighty for me to struggle with!" "Heaven would show mercy," rejoined Hester, "hadst thou but the strength to take advantage of it."
In a later part of the chapter, Dimmesdale begins to rebuke Hester with his maddening disgust for himself. "Thou shalt forgive me!" cried Hester, flinging herself on the ... fallen leaves beside him. "Let God punish! Thou shalt forgive!" Hester gets mad back at Dimmesdale, telling him that her God will judge and punish her but Dimmesdale will forgive her...which he does.
Is it more important for people to seek the forgiveness of others or from themselves? After an event, is it easier to be forgiven by others, or by yourself?