How is the attitude of the townspeople toward Hester changed during the seven years since her "crime" was committed?
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The attitude of the town is much changed in regards to Hester Prynne. Hawthorne says that while hatred can exist in humans, it may also change to love if there's no further irritation, and in the case of Hester, there was no further irritation. She takes her punishment with grace and lives piously. She helps the sick and offers council and advice to others. Her kind and compassionate nature causes the town's people to look on her in a much more positive light, often saying that the letter upon her chest better suited the word 'Able', as she was an excellent example of women's strength.
The town has changed in attitude towards Hester. Over time, Hester's continued charity, respect, and dignity have softened the hearts of the community. The town now characterize her scarlet letter as "able" rather than adultery.
Many of the townspeople have started to see Hester with some respect. They see her as pious. She visits the sick and offers advice and counsel. At one point, Hester even finds out from Dimmesdale that the magistrates considered allowing her to remove the scarlet letter.
Some of the townspeople even say that the A now stands for "Able" rather than "Adultery." (Chapter 13)
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