How is the attitude of the townspeople toward Hester changed during the seven years since her "crime" was committed?
Hester has become a real boon to her community: when someone is sick, Hester is there to help; when someone is in need, Hester provides. "None so ready as she to give of her little substance to every demand of poverty [...]. None so self-devoted as Hester, when pestilence stalked through the town." Hester's reputation has changed dramatically as a result of her service to the community. She has been so selfless and giving, generous and self-sacrificing to the needs of others, that everyone has noticed, and they are a great deal less judgmental of her now that she shows up during everyone's hour of need.
Years before, as Hester retreated back into the prison from the scaffold, "It was whispered by those who peered after her that the scarlet letter threw a lurid gleam along the dark passage-way of the interior." Hester was judged so harshly before; her peers could only think of her sin whenever they saw her. The authorities even considered removing her daughter from her care because they felt she was unfit as a mother. After several years have passed, however, when Hester attends the sick, "There glimmered the embroidered letter, with comfort in its unearthly ray." She is now a source of comfort instead of a reminder of her sin.
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.
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)
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.