First, it is important to distinguish between the narrator of The Scarlet Letter and Hawthorne. A narrator of a novel is just as much a construct as any of the characters and one cannot always assume that fictional narrators express the author's personal opinions.
In the novel, the narrator sympathizes with Hester. Although she commits what would at the time have been considered the sin of adultery, she atones for that single sin by living an exemplary life. She refuses to ruin the life of Arthur Dimmesdale by uttering his name and she is a good mother to Pearl. Despite being an outcast, she offers sympathy and solace to the women of the town and behaves in a manner that displays more Christian humility and charity than that displayed by many pillars of the Puritan community. In a way, her life stands as a rebuke to religious hypocrisy.
Hawthorne juxtaposes Hester Prynne with her Puritan peers. Of them, he says, "Meagre, indeed, and cold, was the sympathy that a transgressor might look for, from...
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