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I think that Hawthorne was pretty sympathetic to his protagonist. He wanted to expose the ugliness and hypocresy of the Puritans. He depicted the Puritans as largely an uptight hypocritical bunch. While Hester was a picture of beauty, grace and innocent suffering, the Puritans were an angry mean spirited bunch. Her daughter Pearl is a symbol of purity rather than the Puritan symbol of sin. I think Hawthorne knew what he was doing. Hester was a symbol of purity and grace because of her sin. She is a Christ-figure of sorts bearing the sins of the Puritans with humble patience as she showed real piousness by example.