Nathaniel Hawthorne envisioned The Scarlet Letter as a short story to be published in a collection, but it outgrew that purpose. Most critics accept Hawthorne's definition of it as a "romance," rather than as a novel. It usually appears with an introductory autobiographical essay, "The Custom House," in which Hawthorne describes working in his ancestral village, Salem, Massachusetts, as a customs officer. Hawthorne describes coming across certain documents in the customs house that provide him with the basis for The Scarlet Letter. But this essay fictionalizes the origins...
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