Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story ‘‘The Wives of the Dead'' was first published in 1832 in The Token, an annual, along with three other stories, ‘‘My Kinsman, Major Molineux," "The Gentle Boy,’’ and ‘‘Roger Malvin's Burial.’’ Hawthorne had tried, unsuccessfully, to publish the stories as a group in 1829. ‘‘The Wives of the Dead’’ was subsequently republished in other magazines such as Democratic Review under the title ‘‘The Two Widows.’’ Hawthorne included the story in his 1852 collection The Snow-Image, and Other Twice-Told Tales. He named them "twice-told'' because each tale was first told in a periodical or gift-book. Set in the eighteenth century in a Bay Province, Massachusetts, seaport, the story concerns two sisters-in-law, who have just been informed that their husbands have died—one drowned in the Atlantic when his ship capsized, the other killed in a "skirmish" in Canada. The story details the women's responses to news of their husbands' deaths and, later, to news that they are, in fact, still alive. Although it has not received the degree of critical attention that some of Hawthorne's other stories have such as ‘‘The Birthmark,’’ ''Rappaccini's Daughter,'' and ''Ethan Brand,’’''The Wives of the Dead’’ is considered important because it is an early work that embodies the kind of dream world for which Hawthorne's stories have become known. In fact, one of the controversies surrounding the story is whether the events portrayed are actually dreams of the main characters. Critics often point to the story's last sentence as proof of this interpretation and to illustrate Hawthorne' s characteristic use of ambiguity. In addition to exploring the borders between appearance and reality, the story delves into themes such as the relationship between thinking and feeling, responses to loss, and familial guilt.