Some critics see Catherine as a precursor of Hester Prynne, but there are differences
too. Catherine might be called a "fanatic," and though Hester is certainly firm
in her conviction that what she and Dimmesdale did "had a consecration of its
own," she is hardly a fanatic.
(1849 in Aesthetic Papers; 1851 in The Snow Image and Other Twice-Told
This is one of the few works Hawthorne wrote while serving as surveyor at the
Salem Custom House. A story of one hundred years of the beginning of Salem history,
ending with the great snow in 1717, Hawthorne chronicles the arrival of the
Puritans and the subsequent eradication of the "wild woods" and the displacement
of the "wild Indian." Hawthorne mentions the Quakers and the witches in this
sketch and so, as in The Scarlet Letter, calls up past events and personages
as well as the tenor of those times.
This sketch tells of Ann Hutchinson, who was
tried for her Antinomian views. Unlike the Puritans, the Antinomians believed
that God's grace, not good works led to salvation. In her preface to the 2002
New Riverside edition of The Scarlet Letter, Rita K. Gollin, notes that the
sketch "begins by disparaging 'public women' for ignoring the 'strong division
lines of nature' but then sympathetically dramatizes Mrs. Hutchinson's stalwart
self-sufficiency, anticipating Hawthorne's modulated sympathy for Hester's proud
self-sufficiency and the two allusions to Mrs. Hutchinson in his novel (120
and 204)" (13).