romances deal with historical facts, moods, and atmospheres, and he knew the past of New England
as few men have ever known it. There is solid historical and psychological stuff as the foundation of his air-castles.
His latent radicalism furnished him with a touchstone of criticism as he interpreted the moral standards of ancient communities; no reader of The Scarlet letter
can forget Hawthorne
's implicit condemnation of the unimaginative harshness of the Puritans.
His own judgment upon the deep matters of the human conscience was stern enough, but it was a universalized judgment, and by no means the result of a Calvinism which he hated.
Over-fond as he was in his earlier tales of elaborate, fanciful, decorative treatment of themes that promised to point a moral, in his finest short stories, such as The ambitious Guest, the gentle boy, young Goodman Brown, the snow image, the great stone face, Drowne's Wooden image, Rappacini's daughter
, the moral, if there be one, is not obtruded.
He loves physical symbols for mental and moral states, and was poet and Transcendentalist enough to retain his youthful affection for parables; but his true field as a story-teller is the erring, questing, aspiring, shadowed human heart.