Many critical visitors to "The Custom-House" have written provocative accounts of its most striking features, but the sketch as a whole has usually been treated as a collection of brilliant fragments: a statement of the problems in an artist's life, authentication of The Scarlet Letter, a definition of "The Romance"--all mixed hastily with topical satire on the spoils system, comic relief for the story of Hester Prynne, and portraits of Hawthorne's contemporaries in Salem. The essay appeared to lack cohesion and dramatic evolution. Moreover, many asserted what was a general opinion: the entire piece is "a curiously unsuitable introduction to his masterpiece." In recent years, however, critics have suggested that the sketch may be better organized and more directly related to the romance it precedes than had been assumed by previous readers. One critic writes that in The Scarlet Letter "every character, in effect, reenacts the 'Custom House' scene in which Hawthorne himself contemplated the letter, so that the entire 'romance' becomes a kind of exposition of the nature of symbolic perception." Another finds a parallel between Hawthorne and his tormented Puritan minister; in "The Custom- House" the author "is himself going, like Dimmesdale, to a moral wilderness in quest of selfhood." And Dimmesdale's final release is an effort, like Hawthorne's, to create "a kind of work of art."