I, for the record, don't feel cheated or that the story is distorted because The Custom House was not assigned. Having to read it would add depth of character, and allow us into the age and time of the piece before the story proper begins, but with never having read it, I wouldn't say anything was lost.
I really don't understand how Hawthorne's ideas and descriptions of the Puritan people can't be taken for what they are. We are not to think of them as truth, I get that, but aren't they Hawthorne's perceptions for what his characters are? Aren't they justified in the story? Sure it might be a stereotype, but many times, stereotypes come from minor truths.