As with most of Hawthorne's short stories, attention is focused on a single figure in "My Kinsman, Major Molineux," and virtually every other character serves some functional purpose in highlighting the qualities of the protagonist. Robin's perception of himself and the reader's perception are quite different. The youngster is optimistic and believes he is "shrewd" (a word used with ironic overtones throughout the story). He is convinced he is going to make his mark in the world with the help of an uncle who has connections. As a result, he is unable to recognize the many hints he receives from the townspeople that his uncle is not the man he believes him to be, and he fails to understand he is being made the butt of a number of inside jokes among these people.
Unquestionably, Robin is naive. Whether he is culpably so is another matter. Some would claim that his story is intended to show how youthful ideals can be shattered in an instant; in that view, his rapid transformation from worshipper to persecutor can be taken as evidence that adolescents are easily swayed by the kind of mob psychology which grips the youth when he sees his uncle being driven out of town by the angry crowd. A case might be made, however, that Robin's position as a stranger among people who might turn their anger on him provides some justification for his behavior; one might be pressed to find evidence in the tale to support such a reading, but there are hints that by the time he...
(The entire section is 299 words.)
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The last person Robin meets during his night of encounters and misdirections is a gentleman of ‘‘open, cheerful, and altogether prepossessing’’ looks, who speaks the only kind words Robin hears in the city. Curious to see how Robin will react to seeing his relative in disgrace, he joins the young man on the church steps and chats with him while they wait.
Little is known about Major Molineux, the kinsman whom Robin is seeking. He never speaks a word in the story, and Robin’s questions about him are met with stony silence. First cousin to Robin’s father, and a man with wealth and no children, he has expressed a desire to help Robin establish himself in a career. Molineux is a major in the British military, serving in what is still a British colony. Although he is tarred and feathered at the end of the story, there is no hint of what he may have done wrong. Even in his disgrace, the narrator describes Molineux as ‘‘an elderly man, of large and majestic person, and strong, square features, betokening a steady soul.’’
Robin is the story’s protagonist, a young man of nearly eighteen who has come from the country to find his relative, Major Molineux. Robin is the son of a country minister who maintains a small farm. Because the older brother will inherit the farm, Robin hopes Major Molineux can help him find another occupation. This is Robin’s...
(The entire section is 369 words.)