“My Kinsman, Major Molineux” is a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne that takes place prior to the Revolutionary War. In the beginning of the story, the author provides some important background information. He writes that the story takes place some hundred years earlier (it was published in 1832), when governors were appointed by the English crown. The political climate of that era was tense. “The people looked with most jealous scrutiny to the exercise of power which did not emanate from themselves.” In other words, the colonists resented the idea that they had no say in who would govern them. This made the job of governor potentially dangerous.
Hawthorne explains that the Massachusetts Bay Colony went through six governors in forty years. Two of them were imprisoned by “popular insurrection,” and another “was driven from the province by the whizzing of a musket ball.” With this explanatory background in place, we are introduced to Robin, the protagonist of the story, who is on a journey from his home in the countryside to the town where his well-to-do and eminent kinsman, Major Molineux, resides.
Robin is first described through the eyes of a ferryman. The young lad is “a youth of barely eighteen, evidently country-bred … upon his first visit to town.” His gray coat is worn away but mended with care. His blue stockings are undoubtedly the work of his mother or a sister, and his three-cornered hat “in its better days had perhaps sheltered the graver brow of the lad’s father.” The hat is clearly a hand-me-down. Robin is endowed with “brown, curly, hair, well-shaped features, and bright, cheerful eyes.” He is a country boy who is excited to set foot in the “little metropolis of a New England colony.” His humble clothing and unfamiliarity with the ways of town folk seem to invite hostility. Robin has a kind of naive innocence combined with an ironically idealized view of how well he expects he will be treated as a relative of Major Molineux.