My Kinsman, Major Molineux

by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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List five symbolic or allegorical details in "My Kinsman, Major Molineux."

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Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1832 short story, like other works by this New Englander, looks back on colonial America for inspiration. "My Kinsman Major Molineux" is traditionally read as an allegory, with Robin's relative, the venerable Major Molineux, representing Britain. The streets of the colonial town through which Robin walks are filled with an assortment of people that all seem to have one thing in common: distaste for the Major. The seaside town is rough-and-tumble, and it seems to be filled with opportunists clearly out for themselves. Many people in religious communities felt like this about the inhabitants of secular settlements.

The barbers and tavern keeper are meant to symbolize the merchant class, and the young woman with "a saucy eye" is meant to symbolize the kind of work that an unattached and irreligious woman might choose: prostitution. The general hostility that Robin encounters when he inquires after his kinsman is reflective of the town's desire to be rid of the Major and his influence.

The riotous crowd that parades through the town with the tarred and feathered Major Molineux in tow could be interpreted to symbolize those who identified as America's patriots. They symbolize the people who wanted to separate from Britain and gain independence. They have brought low the man who represents the past glory of a country they want to violently reject.

Robin's quest is symbolic of at least two things he seeks: The first is his adult identity, as he has elected to leave his family and seek the patronage his kinsman has promised. He also seeks truth and enlightenment, knowing that his country upbringing has made his worldview very small.

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