My Kinsman, Major Molineux Additional Summary

Nathaniel Hawthorne


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Robin, an eighteen-year-old country boy, arrives by boat in Boston Harbor at nine o’clock in the evening to find his kinsman. Though poor and dressed in ill-fitting clothes, Robin has the confidence and buoyant optimism that accompanies youth, and he walks from the dock with enthusiasm despite the thirty miles his journey has taken him. He soon realizes, however, that he does not know where to look for Major Molineux, the kinsman who would be his protector. Even this does not disconcert Robin, for he believes that almost anyone he meets will be able to direct him to the home of such a prominent man.

Robin soon discovers that no one is willing to tell him where to find Molineux’s dwelling and that often these refusals are accompanied by antagonistic replies or threats of violence. For example, the solemn man carrying a polished cane whom Robin first approaches threatens him with the stocks if Robin does not release him and let him pass. The man insists, amid “sepulchral hems,” that he has “authority.” Embarrassed by the man’s evasiveness, his loud repulse, and the roar of laughter from a nearby barbershop, Robin determines to move ahead and continue his search.

Pleasant aromas from a tavern make Robin wish that he had enough money for a meal, but he consoles himself with the thought that his kinsman’s home must be nearby and that he will soon have his meal there. The innkeeper’s friendly greeting makes Robin think that the man recognizes in him a likeness to Molineux, but when he makes his inquiry the innkeeper reads aloud the description of a fled indentured servant and advises the boy that he had “better trudge.” Though he would like to have struck the innkeeper with his oak cudgel, the evident hostility of the others in the tavern convinces him to go. As he leaves he again hears loud laughter, but he believes that it is because he had earlier confessed that he could not afford a meal.

Young Robin’s patience wears thin as he continues the search for his kinsman. He sees the well-dressed young gentlemen of the town and once again hears the solemn old man with the “sepulchral hems,” but Robin now seems aware of his own shabbiness and hunger. He determines to use his oak cudgel, if necessary, to get the information he wants, but just then finds himself before an ill-built house near the harbor and sees a flash of scarlet petticoat...

(The entire section is 979 words.)


(Short Stories for Students)

The story opens with the narrator addressing the reader directly, setting the scene. The story takes place in New England ‘‘not far from...

(The entire section is 867 words.)


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Becker, John E. Hawthorne’s Historical Allegory: An Examination of the American Conscience. Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press, 1971. Argues that Hawthorne used historical allegory to interpret America to itself. Particularly useful for stories set in clearly defined eras of America’s past, such as “My Kinsman, Major Molyneux.”

Bunge, Nancy. Nathaniel Hawthorne: A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne, 1993. An easy-to-read guide to the short stories.

Colacurcio, Michael J. “The Matter of America: ’My Kinsman, Major Molineux.’” In Modern Critical Views: Nathaniel Hawthorne, edited by Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1986. A complex reading of the story using a new historicist approach.

Crews, Frederick C. The Sins of the Fathers: Hawthorne’s Psychological Themes. New York: Oxford University Press, 1966. Uses a psychoanalytic approach, showing how Freudian themes recur in Hawthorne’s works, including “My Kinsman, Major Molyneux.”

Doubleday, Neal Frank. Hawthorne’s Early Tales: A Critical Study. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1972. Contains a wealth of information on the conventions of American publishing, magazines as a venue for short stories, and the influence of Sir Walter Scott on American writers. Excellent source of background on “My Kinsman, Major Molyneux” in particular.

Hoffman, Daniel G. Form and Fable in American Fiction. New York: Oxford University Press, 1961. Useful for identifying the influences of folklore and myth in Hawthorne’s work.

Reynolds, Larry J., ed. A Historical Guide to Nathaniel Hawthorne. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. A basic guide to Hawthorne’s times. Includes a brief biography, as well as essays by various contributors on mesmerism, children, the visual arts, and slavery. Also includes a valuable bibliographical essay surveying the many critical approaches to Hawthorne.