Symbolism in Hawthorne s My Kinsman, Major Molineux Symbolism is a tool writers use to portray an abstract meaning that lies beyond the literal meaning of a story. This tool often allows the writer to give the story a deeper and more profound message. Nathaniel Hawthorne was a master of symbolism. In his short story My Kinsman, Major Molineux, Hawthorne tells the tale of a young man from the country in search of a relative he hasn t seen in quite some time. In this same tale, one can interpret the story to have an even further meaning. Reading this story, I felt that it symbolized the change in the central character of growing from a boy to a man. The central character in Hawthorne s short story, My Kinsman, Major Molineux is a young lad named Robin. Knowing that Hawthorne relied upon symbolism in his writing, it seems that choosing the name of the main character was hardly arbitrary. A more probable explanation would be that the name Robin, much like the bird of the same name, represents a character that is young, jovial, and somewhat na ve. It is this characteristic of naivete that set up a tale of maturing. This story begins with Robin leaving his home in the country in search of his uncle. To Robin s understanding, his uncle, Major Molineux, was a respected and well-to-do man in the city. Hawthorne gives the impression that the country is a place of innocence and by Robin leaving there to go to the city, he is also leaving his innocence and approaching a life of sin. This goes along well with the theme of growing up. Many view the beginning years of ones life as those of innocence. It is not until you become an adult that life is viewed to be one surrounded by sin, it is an essential characteristic of an adult in Hawthorne s story. In the story s early stages, Hawthorne continues to establish Robin s demeanor of immaturity. Robin seems to be more enthralled by the city than completing the task at hand, finding his uncle, Major Molineux. Robin departed the ferry and then walked forward into the town, with as light a step as if his day s journey had not already exceeded thirty miles, and with as eager an eye, as if he were entering London city, instead of the little metropolis of a New England colony. This description paints the picture of a wide-eyed young man overwhelmed by his surroundings. After the newness of the city wore off, Robin thinks to himself It would have been wise to inquire my way of the ferryman. With this statement we see that Robin s shortsightedness due to his excitement. This is very much similar to the actions of a child in that when a child is awe-stricken, they merely react without thinking about their actions. As Robin starts his search, he runs into many mishaps. Through these adventures, Hawthorne creates a town filled with malice and corruption. All too often, this is the image that is portrayed of what some people like to call the real world. This phrase the real world is used to describe an environment that is unforgiving and shows no compassion. It is commonly thought that when you enter the real world you take your first steps at becoming an adult. During his search, Robin is taking these first steps toward adulthood. At one point, Robin enters a tavern of Nicotian atmosphere filled with ruffians and mariners. Not normally a place for an innocent youth, but Robin felt a sort of brotherhood with these strangers. This is the first sign of Robin losing some of his childlike innocent qualities.
A second sign of Robin losing his innocence is when comes across a house where he spots a woman s garment inside. This shows Robin was enticed and driven by sexual desire to enquire within. He addresses the young lady as pretty mistress and then attempts to justify this to himself by thinking, I may call her so with a good conscience, since I know nothing to the contrary. This is Robin s attempt to maintain his innocence by fooling himself. He has yet to realize that these are the steps to maturing. Robin s adventures eventually lead him to a church in which he is waiting outside for he has been told that his uncle, Major Molineux will be passing there shortly. While waiting at the church, Robin begins to feel terribly lonely. He thinks to himself after a long search for his uncle, What if his kinsman should glide through yonder gate, and nod and smile to him in passing dimly by? For the first time, Robin realizes that he is now alone in this world with no parental figure to command his life. His immediate reaction is that of any normal young man, that of fear. To further compound this feeling, Robin falls asleep and dreams of his family in the country. In this dream, after a family gathering the entire family decides to retire to the house. In Robin s dream, he saw them go in at the door; and when Robin would have entered also, the latch tinkled into its place, and he was excluded from his home. This dream represents the sever between Robin and his family. While waiting for his uncle, Robin sees a man walking down the street. He calls to the stranger to come over. The stranger is described as a gentleman in his prime, of open, intelligent, cheerful, and altogether prepossessing countenance. The gentleman befriends Robin and waits with him for his uncle. To me this man symbolizes hope. He gives Robin confidence that he can be his own man without the help of others. This is verified at the climax of the story when Robin finally does meet his uncle, Major Molineux. Robin, by seeing his uncle tarred and feathered, realizes that his idols are merely people that make mistakes as well. The humility of a mentor allows Robin to discover that he must continue in this world on his own without the help of others. In the final scene of the story, Robin asks his new friend, Will you show me the way to the ferry? His friend replies, No, my good friend Robin, not tonight, at least. He goes on to say, remain with us, perhaps, as you are a shrewd youth, you may rise in the world, without the help of your kinsman, Major Molineux. Robin s friend is trying to tell him that he has become a man and that home in the country will never be the same as it was. In Hawthorne s short story My Kinsman, Major Molineux, Robin begins the tale as a na ve young boy and finishes as a young man. The natural procession of growing follows many of the stages that Robin went though: naivete, denial, loneliness, hope and acceptance. Robin eventually realizes that he must establish an identity without the help of others. Hawthorne accomplished this through symbolism with a story about a boy in search of his uncle.