An Analysis of Hawthorne’s My Kinsman, Major Molineux

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An Analysis of Hawthorne’s My Kinsman, Major Molineux

In the early nineteenth century, America was undergoing profound changes in the political, economic, and social realms. The rise of international commerce and the development of industrialization displaced previous Republican ideologies that valued the community (Matthews 5). Instead, the market became the principal societal system. Significantly, the major agent driving this system was the individual. Thus, a new philosophy of liberal individualism was born that honored the rights and independence of the individual man. It maintained that the individual’s “drive for success” would naturally contribute to the overall good of the community (5). Indeed, “setting free the creative energy of individuals would naturally produce a prosperous order in which all would benefit” (5). These socio-economic changes coincided with radical transformations in the political sphere as well.

Andrew’s Jackson’s election to the presidency in 1830 was particularly significant. Mainly, it expanded the inclusiveness of the political process. Class distinctions were nearly obliterated when Jackson granted suffrage to all men that were white and over 21 (Mackey 64). With this increased participation in government, the common man was elevated to a new and higher plane. This inclusiveness widened the democratic community by including multiple voices and various perspectives, instead of only the select few of the aristocracy.

At the fundamental level of all of these changes was a shift in the relationship between society and the individual. However, this also presented an interesting paradox in the developing democracy: the individual man and the community were both celebrated. As ...

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...t. “Nathaniel Hawthorne.” The Recognition of Nathaniel Hawthorne: Selected Criticism Since 1828. Ed. B. Bernard Cohen. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1969.

Mackey, Thomas C. “Jacksonian Democracy.” Events that Changed America in the Nineteenth Century. Ed. John E. Findling and Frank W. Thackeray. Westport: Greenwood, 1997. 57-75.

Martin, Terence. “The Romance.” The Columbia History of the American Novel. Ed. Emory Elliott. New York: Columbia UP, 1991. 72-88.

Matthews, Jean V. Toward a New Society: American Thought and Culture. Boston: Twayne, 1991.

Steele, Jeffrey. The Representation of the Self in the American Renaissance. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1987.

Tuckerman, Henry T. “Nathaniel Hawthorne.” The Recognition of Nathaniel Hawthorne: Selected Criticism Since 1828. Ed. B. Bernard Cohen. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1969.

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