Essay on The Problem of Knowing in My Kinsman, Major Molineux

Essay on The Problem of Knowing in My Kinsman, Major Molineux

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The Problem of Knowing in My Kinsman, Major Molineux


Consider the meaning of ambiguousness: for something to have two contradictory meanings, with emphasis on the unknown. In, "My Kinsman, Major Molineux," Nathaniel Hawthorne uses ambiguity, as well as other writing tools, to tell a pre-Revolutionary war story about a young man's journey from childhood innocence into the adult world of evils and reality. Hawthorne utilizes the power of setting, symbolism, and conflict, to name a few, to help portray the problem of knowing that is ever present through out the stories' entirety.
Foremost it is important to know the main character of the story: young Robin is on a journey from the country into town to find his kinsman, the Major Molineux. Robin's character is round in that it is complex and dynamic. He changes from the innocent youth he is in the beginning to an adult educated in the ways of evil and harshness. On the other hand, Major Molineux's character, which you never meet until the end of the story is flat: static and yet vital to the story: helping the reader see Robin's character more clearly. The other characters in the story are significant, but also flat; you never see too much about any of them, further enhancing the ambiguousness of the work. It is the mystery of these flat characters, such as the waiter at the tavern or the woman with the red skirt, which keeps you questioning what exactly is going on.
Robin's character is discovered in many ways through the conflicts with each situation he finds himself in through out his journey. Each conflict is carried through a sequence of events that leads to the climax and creates the characters. Robin's conflict starts with the elder authority figure that h...


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... will find his kinsman eventually and all will be well, but even the unsophisticated reader sees that something, if not everything, is not right. The ironic tone of the work aids in the problem of knowing not only for Robin's character, but also for the reader. This in itself may seem ironic, but Hawthorne utilized the power of irony to create question after question in both the character and the reader's mind.
In conclusion, it is attainable for you as the reader to understand the problem of knowing that Robin faces once you realize the many ingredients used to emphasize this problem. Hawthorne's deliberate use of symbolism, ambiguity, tone, setting and so on attribute to the effectiveness of his story. With these tools, the author was able to clearly represent the age-old story of man's journey from innocent naivety to adulthood in a unique and original way.

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