Nathaniel Hawthorne's My Kinsman, Major Molineux as an Allegory

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Nathaniel Hawthorne's My Kinsman, Major Molineux as an Allegory

“May not one man have several voices, Robin, as well as two complexions?” (1261), asks the friendly gentleman in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “My Kinsman, Major Molineux.” Just as one man may have multiple facets, so too may a story, if we correctly interpret samples of Hawthorne’s work. It seems as though modern readers practically assume that his work ought to be read allegorically, and indeed, The Scarlet Letter, and many other famous works of Hawthorne, are brilliant allegories if they are interpreted as such. And yet, Nathaniel Hawthorne, more than a religious zealot or political advocate, was an avid student of colonial history. We read in the Norton
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Robin comes from a simple rural life to the bustling colonial city. He endures a tiresome journey through the streets in a search for his uncle, absorbing lessons of city life as he progresses. When he first questions a resident of the town concerning the whereabouts of Major Molineux, he is rudely thwarted. In response to this discourteous lesson, Robin bolsters his spirit saying to himself, “You will become wiser in time, friend Robin” (1252). When Robin’s search ends in the young man witnessing the disgrace of his uncle, he is tempted to leave the city and abandon his journey towards independence. However, a kind stranger encourages him to remain in the city, saying “Perhaps, as you are a shrewd youth, you may rise in the world, without the help of your kinsman, Major Molineux” (1263). Another reading of this short story is more religiously allegorical—and quite a bit more complex. In this understanding, the city to which Robin journeys symbolizes Hell. Robin enters the city by way of a ferry, which he must pay to take him across a river. Such a journey is reminiscent of Egyptian mythology and the deads’ obligatory journey across the River Styx. Once across the river, Robin begins to encounter a multitude of unfriendly characters. One such individual especially supports this understanding of the story. The “scarlet woman” whom Robin meets seems to represent the temptation and

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