Young Goodman Brown and Other Hawthorne Short Stories

Urban Triumph in “My Kinsman, Major Molineux”

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “My Kinsman, Major Molineux” is a tale of opposites and upset expectations. The ideal of the country or rural life is met by the overpowering, even corrupted nature of city life. Robin, the protagonist, the country boy striving to make it in the big city, is constantly being torn between his rural roots and the appeal of urban opportunity and success. Through diction and a careful characterization of nature, Hawthorne depicts a scene rife with tension between rural and urban where the country is ultimately overtaken by and surrenders to the city.

The short story begins with Robin’s thoughts of the town, which are ridden with a sort of sarcastic indignation. Torn between his country roots and the city’s opportunities, Robin tries to remain loyal to his rural home by passively slighting the city, calling it a “snore of a sleeping town.” The reader knows that the city is not boring—after all, it is home to a handful of colorful characters, notably a wily prostitute and a two-faced man. One could reasonably assume, then, that the evaluation of the town as a “snore” is meant more to persuade Robin than the reader. As a rhetorical device, “this snore of a sleeping town” makes the city sound...

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