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 ...view middle of the document...
Each meeting reveals some small clue about the major, but in parallel creates more questions and ambiguity leading to the climax.
It was no mistake that the story of Robin's search for Major Molineux was told in the limited-third person narrative. This particular point of view significantly attributes to the problem of knowing; it allows some light to be shed on the questionable sequence of events, but at the same time restricts what is revealed to lead once again to more questions.
It is important, though, to not forget the vital role of Hawthorne's choice of setting for this work. Adding to the ambiguousness of the story is the dark, evening setting that the story takes place in; darkness represents the unknown and the light represents the truth. Robin starts his journey with a walk through the woods; woods generally symbolize the unknown as well, but in this story they are not the evil unknown, but in fact only the beginning of what is to come. The setting of the town is important to note: from the dark quietness of the streets to the dark smokiness of the tavern, no light is ever shown brightly enough to give the truth away.
Perhaps, though, the most significant of all of Hawthorne's attributes to this problem of knowing was his use of irony. Language is central to the understanding of Robin's journey. For instance, the symbolism he uses is vital to the archetypical pattern of a young man's right of passage. Hawthorne's use of symbolism paired with ambiguity and irony leads to the reading of two parallel stories. Without the use of these language tools...