Thursday, October 6, 2011

Nathaniel Hawthorne

"My Kinsman, Major Molineux" by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a prime example of the move from the age of enlightenment to romanticism. Romanticism assumed that the natural world was inherently good while civilization or society was bad and filled with corruption. There is a clear distinction between the people who are from the city and the people from the small towns and even in the story, all the townspeople could tell Robin was different. Robin's story begins when he chooses to go off and stay with Major Molineux because he was supposed to help him and essentially leave off the large inheritance he received once he passed. Since the was not the first born, then he pretty much knew he wasn't going to get the farm so had to look for other options. But once he does go to the city, Robin is not really introduced to the nice side of town. Most people don't care to help him or if not they tempt him to do things that are wrong like the woman with the scarlet petticoat. In the end, after being tarred and feathered, he doesn't really want to have anything to the Major and he chooses to make a name for himself.
One of the things that is highlighted in this passage is the mob mentality that the city folk shared. But I really found it interesting to see the differences between the nature and civilization. In this story and in Whitman's "Song of Myself" nature is seen as something that is desirable. It gives an innocent, light and pure connotation to being in nature while being in a city or civilization equates to acting in an evil way. Robin even states once that "if I had one of those grinning rascals in the woods, I would teach him..." obviously wanting to teach these "civilized" people some manners! In the story it seems as if this is the first time that Robin has gone to the city and is obviously not having the greatest experience. This woman with the scarlet petticoat was also one of the people that tempted this young man to do immoral things but seeing as he was from the small town, this "shrewd" boy fled and resisted temptation (does the word Joseph come to mind...). This idea was contrary to the idea that many people had back in the day because they usually related nature to to being uncivilized like the Native Americans, a trait that was undesirable. But along comes Romanticism and makes civilized people look really bad off and making people realize how much worse life would actually be if you lived in a city surrounded by all of those temptations. It was definitely different from the other readings but is a common ideology used today, that people from small towns or the country are more innocent and closer to the unadulterated world.

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