Hawthorne’s story is perfect for high-school and college students because its eighteen-year-old protagonist confronts the problems and temptations some of them may face today: bullying, being cheated or deceived, the spite or jealousy of others, the allure of tobacco and alcohol, sexual enticement, and the fear of being laughed at by a clique of insiders who delight at ganging up on—in the story Hawthorne calls it “making sport of”—a newcomer.
In my five-page student handout, through filling in blanks, your class will examine the theme of “My Kinsman, Major Molineux”; its major and minor characters; its structure (including the initial problem, its climax, and the recognition and reversal of the story’s resolution), and its use of irony and symbolism.
Attached are five additional pages for the teacher: These include an answer key to the student handout beginning on a separate page and detailed commentary on difficult vocabulary; the historical background of the story; a discussion of its familial relationships (often bungled in online studies of it); structural and verbal subtleties; literary, biblical, and mythological allusions; and a brief comparison of “My Kinsman” with another Hawthorne story, “Young Goodman Brown.” You may pick and choose which of this commentary you wish to introduce into your class on “My Kinsman.”
The student handout may be used as a homework assignment or an in-class activity, particularly one in which students divide into small groups to discuss appropriate answer(s) to the blanks with you passing among them providing help when requested.
Prepared by Professor William Tarvin, Ph.D., who has published many articles on literature in scholarly journals.