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Abstract

Emerging onto the literary scene in the late 1820’s and early 1830’s, Nathaniel Hawthorne sought to distinguish himself as something unique from the forms and techniques of his predecessors. Prior to Hawthorne, there were very few gothic stories or novels published by American authors. The genre was largely a European one, with the strongest influence being that of the British. Of particular interest is the allegorical short story “My Kinsman, Major Molineux” (1832). While this story seems straightforward, there is a much richer dynamic waiting to be extracted. It could even be said that “Major Molineux” signifies the emergence of the American gothic as a distinct and separate experience apart from the earlier generation of British and European gothic writers. Hawthorne adopts uniquely American elements to construct this tale of evolving separation. In distancing itself from the British grandiose, this story helped to define precisely how American gothic writers would come to position themselves on the international writing scene. The dark and often humorous encounters of young Robin also paint pictures of a young writer struggling to make his mark in a world of literary achievement that was not quite envisioned for someone like him. Hawthorne rose to the occasion, achieving not only personal success, but also serving to blaze a trail for future writers to follow in his distinctive American gothic style.

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