This essay analyzes Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “My Kinsman, Major Molineux” in relation to a thought experiment proposed by William Molyneux, who questioned whether a blind man, if given the ability to see, could identify an object by sight that he had known by touch. Molyneux asserted that the man would not recognize the item because nothing in his past had equipped him for the task, and this position reflects the contours of Hawthorne’s narrative. The protagonist, Robin, cannot accurately process events due to the fact that the knowledge gleaned from earlier experiences does not correlate to his present circumstances. This article connects the limitations of Robin’s perceptions to political tensions as his worldview centers on the prominence of Major Molineux, a colonial administrator, and the youth cannot grasp the implications of sensory evidence that does not conform to these suppositions. Through his experiences in his new environment, however, Robin develops the empirical foundation necessary to progress from merely perceiving phenomenon to understanding their broader implications. This development highlights the need to transcend prescriptive categories of thought to gain a clearer conception of reality.

You do not currently have access to this content.