Structural Oppositions in "My Kinsman, Major Molineux"

        Oppositions are "structural" when they occur in numerous places in the text and may operate on more than one level (specific words, more generalized images, abstract ideas).  For instance, in the first opposition below, the pairs also can link up with more abstract ideas, as when moonlight can be associated with the supernatural and artificial with the rational, or moonlight can be associated with madness and artificial light with sanity.  Look at what surrounds the word or image for clues to what it is being associated with. 

        Some structural oppositions occur early in the text of "My Kinsman" between these pairs of categories:

moonlight                                                   artificial light

moon-time                                                 clock-time

country men (-)                                           city men  (+)

outsiders (-)                                                insiders (+)

youth                                                          age

innocent                                                     knowing/experienced

poor                                                            rich

powerless                                                    powerful

kin  (+)                                                        strangers  (-)

        Some of these are "binary oppositions," in that ordinarily something cannot belong to both categories simultaneously, but sometimes a binary can appear in the tale simultaneously, as when a lantern and the moon can shine on the same scene, or when country men mingle with city men.  Binaries usually are distinguished as "privileged" (+) and "unprivileged" (-) if they are given social values.  For instance, Robin's being "from the country" seems highly privileged at first, from his point of view, but the tale might be seen to reverse that binary.  Being the "kinsman" of the Major seems far more valuable to Robin at the start of the story than it does at the end, when it becomes a liability.  Those reversals of privilege help create the tale's dramatic effect on readers who are led to follow Robin's interpretive beliefs.

        Other oppositions have borders that are too imprecise to be binary, so that something could be considered to be in both or in neither, as in an adolescent person (neither young nor old) or an imperfectly informed person (neither innocent nor completely knowing).  Authors often use those blurred boundaries to dramatic effect.  At other times, a supposed binary may suddenly and cleverly be discovered to be not so absolute, or the privileged term may suddenly become the unprivileged term and vice versa.

        When an author accidentally or intentionally misleads readers about the importance of a structural opposition, that can create an interpretive "crux" or problem whose solution can launch many theses.