The Pioneers

					James F. Cooper (1789-1851):
        The Pioneers


              American Literature I
                       11/01/2004
                       Cecilia H.C. Liu
Facts on James Fenimore Cooper (1)
• Cooper was born James Cooper on
  September 15, 1789 in Burlington, New
  Jersey. (The "Fenimore" was legally added
  only in 1826.)
• In 1790 the family moved to Lake Otsego, in
  upstate New York, and these early
  experiences in a frontier town gave him the
  background for The Pioneers (1823), among
  other frontier novels.
   Facts on James Fenimore Cooper
   (2)
• In 1819, his career as a writer began, and the first
  tale he published in 1820 was Precaution, a novel
  of morals and manners which showed the
  influence of Amelia Opie (whose work Cooper
  very much admired).
• Later, since the work and its reception were
  pleasant enough to encourage JFC to continue,
  he continued on writing, publishing The Spy: A
  Tale of the Neutral Ground (1821), The Pioneers,
  The Pilot (1824), Lionel Lincoln (1825), The Last
  of the Mohicans (1826), The Prairie (1827),with
  remarkable explosion of creativity.
Facts on James Fenimore Cooper
(3)
• Cooper was also a keen observer of the
  political and cultural life of America, an
  accomplished controversialist and a fine naval
  historian.
• By the time of his death Cooper had developed
  a reputation as America's "national novelist,"
  and D. H. Lawrence portrayed his work as "a
  decrescendo of reality, and a crescendo of
  beauty," but all his novels engaged historical
  themes and helped to form the American
  history and romantic historiography in the 19th
  century.
   The Pioneers: Background Info.
• In 1785, Cooper’s father, wanted to
  investigate a a piece of land in this
  wilderness, Otsego, with a party of
  surveyors.
• At the commencement of the following
  year, settlement began; and from that
  time to this the country has continued to
  flourish and increase in number.
         Cooper's Natty Bumppo
• Natty Bumppo, as described
  in The Pioneers as “6 ft. tall in
  his moccasins, thin and wiry,
  with grey eyes, sandy hair, a
  large mouth and rather heavy
  eyebrows."
• He appears physically as a
  cross between his best friend,
  the Indian Chingachgook,
  and his nemesis, Judge
  Temple.
      Bumppo’s various names in
          Leather-Stocking Tales

•   Deerslayer
•   Hawk-eye
•   Pathfinder
•   Leather-Stocking
  Leather-Stocking Tales               (in the order of
         events in the life of Natty Bumppo)

• The Deerslayer (1841)—young hero
• The Last of the Mohicans (1826)—mature
  hero
• The Pathfinder (1840)—come into maturity
• The Pioneers (1823)—hero’s old age
• The Prairie (1827)—hero’s death
Cooper’s novels reflect his continuous
  awareness of contrasts in society, behavior,
  and government between the United States
  and Europe, particularly Great Britain.
Natty Bumppo’s Views in Ch 3 (I)
• He implores the group to see that men
  should only kill and use the wilderness
  to sustain themselves.
• In essence, man should only take what
  he truly needs. However, the chapter
  ends with the eyes of the dead pigeons
  staring up at the men, Natty becomes
  the one who understands the virtuous
  relationship between man and the
  environment.
Natty Bumppo’s Views in Ch 3 (II)

• While the settlers see wilderness as
  being tamed by their presence, Natty
  Bumppo has a vision of civilized life
  coexisting with nature.
• Natty Bumppo, additionally, wants to
  keep the unique role that this vast
  unexplored wilderness contributes to
  the complexity of America.
 Cooper’s Intention in Natty Bumppo
• A critic, James Wallace, writes that Cooper wanted
  Natty Bumppo “to combine a popular tradition of the
  eloquence of Indian oratory with the garrulity of a
  frontier character.”
• Natty Bumppo is Cooper's tool to express his views on
  the mores of 18th and early 19th century U.S. Natty
  Bumppo agrees with the concept of a firmly class-
  structured society, and shows disdain for
  miscegenation.
• Fearless and miraculously resourceful, Natty Bumppo
  survives the rigors of nature and the villainy of man by
  superior strength and skill, and by the help of heaven,
  for he is always quaintly moral.
  Cooper’s Intention in Natty Bumppo (2)
• Nonetheless, Natty Bumppo is filled with
  contradictions, combining "the soul of a
  poet with the nature of a redneck."
• Natty craves companionship, but trusts no
  one, is used by all, but owes nothing to
  anyone, and craves traditional society
  while fearing and despising civilization.
• According to Duncan Heyward, Natty is "a
  noble shoot from the stock of human
  nature, which never could attain its proper
  elevation and importance, for no other
  reason than because it grew in the forest."
        Perspective in The Pioneers
• It could be said that the incidents of this tale
  are purely a fiction, even though the literal
  facts are connected with the natural and
  artificial objects and the customs of the
  inhabitants.
• The academy, and court-house, and jail, and
  inn, and other things, are exact.
• Cooper is aware of the numerous faults
  in the story, but he still decides to
  overlook this fact but wrote the story
  with the intention to please himself.
Responses to The Pioneers
      • Cooper's ingenious wasn’t expressed
        in his development of American
        novel, but the ability to find audience
        for it. With The Pioneers, he
        facilitated an American literary
        awakening: from imitations of
        imported novels to a true literature.
        "Quite simply, Cooper created a
        community of readers whose taste
        dominate the market for fiction in
        America, .in the 19th
        century“ (Sydney Smith’s The
        Edinburgh Review)
What Cooper Says About The Pioneers
"Our political institutions, the state of learning
 among us, and the influence of religion upon
 the national character, have been often
 discussed and displayed; but our domestic
 manners, the social and the moral
 influences, which operate in retirement,
 and in common intercourse, and the
 multitude of local peculiarities, which form
 our distinctive features upon the many
 peopled earth, have very seldom been
 happily exhibited in our literature"
 The Limitation of Cooper’s Work
• The weaknesses of Cooper is obvious, which is
  his female characters, since they lack variety,
  and are generally sappy and flat.
• All his fictional works reflect the didactic
  concern to educate about democracy in a
  oppressively schoolmasterish method, but his
  characters are often richly developed, and
  recognized as a remarkable gallery of
  American types, with richness, depth, and
  complexity unsurpassed in American fiction
  before Hawthorne and Melville.
          Photo Gallery

• Top: James Fenimore
  Cooper

• Middle: Natty
  Bumppo’s Cave

• Bottom: Lake Otsego
  Scenery

•Photo Credits: http://www.ub-unibielefield.de/diglib/KarlMay/cooper/
       Discussion Questions (1)
• Several scenes in The Pioneers reflect
  specifically Cooper's portrayal of Natty
  Bumppo as a American frontiersman. Name
  some of them in Chapter 3.
• Natty is portrayed as the literary bridge between
  the "old world" and the dawning of American
  possibility. His interactions in the woods and in
  civilization make him a vestige of the natural man
  that Cooper admires, trapped in the changing
  world that Cooper bemoans. Is there a similar
  situation we face in the present as readers?
   Discussion Questions (2)

• The story of Natty Bumppo is linked to Natty Bumppo the
  Indian, representing him with two identities. In Taiwan,
  could it be possible that our indigenous people today also
  face the same conflict?
• Cooper mentioned that "In point of civilization, comforts,
  and character, the Indians, who remain near the coasts, are
  about on a level with the lowest classes of European
  peasantry. Perhaps they are somewhat below the English,
  but I think [ . . .] they are much below the condition of the
  mass of the slaves.”         How does this view affect Cooper’s
  portrayal of the story?
        Landscape in The Pioneers
• In this novel, Cooper
  debates the complexity of
  landscape within a new
  American frontier.
• Nature replaces history
  within American culture;
  and Cooper evaluates his
  landscape as one that will be
  established by a civilization
  unable to escape its own
  traits of wastefulness and
  arrogance.
    Landscape in The Pioneers (2)
• Cooper foreshadows the settlers'
  inability to conceive the power, life, and
  autonomy of nature because they feel it
  cannot truly exist without their influence.
• In Chapter III, Natty Bumppo emerges
  as the antithesis of the wastefulness
  demonstrated by the settlers. He
  struggles to understand how abusive the
  Sheriff and Billy Kirby are when they
  slaughter pigeons just for sport.
        Otsego in The Pioneers
• Otsego was included in a county of Albany,
  and then became a part of Montgomery after
  the war; was finally set apart as a county after
  1783, which lies among Alleghanies,
  covering the midland counties of New York.
• Otsego is said to be a word compounded of
  Ot, a place of meeting, and Sego, or Sago,
  the term of salutation used by the Indians of
  this region.
       Otsego in The Pioneers (2)
• There is a tradition that says the neighboring
  tribes were accustomed to meet on the banks of
  the lake to make treaties, to strengthen
  alliances, and which refers the name to this
  practice.
• In 1779 an expedition was sent against the
  hostile Indians, who dwelt about a hundred
  miles west of Otsego, with the troops proceeded
  to the other extremity of the lake, where they
  disembarked and encamped.
                     References
• James Fenimore Cooper Biography
  http://www2.bc.edu/~wallacej/jfc/jfcbio.html
• Fenimore's Natty Bumppo
  http://xroads.virginia.edu/~UG02/COOPER/bumppo.html
• Landscape in The Pioneers
  http://xroads.virginia.edu/~UG02/COOPER/landscape.html
• The Pioneers--Cooper's Introduction to the Novel
  http://xroads.virginia.edu/~UG02/COOPER/chapters.html
• Critical and Popular Response
  http://xroads.virginia.edu/~UG02/COOPER/response.html
• Natty as Indian
  http://xroads.virginia.edu/~UG02/COOPER/indian.html
• Natty as Frontiersman
  http://xroads.virginia.edu/~UG02/COOPER/frontiersman.html

				
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