James Fenimore Cooper
Research paper on James Fenimore Cooper discuss his intricate role as an American novelist at the time of Wilderness expansion. His works were very important in establishing the romance of the American wilderness and how frontier life would factor into the development of the 19th Century in America. Paper Masters provides custom research on major literary figures like Cooper and will focus on any aspect of his works, life or themes that you know written on.
James Fenimore Cooper was known for his wilderness, romantic era novels, but he frequently puts something of a utilitarian slant on his writing. For example, in the Leatherstocking Tales, the last line in the novel describes Natty as “the foremost in that band of Pioneers, who are opening the way for the march of the nation across the continent”. Thus Natty Bumppo has a distinct, useful social function and, because we accept him at face value, there is something sad, but also something uplifting about his decision to leave civilization and go west. Cooper, however, does not address the issue of what happens to the Natty Bumppo’s of the world when the wilderness runs out. What is important about Natty’s conflict with society is that Cooper regards it as inevitable, and that he regards the progress of “civilization” westward as something good, but, as a romantic, he is willing to admit that something noble is being destroyed in the process.
Cooper celebrated the increase in population in the 40 years between the Revolution and the 1820s when he was writing the book. But he concedes throughout the novel that man’s conquest of the wilderness has produced vast ills. The settlers waste trees. They waste game. They dig coal and waste timber to get it. They despoil the waters of fish. Bumppo states, “They alter the country so much, one can hardly know the lakes and streams”. There is irony that, in the midst of this vast slaughter, the beginning of Doolittle’s prosecution against Natty is the suspicion that the latter has killed a single deer. All of these things are dishonorable and Natty cannot live with them, and, in Cooper’s eyes, Natty is the better man for it. But it isn’t just the “environmental impact” of the larger forces that Natty finds obnoxious. “The twisty ways of the law”, which enable a man like Doolittle, his manner, “jesuitical, cold, unfeeling, and selfish”, to work his will on him, are fundamentally unjust. For this, and other reasons, Natty holds the law in contempt. Natty also despises the mores and norms which are part of the new society. In place of the frank, open, egalitarianism of the forest, there has grown up a social hierarchy—(“In truth, the occupations of these favored habitations were the nobles of Templeton, as Marmaduke was its king” )—which is at odds with Natty’s way of being
The conflict between individual and society is, in many of Cooper’s novels, global. It cannot be resolved. The individual, cannot behave in the manner that society demands. He cannot live in a place in which society requires more from a human being than a true individual is willing to give it. And so he must move west. Cooper is sympathetic and admiring, but he by no means takes the radical position that society has no rights over the individual.