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James Fenimore Cooper Essay, Research Paper
James Fenimore Cooper was born in Burlington, New Jersey
on September 15, 1789. He was the eleventh of twelve children born to
William and Elizabeth Cooper. When James was one year old the family
moved to the frontier, and his father established the settlement of
Cooperstown at the head of the Susquehanna River.
Cooper attended a private preparatory school in Albany, New York,
and was then admitted to Yale in 1803. He was expelled during his junior
year because of a prank. His family allowed him to join the navy as a
midshipman, but he soon found that more discipline was present in the Navy
than at Yale. In 1810 Cooper took a furlough, and never returned to active
Cooper married Susan De Lancy in 1811, and for the next ten years he
led the life of a country gentleman. However, after the death of all five of his
elder brothers he became responsible for supporting their widows and paying
their debts. Added to this was the fact that his father’s estate had not been
worth as much as originally thought.
In 1820 Cooper published his first fiction, Precaution, on a challenge
from his wife and it was not successful. Then in 1821 he published his
second novel book, The Spy which had brought international fame and a
certain amount of wealth to Cooper.
Cooper’s third book, The Pioneers, was the first of five novels that
made up the Leatherstocking Tales. These were immensely popular frontier
novels featuring a frontiersman by the name of Natty Bumpo, or Hawkeye.
The Pioneers is generally considered to be the first truly American
novel. The five novels of the series were not written in their narrative order,
and were produced over a period of eighteen years.
Cooper and his wife had five children, and they lived in Europe from
1826 until 1833 for the education of their children. When Cooper returned to
America in 1833 he found he as rather unpopular due to works he had written
while living in Europe, namely Notions of the Americans and Letter to
General Lafayette. He left New York City because of this unpopularity, and
went to live in Cooperstown, New York, the settlement founded by his father.
Cooper died at Cooperstown on September 14, 1851, one day before
his sixty-second birthday. Cooper has, and continues to be, an immensely
popular writer, and he is generally considered to be the first major American
The Pioneers were successful in Cooper’s time because of its verbal
pictures “excited a sensation among the artists, altogether unprecedented in
the history of our domestic literature” and helped establish the style of the
Hudson River School, our first group of landscape painters. Translated early
into all the major languages of Europe, The Pioneers was one of the first
American novels to carry distinctive, authoritative American experience to the
In the community of Templeton there were community leaders. These
leaders were, Judge Temple, Hiram Doolittle, Natty Bumpo, Billy Kirby,
Sheriff Richard Jones and Judge Marmaduke Temple.
Natty Bumpo becomes the self-appointed conscience of the community
in general and of Judge Temple in particular, constantly criticizing the “wasty
ways” of the settlers. Natty Bumpo is the most aware and concerned
individual for the community.
The greater message of The Pioneers is Cooper stressing the constant
abuse of the environment of settlers in his time period. Settling of the land
entailed rampant destruction of nature. Natty Bumpo is appalled at how the
Cooperstown area pioneers are so wasteful of nature.
Natty Bumpo observed many abuses of the wildlife around him. He
sees tens of thousands of passenger pigeons killed, for more than can be
eaten, and the killing are justified as saving the wheat crops, which are not
even the pigeons main food source.
He sees settlers like Richard Jones who cuts to large of holes for sap in
maple trees which eventually kills the trees. When the trees begin to die he
cuts the trees down for fire wood with out a second thought. He doesn’t even
consider the resource he is depleting.
Judge Temple does realize the destruction that is taking place but out
of pure hypocrisy refuses to do anything because of land scheme activities.
Although Bumpo is against the depletion of wildlife and natural
resources, he also gets caught up in the excitement of the hunt, when he and
Oliver Edwards and Chingachgook kill a deer out of season and Bumpo is
later punished for it.
In this book politics plays a part. The judge does not like Bumpo and
has had it out for him. It is safe to say local politics definitely dominated in
this time period. States rights was the prominent theme and the federal
government was something that most people did not have everyday contact
with so they could not directly relate to. Therefore the daily encounter with
local officials made the local government have a much greater impact on the
everyday lives of the average town’s person.
In my opinion this book was written by a man who loved nature and
the wonderful world of the frontier. Not only was this book a story of Natty
Bumpo it was a handbook to warn people to respect the world around you
and conserve nature. Once the animals and countryside of our beautiful
country is gone it will be lost forever.
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