An analysis of animal deaths in The Pioneers.

In James Fenimore Cooper’s The Pioneers, there are two specific scenes involving the death of animals the significance of these animal’s death is that it demonstrates the difference between hunters and those who kill for sport.  The first scene involves Natty, Edwards, and Judge Temple all firing shots at a buck that runs across the path they are traveling.  After the deer is shot and killed an argument occurs among the men who fired as to who is responsible for the kill shot.  This scene enlightens the reader of the difference in opinions of hunters and sportsmen through Natty and Judge Temple.  The huntsman Natty is very outspoken about only killing for use of the animal for food as stated, “I suppose the creature is to be eaten…although I am a poor man, I can live without venison” (8).  Natty is assuming that the deer was shot for food and since he has no use for the meat he did not shot.  However, Judge Temple is more concerned about claiming the kill shot stating, “Think Natty, how should I triumph over that quizzing dog, Dick Jones, who has failed seven times already this season, and has only brought in one woodchuck and a few gray squirrels” (9). Judge Temple has no intention of using the deer’s meat but to use the kill as bragging rights over a less successful sportsman.

The second scene revolves around the vast numbers of pigeons in the area with the settlers planning to shoot as many as possible mainly for sport rather than processing them into goods.  Again Natty appears as the huntsman that promotes killing out of necessity not for waste of sport, “it’s wicked to be shooting into flocks in this wasty manner; and none do it, who know how to knock over a single bird.  If a body has a craving for pigeon’s flesh, why, it’s made the same as all other creature’s for man’s eating; but not to kill twenty and eat one” (251).  This is contrasted by the settler’s who are too overwhelmed with greed to acknowledge their waste of a resource.  Although they plan to process their kills the amount of dead pigeons would result in an over-supply leaving time for the meat to spoil.


Cooper, James Fenimore. The Pioneers. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1958. 1-255. Print.

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