Killing of animals in “The Pioneers”

In John Fenimore Cooper’s “The Pioneers”, the act of killing animals is used to show the difference between hunters and those who kill for the show of it. It also shows the difference between classes as well because the people mentioned in his story are from two different walks of life, and both have different views on the killing of animals. In the beginning there is a disagreement about who was the one to actually kill the buck, Judge Temple or Natty. Both of the men believe that they are the ones that had the kill shot but it is not the fact they killed the buck but what they killed it for. Judge Temple was more concerned with claiming the buck as his own then getting the meat off the actually animal. Natty on the other hand would only shoot an animal for the pure fact that he was going to use the meat for personal use. Judge Temple wants to be able to feel that he is powerful because he was a good enough hunter to kill the buck. Natty believes this is unethical and that killing for no intention of using the meat is wrong.

The contrasting views in Cooper’s story show how some people are more ethical when it comes to hunting animals and others believe if they can kill an animal then they should, since they have more power over them. The line that stood out was the hunter to Judge Temple right after the buck fell to the earth; “…you burnt your powder only to warm your nose this cold evening.”(8). It was said to mean that the Judge only hunted the buck because it would make him feel better about his skill to do so. Since the very beginning of the story, the Judge is made to look like he is more elegant and has more power than the hunters do, so his attitude on killing the deer for the pure pleasure of it shows how his character is more into proving strength instead of doing it because he needs the meat to survive. Later on even he tells Natty “A few dollars will pay for the venison; but what will requite me for the lost honor of buck’s tail in my cap?”(9). Since the two characters are vastly different, the readers get an understanding of two different ways of life as well as having a character they can relate to because they have different views on aspects of life. Cooper doesn’t want you to side with one character over the other but instead presents them as equal and allows the reader to decide whose actions are more likeable than the other.

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

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