2. The Death of Animals in Cooper’s “Pioneers”

The passage which jumped out the most was the killing of the pigeons.  The author had a very clear opinion of the attack on the pigeons. Cooper denounces the acts of the pioneers and portrays them as savage and base individuals who are overcome with “exultation and delight” with the act of the pigeons slaughter (230). Cooper refers to the birds as “victims” and asserts that they are “harmless as a garter-snake” (250-251). The pioneers justify themselves by claiming that the birds are a nuisance to their wheat fields and they are thereby doing a service. Even though the reader can understand the plight of farmers, you find yourself feeling sorry for the defenseless birds and revolted by the brutality of the pioneers. Cooper uses the character of Leather-Stocking to be the voice of Mother Nature. He recognizes the waste and implores the settlers to stop their killing. These different standpoints create a distinct divide to the reader between the settlers and the natives. The settlers look wasteful and selfish, capitalizing on their agricultural endeavors, whereas the Native American seems sagacious and has found a way of life which does not intrude upon the land and its original inhabitants. The journal also brings the reader’s attention to the pioneer’s effect on the animal population as a whole. Judge Temple retells his struggle with the famine and inadvertently highlights the damage the settlers have exacted on the environment. He refers to the settlers as a “swarm of locusts” who “swept away the means of subsistence”. (237).  Not five years prior, whence Judge Temple first endeavored across the unsettled land, he encountered numerous populations of animals. After the land began to be inhabited, the “enormous shoals of herrings” (238) and “myriad of the wild-fowl” (249) cease to be mentioned.  Overall, Cooper’s Pioneers arouses a sense of injustice for the Native inhabitants of the land and depicts the settlers as wasteful, cruel, and uncompromising.

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One response to this post.

  1. I completely agree with you that Cooper uses the pigeon scene to not only get the reader to sympathize with the birds and nature, but also for them to see how wasteful, and to an extent how disgusting the settlers are in their attitudes towards nature. Not only does it bring to the readers attention their effects on the animal population but it also shows how in several instances that is treated in a very nonchalant manner. For example, in the scene with the death of the buck the Judge is more worried about showing off his kill to Dick Jones “who has failed seven times …this season,” (9) than the fact that it has been that hard to find venison in the wilderness anymore. Other than Natty the characters in the story are more worried about the self – profit and gain – then they are about the destruction they’re causing around them.

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