Posts Tagged ‘Hunter’

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.

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.

2. Animal death depicted in The Pioneers

The purpose of animal death at the end of The Pioneers does not have any purpose besides killing pigeons so they don’t eat the wheat crops. The white settlers consider them pests and find it to be an exhilarating sport to senselessly shoot the pigeons. I think the emotions this act of slaughter evokes in the reader is reflected in the reaction of Leather-Stocking when he says, “It’s wicked to be shooting into flocks in this wasty manner” (251). The text refers to the pigeons as “victims” (250, 251) and the white settlers as “persecutors” of the pigeons (254), setting the stage for evoking compassion for the pigeons from the reader. Benjamin gravely relates at the end of the text that “he thought they killed nearly as many pigeons on that day, as there were Frenchmen destroyed on the memorable occasion of Rodney’s victory” (255). The field of dead pigeons here is being depicted as a battlefield which evokes emotions of war, and for anyone who has truly experienced war, the experience is truly traumatizing. The attitudes represented by the depiction of the pigeons’ deaths in the text are attitudes of excitement and victory from many of the men that took part in the slaughter such as Richard. Judge Temple and Benjamin showed a sense of remorse for the slaughter, feeling that it was wrong to find joy in even a pigeon’s misery. This event is used to reveal the human quality of savage cruelty, but it is also condemned by the hunter, Leather-Stocking, who sees that it is not right to senselessly kill so many pigeons. I’m not so sure that the text is promoting this behavior in any way, but rather trying to show the reader that heartless actions such as this one are wrong and can eat away at the conscience of those who partake in such actions as we see with Judge Temple and Benjamin.

The death of these animals is related to issues of identity. The animal deaths are related to the identity issue of “class” because the white settlers think that a person is of a higher social class if they are farmers, and these white settlers find justice in killing these birds because they don’t want to replant the wheat crops that the birds eat. The hunter is considered to be in a lower social class and he thinks it’s wrong to kill more birds than is necessary for your survival and cut down the trees that they live in. The identity issue of “gender” in regards to killing animals is also explored in the text. The Judge’s daughter is depicted as “unconsciously rejoicing in the escape of the buck,” portraying women as against killing animals (7). Men, on the other hand, are mostly depicted as rejoicing in the death of animals. Depending on a man’s “social class,” however, he may have different views on what is a justified killing of an animal. Although a person’s social class affects how they will react to an animal’s death, the deaths of the pigeons, and the remorseful reactions of many of those involved, validates the commonality of experience shared by humans and nonhuman entities alike. Their remorseful reaction validates that no matter what species you are, every living creature deserves the chance to live and not be slaughtered for the selfish reasons of any one species.

Cooper, James F. “Ch. 1, 21, 22.” The Pioneers. Dodd, Mead &, 1958. 1-16, 234-255. Print.