Posts Tagged ‘James Fenimore Cooper’

Ecofeminism/Depiction of Native Americans in Catharine Maria Sedgwick’s “Hope Leslie”

So my direction is not entirely nailed down yet. After we did the section on Ecofeminism, I knew that I definitely wanted to write my paper on something regarding it. When I was doing light researching into where exactly I wanted to go with it, I came across Hope Leslie: Early Time in the Massachusetts. I’ve started reading it already (because I didn’t want to commit to it without being certain it would provide a good basis) and while there is a good amount of ecofeminist ideas in it there is also quite a bit of interesting material regarding the Native Americans. Ideally I’d be able to use both but I’m not sure I have the space with how relatively short our papers are.

Much like Farnham’s writing, Sedgwick’s absolutely shows the involvement of women in establishing the so-called “unconquered” land, but I’m not sure it has quite enough material for me to write an entire paper on how that also relates to nature. On the side of the depiction of Native Americans there definitely is a lot more material. Unlike a lot of the texts we read in class, Sedgwick doesn’t depict Native Americans as being either savages or decoration, but as actual people with their own personalities.

In either case what I’d really like to do is compare the depiction of both (or either) women and Native Americans in this text to the depictions in James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans. While Cooper’s text was published only a year before Sedgwick’s it has awful depictions of both women and Native Americans.

Some of my questions to make this more specific are:

1. As nature is often feminized and women are depicted as being closer to nature, does the fact that Sedgwick is a woman lead her to have greater sympathy towards an accurate representation of Native Americans, who are also frequently viewed as being closer to nature?

2. Who was the primary audience of each of these authors and how does that have a bearing on their depictions of both women and Native Americans? Did either of these texts then have any influence on how those audiences viewed Native Americans?

3. While Sedgwick’s depiction is absolutely better than Cooper’s, in what way does her text still rely on problematic stereotypes?

Proposal Topic: Promotion of ‘deep ecology’ using the ‘pastoral trope’ in James Fenimore Cooper’s “The Pioneers” and Patrick D. Smith’s “A Land Remembered”

When this assignment was introduced I immediately thought of Patrick D. Smith’s “A Land Remembered” and how the contrast between all the generations of the MacIvey family that roamed the Florida swamps.  The early generations became farmers and cattleman using the land responsibly while the younger generations becoming greedy developing the land and exploiting it.  However, the most recent generation, Solomon MacIvey began reminiscing about the aesthetic beauty of Florida’s natural landscape.  This led me to James Fenimore Cooper’s “The Pioneers” where Natty and Judge Temple represent the contrast between appreciating nature aesthetically and using its resources in a responsible manner to the development and exploitation of the land.  I found these two text interesting because they both incorporated the ideology of ‘deep ecology’ while portraying the ‘pastoral trope’.  With the cycle of man’s view and interaction with nature from the nature is a resource for man to the appreciation of the aesthetic beauty and conservation of it.

By applying Greg Garrard’s chapter ‘pastoral’ and the section defining ‘deep ecology’ to the texts will help define the exact positions each character represents and how they evolve from development of the land to conserving it.  Using the basic definition of ‘pastoral’:

literature that contrasts rural and urban life that generally values rural over urban life focusing on picturesque natural places; often involving a retreat to nature that enlightens the protagonist,

both texts will demonstrate the shift to the ‘deep ecology’ ideology.  The significance of both texts transitioning back into the ‘deep ecology’ ideology is because they evoke sympathy from the audience to promote ‘deep ecology’ and conservation with the responsible use of nature’s resources.  The main passages in focus for Cooper’s “The Pioneers” are the ones involving the killing of the deer and pigeons along with the introduction ofJudgeTempleto Natty.  In Smith’s “A Land Remembered” the main passages in focus are the arrival of the MacIvey family, the development of the property and Solomon MacIvey reminiscing on the land before it was developed.

Questions:

  1. How does the transition from agrarian value of the land lead to exploitation of the land and its resources?
  2. What is the significance of the cycle from agrarian values to exploitation of resources to returning to valuing nature aesthetically leading to conservation of nature?
  3. Are these texts suggesting that the value of aesthetic nature can be returned to and if so when?
  4. What is the significance of valuing nature aesthetically?
  5. Are both texts effective at promoting ‘deep ecology’ ideology?
  6. How is the ‘pastoral trope’ depicted in both texts and is it effective?
  7. Do these texts effectively have the audience sympathize with the ‘deep ecology’ ideology?  And if so is this good?

Hunting and Animal Deaths in “The Pioneers”

Characters’ identities with “The Pioneer,” particularly their sex and class, are very important in relation to the hunting and animal deaths within the story.

Cooper incorporates stereotypical views of women to indicate how a young woman would react during a hunt. The first buck that is hunted shows the sexist depiction of women as emotional, passive creatures as opposed to strong, independent men. When the buck gets away unharmed, Elizabeth’s view of the scene is completely different from that of her father. The narrator states that “the whole scene had passed with a rapidity that confused the female, who was unconsciously rejoicing in the escape of the buck” (Cooper 7), yet her father remained calm and unfazed by shooting at the deer. In this, the idea that women are closer to nature and more empathetic, not only to other people but also to other creatures, is seen. In each other hunting scene, the men and boys who are killing the animals have no qualms about the death, even to the point of killing them in excess for fun.

More obviously within this text is the juxtaposition of the views of the rich and poor when it comes to the deaths of animals. Hunting is depicted as a necessity for the poor and as a sport for the wealthy. The sole exception to the men being uncaring about the excess killing of animals for sport is the character or Leather Stocking, though this is due not to his sex but to his class. He is offended by all the boys killing large amounts of pigeons while “none pretended to collect the game, which lay scattered over the fields in such profusion as to cover the very ground with the fluttering victims” (Cooper 250). Yet all of the richer characters within the story see hunting as primarily a sport, and only secondarily a source of food. Like women, the poor are depicted as being closer to nature and less brutal. While this plays on a sexist stereotype for women, it actually serves to show the poor of this story in a positive light as opposed to the brutish behaviors or the richer men.

Sex and class are both represented as being relevant factors in the characters’ views of animal deaths as well as nature as a whole.

 

References

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

 

Wilderness in The Pioneers

Wilderness in The Pioneers

James Fenimore Cooper’s The Pioneers provides a lengthy, highly descriptive depiction of early American wilderness. In particular, Cooper characterizes the wilderness as an overwhelmingly male entity, and a place for males to explore. In chapter four (“Wilderness”) of Garrard’s Ecocriticism, he explains that “feminist critics have shown that the qualities associated with the sublime and beautiful are gendered…as the feminine and beautiful is denigrated by comparison with the masculine sublime…so women are excluded from encounters with the wild,” (Garrard 64).

We see this in The Pioneers right from the start, where the first characters introduced are Judge Temple and his daughter Elizabeth, or Bess. A father/daughter relationship is the quintessential example of male dominance, especially as described here. “But still he had enough of real regard for his child, not to bring her into the comparative wilderness in which he dwelt, until the full period had expired, to which he had limited her juvenile labors,” (Cooper 5). He protected Bess from the wilderness until he deemed she was old enough to handle it, whereas a son would likely have been brought along for hunting from an early age. The first we hear of Bess’ feelings are on page 9, where Cooper describes her interest in the young hunter they have encountered: his foxskin cap, his leather stockings, his deerskin coat—all evidence of his dominance of the wilderness, and of his robust manly power. Bess essentially stays in the sleigh for this entire section of the book, until she stands and speaks on page 13, much to the surprise (it seems) of the men. The young hunter in particular is taken aback by her beautiful, delicate features as she throws off the hood that has been hiding her face, “regardless of the cold air,” (Cooper 13), as if it is a surprise she can handle the cold. In the story, Bess’ only roles are daughter and object of beauty, never an active role as a doer of anything worthwhile. As Garrard mentioned, there is little place for women in wilderness.

Furthermore, the wilderness itself is frequently characterized as male, as Cooper describes it in primarily masculine terms. A “rugged country,” “jutted with rocks” and filled with “fine bucks” seems to be a very manly place. The idea of conquering the wilderness by hunting is also made into a competition of masculinity, as Judge Temple mentions Dick Jones, who has embarrassingly “only brought in one woodchuck and a few gray squirrels,” (Cooper 9). Repeatedly, Cooper characterizes the wilderness as male, making it a place for men to explore and conquer, and maybe for women to see sometimes if their husband or father brings them along.

Sources

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

Garrard, Greg. Ecocriticism. New York: Routledge, 2004. 64. Print.

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.

Analysis of Wilderness in The Pioneers

In James Fenimore Coopers’s The Pioneers, wilderness is seen in a contrasting light as both an  awe-inspiring spectacle and as a simple, disposable tool to achieve personal gain. The author juxtaposes these two viewpoints throughout the text leaving the reader to wonder what the true purpose of wilderness was to the early settlers. Was it simply a means of getting what they wanted out of this unsettled land or was it more akin to the “romantic and picturesque” country we are introduced to at the beginning of the passage (Cooper 1)?

I was struck by the power and might of wilderness when Judge is explaining to Elizabeth how the pioneers struggled to gain footing in the “[rough] uninhabited mountains” while fraught with famine and failure (Cooper 236). He described the turning point in which “something like a miracle” occurred and “shoals of herring” flew through the territory enabling the settlers to survive (Cooper 238). This struck me as what Garrard would characterize as a sublime view of the wilderness because it seems that Judge is sincerely struck by the “overwhelming power” (Garrard 64) nature had and was in disbelief by the wonder of the “miracle” birds (Cooper 238). Taken alone, this solitary take on the passage would be well received. However, when paired with the careless slaughter of the pigeons we see later on in the text, the pioneers’ values about wilderness can be called into question. Although these birds were shown to be a nuisance to growing crops, forcing some settler to “sow [their] wheat twice, and three times” the spectacle of aimlessly shooting birds from the sky sharply opposes the respect for nature we see earlier in the text when Judge is describing the sheer miracle it was to have a few birds to eat (Cooper 251). Leather-Stocking put it best as a pure “waste of [God’s] creatures” (Cooper 251). The contrast of Judge’s description of the wondrous gift the wilderness provided when people were in need and the eventual manipulation and waste of such wilderness by killing these birds for game is hypocritical and puzzling.

Interestingly, Judge tells Elizabeth that “[those who hear about the settling of a country know] but little of the toil and suffering” that went into founding it (Cooper 238). Thinking back on the passage, it seems that all of the settlers should take Judges’s sentiment to heart regarding their views on the wilderness they inhabit. Perhaps they too have lost sight of the power and terror the wilderness once had over them and would be well off to keep this in mind before disposing of the wilderness around them for no purpose.

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

Garrard, Greg. Ecocriticism. New York: Routledge, 2004. Print.

 

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.