Irreconcilable Conflicts in The Pioneers

Ryoichi Okada (Niigata University, Japan)

Placed online with the kind permission of the author.

Originally published in Chiba Review No. 10, 1988 (pp. 1-18).

[May be reproduced for instructional use by individuals or institutions; commercial use prohibited.]

When D.H. Lawrence writes in his renowned Studies in Classic American Literature: “You start with actuality. Pioneers is no doubt Cooperstown, when Cooperstown was in the stage of inception. ... ” 1 no one would refute him. For, undeniably, James Fenimore Cooper’s The Pioneers is predicated on the author’s remembrances of his past. Yet Lawrence’s statement: “It is all real enough. Except that one realizes that Fenimore was writing from a safe distance, where he would idealize and have his wish-fulfillment,” 2 sounds a little too flippant. Wish fulfillment on the part of the author underscored here tempts us to see some preposterous unreality in the novel. Needless to say, the distance Lawrence takes note of is temporal, lying between Fenimore’s own present and his father William’s days. Then one might be justified if one has a mind to surmise that Fenimore was entertaining a certain emotion resembling nostalgia. Donald Ringe might not be far off the mark, when he states that Cooper “depicts the scenes with the balanced mixture of realism and nostalgic longing that lend the book its dominant mood.” 3

On second thought, however, it is quite doubtful whether the author of The Pioneers, if retaining nothing other than such an easy, complacent attitude, would afterward be induced to add to it one great tale after another, four all told, and accomplish the immortal Leatherstocking Tales. Undoubtedly there was lurking something more critical, more impending, in the innermost mind of the author. The novel contains too serious conflicts to be slighted as a novel of manners, which it certainly looks like at first glance. Now it is incumbent on us to examine each of those conflicts and inquire which one is primary. Once we have done our task {2} properly, we shall be able to appreciate the world of Natty Bumppo more aptly, for the primary conflict is seen pervading from the opening chapter of The Pioneers to the last page of The Deerslayer, the final work of the series.


The most remarkable conflict discovered in The Pioneers is of course the encounter of Judge Temple’s law and Natty Bumppo’s. Temple’s law is an artifact wrought by the legislative body, while the hunter’s unwritten law is embodied by men. Natty distinguishes one from the other making use of the dichotomy of new and old, and feels pride in obeying his old law. On the eve of Christmas in 1793, after the prayer-meeting at the academy of Templeton, many have gathered at the Bold Dragoon, the village’s favorite inn. There they have begun to drink, talk, and laugh as usual, Natty and his companion Indian John being among them. Once Natty chooses to say to Temple:

“You may make your laws, Judge ... but who will you find to watch the mountains through the long summer days, or the lakes at night? Game is game, and he who finds may kill; that has been the law in these mountains for forty years, to my sartain knowledge; and I think one old law is worth two new ones. None but a green-one would wish to kill a doe with a fa’n by its side, unless his moccasins were getting old, or his leggins ragged, for the flesh is lean and coarse.” 4

Evidently Natty, our forest hero, is consistent with the fundamental laws that human beings living in the midst of nature do not fail to observe.

Judge Temple has been reclaiming the wilderness in order to establish a new civilized society there. He has sought to do so as far as his capacity allows, because he sides with civilization against wilderness without conditions. Temple’s plan to people the virgin forest necessitates a {3} number of new laws. For, according to Temple, “’ ... laws alone remove us from the condition of the savages’” (422), and “’Society cannot exist without wholesome restraints’” (421). In a civilized society one cannot have one’s own way in everything. It follows then that the essence of Temple’s law is restraint imposed on an individual from without. Meanwhile, in Templeton, one of the incipient settlements, the people have already started their “wasty ways” (272): they catch with a seine net too many fishes to eat, or shoot pigeons with a swivel gun half out of fun. Temple, who sets store by trees like Natty, has once said to Billy Kirby, a vigorous squatter: “’We are stripping the forests, as if a single year would replace what we destroy. But the hour approaches when the law will take notice of not only the woods, but the game they contain also’” (251). Judge Temple appears to be sharing with Natty the same respect for nature’s treasures. In points of motive, however, they differ markedly. Being completely against the development of the settlement, Natty advises Temple vis-à-vis:

“Put an ind, Judge, to your clearings. An’t the woods his work as well as the pigeons? Use, but don’t waste. Wasn’t the woods made for the beasts and birds to harbor in? and when man wanted their flesh, their skins, or their feathers, there’s the place to seek them.” (272)

In contrast with this insistence of the hunter on the divineness of the woods, Judge Temple fears from his economic standpoint lest “’ ... twenty years hence we shall want fuel’” (113). Usually the Judge’s motivation in executing his new laws does not transcend the level of materialism. On the contrary, Natty’s law enables man to attain self-restraint. With the hunter, restraint is self-imposed, inner, and moral. Donald Ringe’s argument, which discerns the theme of The Pioneers centering “around the fundamental need for personal restraint under the guidance of sound {4} moral principle, 5 seems to the point. Natty hates a white settlement because its people do not seek such restraint in themselves.

Richard Jones, Temple’s cousin, always esteems a new law as a golden rule. Even before Temple has appointed him High Sheriff, Richard used to use the word law too freely. The first action of the novel is concerned with shooting a buck, and brings forth a problem as to who has shot it down, Oliver Effingham, alias Edwards, or Temple. Although young Oliver has proved to be the winner and Temple’s bullets are all ascertained to have missed the target, one of them even entering into the youth’s arm, Temple hesitates to part with the venison and tries to offer a decent amount of money for it. At the Judge’s mansion, after Oliver has declined Temple’s proposal, Richard in his turn tells the youth to take the carcass minus the saddle, which he wants to buy for a Christmas delicacy. Angered to find his proposal rejected too, Richard finds fault with Judge Temple when Oliver has left with the dead buck, saying: “’Well,’duke, you are your own master, but I would have tried law for the saddle, before I would have given it to the fellow’” (99).

Soon after that event, Richard, on the verge of falling from a precipice near Templeton along with his sleigh and four horses, is saved by Oliver. Instead of thanking the youth, however, he is so base as to neglect the youth’s timely intervention and complain of his awkwardness in handling the horses by saying behind Oliver’s back: “’Where is the use of being a judge, or having a judge, if there is no law? ... I have a great mind to sue him in the morning myself ... for meddling with my leaders’” (100).

As soon as Temple gives him the place of High Sheriff as a Christmas present, Richard’s arrogance resulting from his awareness of being a guardian of the law becomes limitless. With Temple’s commission in his hand, he does not hold back a declaration to Elizabeth, Temple’s daughter: “’ ... you forget, cousin, that it is my duty to preserve the peace of the county, and see the laws executed’” (200). Such an attitude of Richard’s betrays his {5} moral depravity inadvertently.

The settlers’ way of living as depicted in The Pioneers, particularly Richard Jones’s way, brings the dynamic relation between new laws and a society into light. The more human desires increase in strength and kind, and the more its members’ moral principles come to loosen, the more artificial laws are required. To put it symbolically, modern written laws are the children of social confusion.

After all, Natty Bumppo’s law and Judge Temple’s, so basically different, do not synthesize. Natty’s law, originating from the Indian way of living, concerns the mores of a tribe or a race, composed of traditional principles for living whose imperatives insure men’s freedom in nature. Temple’s law is completely irrelevant to such functions. Donald Ringe points out quite appropriately that to solve the problem “how to control the waste without curtailing the advance of civilization,” Judge Temple has had recourse to “civil law, the law of society.” 6 Yet Ringe, who has attached to this last phrase the modifier: “which he hopes to bring into accord with the moral law that Leatherstocking is following in his relations with nature,” 7 misconstrues Temple’s intent. In no part of the novel does Temple try to combine these two incompatibles.


Marmaduke Temple’s commitment to civilization is really incomparable. Pursuing material prosperity comprises the core of his thought. Therefore, “where others saw nothing but a wilderness, towns, manufactories, bridges, canals, mines, and all the other resources of an old country, were constantly presenting themselves” (353) to Temple’s eye. To construct these structures will promise him a greater profit in the future. It is Richard Jones who ardently assists the Judge hand in hand with Doolittle, the carpenter, in building modern structures in the settlement as well as in executing the laws. Richard has already completed three main buildings of Templeton, namely the Judge’s mansion, the academy and the jail. The {6} modernness of the ideas of the sheriff, who makes much of a social system, declaiming to Elizabeth that “’Everything depends on system, girl’” (198), falls in line with that of his cousin’s various enterprises.

Natty’s anti-modernism, revealed most typically in his dislike of a mill, is pitted against Temple’s and Richard’s ardor to make artifacts. The old hunter thinks that the stream of a waterfall, which he knows exists in the hills, is “such a one as would turn a mill, if so useless a thing was wanted in the wilderness” (322). In his opinion, the reason why a mill is detestable is that “the hand that made that ‘Leap’ never made a mill” (322). In like manner, the dam for a mill becomes Natty’s abomination, because “’ ... instead of beaver-dams, which is the nater of the animal, and according to Providence, you turn back the waters over the low grounds with your mill-dams, as if ‘twas in man to stay the drops from going where He wills them to go. ... ‘” (427). Every natural phenomenon appears to the hunter to be a manifestation of the divine will to which none must give offense. Thus it is found there can be no way to reconcile Natty’s aversion to artificiality with Temple’s longing for civilization. In light of both men’s disparity in this respect alone, we perceive that William Kelly’s view, which recognizes Oliver as standing just halfway between Natty and Judge Temple and affirms the youth’s “reconciliation of the constituent traditions of American life,” 8 is not a pertinent interpretation. If Oliver had realized any synthesis, Natty would not have turned a deaf ear to the entreaty that he has made in duet with Elizabeth at the end of the novel, asking Natty to stay with them.

Up to now most critics have backed Judge Temple’s way of living. Generally, such critics either sanction Templeton, admitting as a matter of course the decline of the redskins whose culture attracted Natty, or regard the settlement as half civilized. Kelly, admiring the Judge, conceives that “By bringing order to the frontier, Temple has won the crucial battle for national security — contemporary America can only follow in his footsteps.” 9 When Kelly considers Templeton to be “a community {7} poised between order and chaos,” 10 he cites order lying within the sphere of white civilization. Not far away from this stands George Dekker, who sees Temple living “too much for the future,” while Natty does “too much for the past.” 11 Templeton is, in Dekker’s terms, “a transitional community” 12 heading for a brilliant future.

Indeed change is noticeable everywhere in this transitional settlement, which these critics hopefully judge to be from a primitive, savage state to something higher and better. In Chapter III, the author describes Templeton from the distant viewpoint of Elizabeth approaching home after several years’ absence:

These spots were sometimes, by the aid of united labor, enlarged into what were called settlements, but more frequently were small and insulated; though so rapid were the changes, and so persevering the labors of those who had cast their fortunes on the success of the enterprise, that it was not difficult for the imagination of Elizabeth to conceive they were enlarging under her eye, while she was gazing, in mute wonder, at the alterations that a few short years had made in the aspect of the country. (40-41)

It is reasonable Natty Bumppo should hate such changes, for he understands that they herald the increase of “new laws” and “new ways” (225). In Natty’s vision, the process of change is just reversed, that is, from the ideal to the debased. The old hunter cannot help lamenting, foreseeing the extinction in some near future of “a comfortable hunting grounds” (320) from the earth. Natty has every reason to confess to Temple: “’No, no; we are not much of one mind. ... ‘” (291). He knows well that Judge Temple, negating “the unsettled life of these hunters” (220), can by no means comprehend his grief. The reading of Thomas Philbrick, who feels for Natty and his kind, is a rare case. This critic takes note of change being omnipresent in nature and human society in {8} the novel, and at the same time assures us that “The processes of nature yield life and plenitude; man’s activity is productive only of wounds and death.” 13

Now we should be careful not to forget there is one peculiar mode of building houses in Templeton. That is what is called “the composite order,” learned somewhere by Richard, and adopted by him and Doolittle. All you have to pay attention to is the essence of the composite order. It is Doolittle who explains about it: “’The composite order ... was an order composed of many others, and was intended to be the most useful of all, for it admitted into its construction such alterations as convenience or circumstances might require’” (43). Thus the composite order, entirely irrelevant to art or beauty, turns out to be a link in the chain of the utilitarian activities by a people aiming at material prosperity. The author of the novel himself takes cognizance of “deformity” or “incongruity” (46) inherent in the composite order, which is no doubt a modern mask for chaos. Deprecating it as “a hilarious melting-pot of incongruous imitative styles,” Edwin Fussell rightly suggests that it is “Cooper’s commanding emblem for American civilization in its formative stages.” 14


A dominant feature of the contents of The Pioneers that few critics have so far attached much importance to is men’s falsehood. Yet a perusal of the work would bring us to notice that most of the settlers of Templeton cannot escape this human weakness. As early as in Chapter I, Temple tries to have Oliver sell the above-mentioned carcass so as to pretend to the villagers to have shot the beast himself notwithstanding his clumsy shooting skill. Even after Richard has found out his trick and sneered at him, Temple mutters peevishly to his cousin: “’ ... it is by no means certain that I did not aid in destroying the buck. ... ‘” (80). A little later the Judge’s sly cousin betrays unwittingly that he himself has once committed the same sort of falsehood. Obviously he has wished to {9} appropriate credit from Natty who shot down a bird, maintaining: “’I never could tell yet, whether it was I or Natty who killed that bird; he fired first and the bird stooped, and then it was rising again as I pulled trigger’” (94). Also, as regards the treatment of the wound in Oliver’s arm caused by Temple’s misdirected bullet, Jones forges another sham account of the event. Although he has only picked lint out of the bandages handed to him by Todd, the quack of Templeton, and then held for a while Indian John’s basket with some Indian medicines in it, which John entrusted to him, he asserts: “’Dr. Todd and I cut out the bullet, and I and Indian John dressed the wound’” (94). Surely no one surpasses Richard in falsehood. Now a mooted point lies in Richard being the people’s favorite. This circumstance enlightens us on the general situation of Templeton where a variety of brags and sophistries are rampant and expected to increase as the settlement develops.

On the other hand, it is Natty and John that do not fail to lead a truthful life in a way opposite to that of Temple or Richard. Both the old men are honest to the marrow. The hunter’s faith is amply demonstrated by his acts throughout the novel, and Chingachgook, alias John, now deteriorated into a drunkard through the palefaces’ firewater, is able to declare: “’Did Mohegan ever lie? No; the truth lived in him, and none else could come out of him’” (463).

Falsehood in the settlers of Templeton is a central aspect of the chaos ubiquitous there. It is inseparably combined with a lack of self-restraint in them. Both the aspects of chaos exist as moral defects in an individual, and originate from that cult of man and man’s belongings, especially human reason, which characterizes modern civilization. In brief, chaos is the nature of all modern societies that disdain everything ancient. In that sense, Templeton is a harbinger in the New World of not only American societies but other modern societies all over the world.

In the settlement even Christianity cannot hinder falsehood from spreading among the people. Instead, it lends an impetus to the growth {10} of the settlement, just as testified by Natty’s caustic remark: “’I never know’d preaching come into a settlement but it made game scarce, and raised the price of gun-power. ... ‘” (147). Despite his piety, Natty has no intention to commit himself to the church, because it belongs to the settlement. He knows better than anyone else that Christianity in white civilization cannot offer its people moral principles and keep their moral integrity.

Nature, at times called wilderness or other ill-sounding names, has order in itself, being always in rhythmic, harmonizing processes. Amidst nature, men become at one with her, come to have order in themselves under the directions of their tribal mores that have been created from within the interrelation of nature and the tribe through the tribe’s immemorial history. On the contrary, a settlement where falsehood and artificiality prevail lets chaos penetrate to its foundation. Just as there is no synthesizing order with chaos, so the antagonism between wilderness and settlement in The Pioneers is forever irreconcilable.


On analysis, the most radical conflict in The Pioneers is found between the Indian way of living and the paleface way. 15 If you express this irreconcilable conflict in the most abstract terms, you get the dichotomy of order and chaos. The opposition of Natty Bumppo’s law against Temple’s, the comparison of things in nature with human artifacts, the contrast of Natty’s and Indian John’s truthfulness with falsehood in the settlers, and even the antagonism between wilderness and civilization, are only different manifestations of the same primary conflict between those two ways of living. It is this conflict that we may deem to be the leitmotif of the Leatherstocking Tales.

At the onset of The Pioneers the conflict is thought to have already started in the heart of Fenimore Cooper’s outlook on life. At the stage of the first work of the series, however, it was not yet within Cooper’s power {11} to develop enough the Indian way of living in his imagination. For one thing, with The Pioneers he was aiming at a bird’s-eye view of Templeton, in which even Natty plays a comparatively minor role. In each of the later novels of the series Cooper deals with actions and scenes marked by the Indian way far more freely and with much greater éclat under the guise of a romance. As is well known, D.H. Lawrence coined that celebrated phrase: “a decrescendo of reality, a crescendo of beauty” 16 (emphasis Lawrence’s) applying it to the process from the first book to the last of the series. Only he was attending to the mere surface of the tales. It was simply overlooked by Lawrence that Cooper projected one splendid picture of the redskins after another in the later novels as he was keeping his eye upon the chaotic conditions of the then white society. Contrary to Lawrence’s judgment, Cooper’s keen eye reached farther into the depth of reality as the series approached its end.

Another crucial theme of The Pioneers that has a close bearing on the primary conflict is the problem of fatherhood. As critics generally suppose, when Cooper began to try his hand at the novel, his own father William, a gentleman developer, was looming in his mind. Why on earth did William come to Fenimore’s vision in so early a stage of his career? The age of less than thirty-five ought to be too early to bring to one any nostalgia for one’s days gone by. In my view, it is because Fenimore himself longed unconsciously to be a great father. The secret impulse to be a true father seems to have been the ultimate drive of Fenimore both as man and writer from the beginning. That he sought his father figure in General Lafayette is also due to this same impulse. When one has a colossal soul, or in other words, one’s energy for life is of huge weight, one cannot refrain from wishing to be a father or a mother according to one’s sex; the greater one’s energy for life is, the more eagerly one longs for continuity. Now I use the word “continuity” with much the same import that Joseph Conrad, a disciple of Cooper, was to put in it about seventy years later in his masterpiece Nostromo, which tells about the {12} doom of fatherhood and sonhood in a transitional modern city. 17 It is because Fenimore wished for such continuity that after returning from his seven years’ stay in Europe he felt he would presently be forgotten in “the social pêle mêle,” 18 and afterward went so far as to dream of making himself an exile, confessing: “If I were even ten years younger, I would go to Europe instantly.” 19 That the problem of fatherhood is recognized to a greater or lesser degree in all the rest of the series proves how deeply Cooper was involved in it.

Judge Temple has frequently been taken for a father figure to Templeton. For instance, Dekker once called Temple “the Founding Father,” adding to this the appositive: “the man who tamed both the American mob and the American wilderness.” 21 In his recent book Warren Motley, who discusses fatherhood in some of Cooper’s white characters very elaborately, bases his argument on the premise that the Judge is functioning in the work as “the pioneer patriarch — the American Abraham.” 21 These opinions originate clearly from William Cooper’s being Temple’s prototype. In Chapter XXI of the novel, Temple reminisces: “’I had hundreds, at that dreadful time, daily looking up to me for bread. The sufferings of their families, and the gloomy prospect before them, had paralyzed the enterprise and efforts of my settlers. ... ‘” (257). Such miserable social conditions in Temple’s younger days might have been William’s own. Anyway, Temple here wishes to exist as provider for his people. And you should keep in mind that being a provider is no sufficient condition for being a father. After all, we submit that both Dekker’s opinion and Motley’s are erroneous, for either is given not alone in a political sense but in an ethical sense as well despite the materialistic bent of Temple’s mind.

To see what sort of man Cooper considered to be a father, you have only to refer to The Last of the Mohicans. In it the author applies the word “patriarch” repeatedly to Tamenund, the centenarian sachem of the Delawares. Tamenund’s figure contrasts vividly with that of Ishmael {13} Bush in The Prairie, who has often been mistaken for a patriarch. As a matter of fact, the word is never directly applied to Bush in the novel. Next to Tamenund as an Indian father figure comes Chingachgook, formerly the highest king of the Mohicans. It is recalled at this juncture that, unlike Natty, Indian John has stayed around Templeton until his death. The author explains John’s reason for it clearly, stating that ” ... and when the last lingering remnant of his nation extinguished their fires ... he alone had remained, with a determination of laying his bones in that country where his fathers had so long lived and governed” (90). The Indian has been unable to forsake his ancestors’ place out of respect and attachment. What is induced from all these is that fatherhood is an element of the hero who carries through tribal moral principles by incarnating them for the sake of the continuity of his tribe or race. Natty, blessed with neither any such worthy ancestors nor any sacred ancient home, might be more unfortunate than John. 22 Still more unfortunate than the hunter is Temple. For, besides having no better character and gifts than the hunter, he has never been able to comprehend the intrinsic value of the Indian way of living. 23

In The Pioneers the author appears to imply that genuine fatherhood can by no means survive in the sphere of modern civilization, one of whose early outposts is Templeton. If there were any possibility of fatherhood in and around Templeton, Natty would not have left there forever. Regrettably enough, the author of The Pioneers has not yet become aware of the full implications of this problem. So he is perhaps satisfied with inventing a lukewarm future father figure in Oliver into whose person American, European, and Indian ways of culture are apparently combined. Nevertheless, we need to know simultaneously that, whether the author himself perceived this or not, Judge Temple is charged with a tragedy of fatherhood — a tragedy of a man who, having enough potential to be a father, is not allowed to fulfill it, as he belongs to a chaotic society and cannot live for moral principles. 24 Meanwhile, {14} Temple’s faith shown in the event of his giving back to Oliver the land he was secretly entrusted with by the youth’s father endorses that potential of his.

At the last moment Natty starts for the wilderness hoping unconsciously to attain his own fatherhood. It is not until in The Prairie, where Natty, now a senile trapper, adopts Hard Heart, the young chief of the Pawnees, as a son, that he succeeds in attaining it in both form and spirit. Probably after death he will be a guiding star to the Indians, not the palefaces, assigned a seat in Indian legends. This is foreshadowed near the end of The Prairie in a scene in which an old Sioux instructs young Pawnees to “remember the just chief of the palefaces.” 25


Natty Bumppo has left Templeton of his own accord. Being merely driven out or ostracized is premised on no particular destination. In fact, Natty, whose habits “were so nearly assimilated to those of the savages” (91), has decided to enter the grounds which leave room for the Indian way of living. The ending of The Pioneers, in which Natty refuses to grant the young couple’s entreaty, virtually sets the pattern for all the conclusions in the rest of the series. This pattern is known to have two phases. Either Natty declines the palefaces’ request for him to stay with them, in favor of the wilderness, as in The Prairie (with Captain Middleton and Paul Hover as supplicants) and in The Deerslayer (with Judith Hutter as such), or, his white brethren having disappeared, he is left with one or more Indians as in The Last of the Mohicans (with Chingachgook and many of the Delawares lamenting over Uncas’s and Cora’s graves) and in The Pathfinder (with June deploring her husband Arrowhead’s death). Both phases are present in Natty’s decision, which is always motivated by his intent to abide by the Indian way of living.

Natty’s departure for the forest in The Pioneers shows that he himself feels exactly the irreconcilableness of the conflict between those two {15} ways. Fate has decreed that he choose one of them. So he has chosen what he believes superior and more suitable for his gifts and nature. But for this despairing irreconcilableness of the conflict Natty’s departure could not have been, in Wayne Franklin’s terms, “the last indictment issued against what in essence has forced him out.” 26 You may say my interpretation is too farfetched, reminding me of the last paragraph of the novel, where the author tells about Natty whose “rapid movements preceded the pursuit which Judge Temple both ordered and conducted” (505) and who was “the foremost in that band of pioneers who are opening the way for the march of the nations across the continent” (505). Perhaps no one reads these quotations and is not inclined to think for a moment that Cooper was also charmed by the shining vision of manifest destiny, mixing our forest hero’s function with Temple’s, or for that matter, Ishmael Bush’s. Nevertheless, this modicum of Cooper’s optimism is offset by his bitter realism loaded in “a parcel of bank-notes” (503) which Oliver offers to the leaving hunter; the youth in the final scene seems to have already been influenced so much by Temple’s materialism that he is blind enough to do such a worthless deed to the old man. To be sure, at the point of time of The Pioneers, Cooper did not yet acquire such a clear-cut consciousness of the radical weakness of modern civilization as is detected in the author of Heart of Darkness, an excellent novelette treating of another encroachment on a new corner of the world by modern white men. Still, in the four later tales of the series, more magnificently than in Conrad’s work, Cooper’s matured awareness enabled him to produce all manner of engaging dramas based on the tension brought about by the fatal primary conflict.


1 (New York: Viking Press, 1961), p. 54.

2 Lawrence, p. 55.

3 James Fenimore Cooper (Boston: Twayne Pub., 1962), p. 33.

4 James Fenimore Cooper, The Pioneers (New York: W.A. Townsend & Co., 1859), p. 175. Subsequent references to this edition, commonly called the Darley Edition, will be identified by page number. Only when coming upon self-evident mistakes in the original, will I refer to a few other editions, and quote the edition with necessary corrections.

5 Ringe, p. 37.

6 Ringe, pp. 34-35.

7 Ringe, p. 35.

8 Plotting America’s Past: Fenimore Cooper and the Leatherstocking Tales (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1983), p. 9.

9 Kelly, p. 21.

10 Kelly, p. 1.

11 James Fenimore Cooper the Novelist (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1967), p. 55.

12 Dekker, p. 46.

13 “Cooper’s The Pioneers: Origins and Structure,” PMLA, LXXIX (1964), p. 589.

14 Frontier: American Literature and the American West (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970), p. 34.

15 It need scarcely be said that the paleface way of living meant in this essay is linked with modern rationalistic humanism, which began mainly with the Renaissance and the Reformation. I do not contend that all phases of white men’s culture should be blamed.

16 Lawrence, p. 50.

17 Nostromo (London: Dent, 1975). In his introduction to the novel, Conrad relates of his protagonist Nostromo: “He is a man with the weight of countless generations behind him and no parentage to boast of. ... Like the People” (p. xx). Besides, in Chapter 11 of Part Third of the novel, Dr. Monygham, Conrad’s alter ego, says: “’Ah! that fellow has some continuity and force. Nothing will put an end to him’” (p. 512).

18 James Franklin Beard (ed.), The Letters and Journals of James Fenimore Cooper, III (Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1964), p. 330.

19 Beard (ed.), Letters and Journals, IV, p.439.

20 Dekker, p.57. By the way, Dekker is explaining the Leatherstocking Tales in his recent book, The American Historical Romance, on the strength of “stadialism” or the four-stage theory of civilization. The four stages are of hunting and fishing (“savage”), herding (“barbarous”), agriculture (“civilized”), and commerce and manufacturing (p. 75). Upon this theory, ” The Pioneers is a tale of the breath-takingly quick transition from the first to the third stage” (p. 87), and Natty Bumppo becomes “the first memorable victim of socio-economic progress in world literature” (p. 88). Relying on such a stereotyped white theory, Dekker considers Indians and Natty as belonging to the distant, “savage” past, instead of grasping their real being that never vanishes. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987).

21 The American Abraham: James Fenimore Cooper and the Frontier Patriarch (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987), p. 1. As for Temple, he cannot be looked upon as an Abraham, since he has no such traditional background as the biblical patriarch had. If any American Abraham can be found in the world of Leatherstocking, it will above all be an Indian like Tamenund or Chingachgook.

22 Yet Natty has happily been able to assimilate various manners of the redskins so much as to emerge a forest warrior in due course. The secret of his existence lies in his being initiated into Indian communities whose members are inseparably combined by following the same ancient rules and mores of their own. Evidently Kay Seymour House’s opinion in this respect is wrong: “The Judge is dedicated to communal interdependence and Natty to individual self-reliance.” Cooper’s Americans (Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 1965), p. 270. It is rather Temple who, leading a chaotic society where even men’s interdependence yields gain for a man like him, must cultivate individual self-reliance.

23 Stephen Railton takes Judge Temple for “Cooper’s unconscious submission to his father” and Natty Bumppo for “his unconscious need to resist him.” Fenimore Cooper: A Study of His Life and Imagination (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978), p.92. It is quite regrettable if such a psychoanalytic explanation limits our vision to a very narrow range and prevents us from seeing Natty as a true father.

24 In view of the tragedy of fatherhood in modern societies that Cooper must have felt to be his own too, we can estimate The Pioneers as well as each of the rest of the series as an eminent work of art, if based on Marius Bewley’s theory: “Each great, or even successful, work of art is an attempt to surmount a crisis in experience. The crisis is both private and impersonal; both cruelly one’s own, and participating in the wide cycle of history.” The Eccentric Design (New York: Columbia University Press, 1963), p. 18.

25 James Fenimore Cooper, The Prairie (New York: W.A. Townsend & Co., 1859), p. 478.

26 The New World of James Fenimore Cooper (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1982), p. 115.