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James Fenimore Cooper

Famous Themes Throughout His Work

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    After spending about 32 years as a writer and producing 48 books, James Fenimore Cooper was bound to have some recognizable themes throughout his work. Highly influencing American literature was not easy and neither was becoming of the best national novelists during his time. His books ranged from fiction to non-fiction and even included a play (Upside down; or the World in Petticoats). Throughout his collection of published works it is easy to notice the few themes that he uses, making his works distinguishable and unique. Below you will find a few examples of the themes that have truly made James Fenimore Cooper famous.

     The basic themes recognized in all or most of his works are American History, American Society, Nature & the Environment, Power & Violence, and Race. The theme of American society also extends to family and civilization. As well as nature & the environment correlate with the sea and the Frontier which are both highly used. Power, violence and race are also connected since sometimes one of those themes may lead to the next one. These recurring themes are seen throughout the works and can easily be connected to Cooper.

    James Fenimore Cooper enjoys writing about American History. He was the first to make the attempt of writing a “fully researched American novel” which was Lionel Lincoln in 1825. He also wrote about history in the non-fiction genre completing the first ever History of the Navy of the United States of America in 1839. Most of his works were related to aspects American culture, this lead to his great influence in early American literature.  Great works such as the first ever trilogy of American fiction (Satanstoe, 1845; The Chainbearer, 1845; The Redskins, 1846) are still famous today.

     Cooper also likes writing about the American society and culture. He was the first ever to write novels about manners. His very first book Precaution in 1820 was on this topic. Later other novels followed using the same theme; these include Homeward Bound and Home as Found in 1838. He also involved culture, society and civilization when talking about Indians and European settlers in books such as The Last of the Mohicans in 1826.

      Nature is also a prevalent theme among Cooper’s works. He wrote the very first novel about the sea, The Pilot in 1824. He also based many of his tales in the wilderness. The five volume epic romance of Natty Bumppo is a great example. He based this character on a hunter and frontiersman who spends most of his time in the wilderness throughout the five novels. These novels included The Pioneer, 1823; The Last of the Mohicans, 1826; The Prairie, 1827; The Pathfinder, 1840; and The Deerslayer, 1841 

     As one of the great Romanticist of his time, Cooper was successful at creating a mythical character and producing a five volume romantic epic about the character. He was the first ever to create a series of novels where he carried the main character from young to old age. The series includes The Pioneer, 1823; The Last of the Mohicans, 1826; The Prairie, 1827; The Pathfinder, 1840; and The Deerslayer, 1841.  This famous character is named Natty Bumppo and he is portrayed as an American Hero. “Natty Bumppo is a noble, wise figure who demonstrates extraordinary physical prowess—in short, the exemplar of a certain brand of man. In The Pioneers, for example, he staunchly stands by his principles of individual liberty, has intimate knowledge of the wilderness, and is a master of both the rifle and the fishing spear.”

      The themes of power, violence and race are seen in the many novels that deal with war. The Last of the Mohicans takes place between the French and Indian Wars. This is also a time that dealt with European settlers and the Indians. Power struggle and violence is seen between these two groups. Race and discrimination is also seen toward the Indians. These themes also reoccur in other works such as The Pathfinder and a couple of other titles.

By: Lilibet Aquino


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