Title: Action in Fenimore Cooper's tales
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00102846/00001
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Title: Action in Fenimore Cooper's tales
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Longino, Maranda Mazur Hunter, 1950-
Copyright Date: 1987
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Bibliographic ID: UF00102846
Volume ID: VID00001
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Resource Identifier: ltuf - AFB2387
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Full Text







Copyright 1987

Maranda Mazur Hunter Longino











Notes . . . . .


Journey . . . .
Quest . . . . .
Hunt . . . . . .
Notes . . . . .


Journey. . . .
Stalk . . .
Fight . . .
Chase . . .
Notes . . .


Movement . . .
Chains . . . .
Layers . . . .
Notes . . . .


Notes . . .


The American Return.
The American Urn .
Notes . . .



S . .



. . . 3

. . . 5

. . . 5
. . . 33
. . . 52
. . . 62

. . . . 67

. . . . 67
. . . . 8 1
. . . . 88
. . . . 10 8
. . . . 125

. . . . 128

. . . . 12 8
. . . . 141
. . . . 165
. . . . 189

. . . . 192

. . . . 2 35

. . . . 2 38

. . . . 2 38
. . . . 260
. . . . 291


The Symbolic Openings. . . ... 307
The Author As Actor/Act-er . .. 340
Notes. .. .. . ... .352

EIGHT CONCLUSION . . . . . ... .362

BIBLIOGRAPHY. . . . . . . . ... 367

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH . . . . . ... .380

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy




August 1987

Chairman: John B. Pickard
Major Department: English

This dissertation examines the action in the

extended fictions of James Fenimore Cooper. While

Cooper's use of action is undenied, no thorough study of

these actions has been made. This paper describes the

types of actions in Cooper's fictions, explains the

basic action ordering structures of the texts, and

illustrates the significance of Cooper's use of action

in his romances. Three of Cooper's primary actions are

internally motivated: journey, quest, and search or

hunt. His other three primary actions arise from

external motivations: fight or battle, stalk, and chase.

Motion, as distinct from action, is non-static narration

suggested or mandated by conventions associated with the

narrative format itself.

Motion and actions are structured two ways.

Serial structure yields "chains" of action, and

synchronous structure produces "layers." Chained

structures offer "place centered" narratives, which

illustrate Cooper's basic conceptualization that story

unfolds in a scene analogously to the way a drama

unfolds on a stage. Layered structures produce "act

centered" narratives, which vivify Cooper's belief that

actions tell "the truth" about human existence. Both

action ordering structures yield viable narratives.

The various actions and structures of three

representative Cooperian texts are examined. Lionel

Lincoln, an "early work," shows how the characters'

actions undercut their narrative roles. The two volume

set from Cooper's "middle" period, Homeward Bound and

Home as Found, reveals how this author's characteristic

doubling conveys his meanings. The Oak Openings, a

"late work," illustrates how Cooper's symbols,

including his use of symbolic actions, operate within

one of his unfortunately misjudged narratives.

As this study shows, Cooper's literary capabilities

are habitually undervalued because his focus upon and

utilization of action is generally unexamined. Cooper's

artistic achievement is better appreciated when the

actions animating his texts are understood.



"You will establish your reputation for activity

Lionel Lincoln
(X, 271)

If not for "ever," J. Fenimore Cooper did establish

a reputation for longer than any other American writer

of tales, and the reputation is certainly for "activity"

in these tales. According to Edgar Allan Poe, the tale
Cooper tells is a "succession of events." According to

William Cullen Bryant, Cooper's narratives are like

ships which fill the reader with delight as they pursue
their courses "at will, over the . waters."

According to Francis Parkman, Cooper's greatest

characters "move and act . .with all the truth and
energy of real life." Spiller finds Cooper to be "a

man of action rather than of mind" and the works to be
reflections of the man. Cooper "knew the art of .
movement," says Phelps. Lewis speaks of Cooper's "great
surge of motion"; House believes some of Cooper's
characters can only be known "by their actions"; Peck

finds Cooper's narrative structure "ordered on the basis
of constant motion"; Franklin believes the "lasting

significance of Cooper's novels derives from their . .

This dissertation will examine some of the
"energetic" portions of Cooper's works. While

Cooper's use of action is undenied, no thorough study of

these actions has been made. This paper describes the

types of actions in Cooper's fictions, explains the

basic action ordering structures of the texts, and

illustrates the significance of Cooper's use of action

in his romances. Chapter One defines three actions in

Cooper's fictions which spring from basically internal

motivations: journey, quest, and search or hunt.

Chapter Two discusses three actions which have their

inception in basically external sources: fight or

battle, stalk, and chase. Chapter Three examines two

ways Cooper structures his actions; serial structure

yields "chains" of action, and synchronous structure

produces "layers." Chapter Four examines Lionel

Lincoln, an "early work" by this author, and shows how

the characters' actions undercut their narrative roles.

Chapter Five offers a reading of the "doubled" actions

and aspects of Homeward Bound and Home as Found and

discusses how this "middle work" is a pivotal text for

the author. Chapter Six presents an explicatory study


of a "late work," The Oak Openings, and examines how

Cooper's symbols, including his use of symbolic actions,

operate within one of his unfortunately misjudged

narratives. As this dissertation shows, Cooper's

literary capabilities are habitually undervalued because

his focus upon and utilization of action is generally

unexamined. Cooper's artistic achievement is better

appreciated when the actions animating his texts are



1. From Edgar Allan Poe's review of Wyandotte in
Graham's Magazine 23 (1843) as reprinted in American
Romanticism: A Shape for Fiction, ed. Stanley Bank (New
York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1969) 182.

2. From the February 25, 1852 memorial speech
"Discourse on the Life, Genius, and Writings of J.
Fenimore Cooper" as reprinted in the Introduction to
Precaution (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1873; rpt.,
Grosse Pointe, Michigan: Scholarly Press, 1968 34.

3. Francis Parkman, "James Fenimore Cooper," North
American Review, 154 (January 1852): 148.

4. Robert E. Spiller, ed., James Fenimore Cooper:
Representative Selections, with Introduction, Biography,
and Notes (New York: American Books Company, 1936) ix.

5. William Lyon Phelps, Some Makers of American
Literature (1922; New York: Norwood, 1977) 44.

6. R.W.B. Lewis, The American Adam: Innocence,
Tragedy, and Tradition in the Nineteenth Century
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955) 103.

7. Kay Seymour House, Cooper's Americans (Columbus:
Ohio State University Press, 1965) 47. She is speaking
of the Indian characters.


8. H. Daniel Peck, A World by Itself: The Pastoral
Moment in Cooper's Fiction (New Haven: Yale University
Press, 1977) 92. He is discussing The Last of the

9. Wayne Franklin, The New World of James Fenimore
Cooper (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1982)

10. Unless otherwise identified, the texts used
are James Fenimore Cooper, Works of James Fenimore
Cooper, 10 vols. (New York: Peter Fenelon Collier,
1891-1893). Citations to chapter and page number are
made within the text.



Journey: Travel or Passage From One Place to

"He-e-e-re, he-e-ere, pups--away, dogs, away!--
ye'll be footsore afore ye see the end of the

The Pioneers
(XLI, 784)

Journey narratives, tales which take as an

organizational framework the description of travel

through space, are among the oldest and comprise some of

the most powerful literature in the world. Gilgamesh's

journey to the otherworld, Odysseus' journey homeward,

the Children of Israel's journey to a homeland, the

Wandering Jew's eternal journey, and the earliest

writings that can be considered American, Columbus'

voyage of exploration and John Smith's chronicle of

discovery of the New World--these seminal works are

travel tales.

"American literary tradition has been characterized

to a remarkable and peculiar degree by narratives and
images of journeys," notes Janis Stout. The earliest

American writings were of journeys to discover the New

World, journeys to escape the Old World, and journeys to

settle this "New Eden." The earliest American

"fictions," Joseph Morgan's The History of the Kingdom

of Basaruah (1715) and Benjamin Church's Entertaining

Passages on King Philip's War (1716), utilize the

journey as an organizational element. Journey is a

predominate aspect, too, in Ann Eliza Bleecker's The

History of Maria Kettle (1793), in all of Brockden

Brown's early works, and in Hugh Henry Brackenridge's

Modern Chivalry (1792-1815). All these American works

preceded Cooper's first narrative.

So it was that Cooper inherited and adapted a form

that was well-established in America for his tales which

treat travel, his journey narratives. It was a form in

which the major patterns were well-developed and

particularly relevant to the aspirations and beliefs of

his readers, both in the nineteenth century and now.

"The . distinctive power of American Literature has

in large part been a matter of the impact of motion, the
journey." Cooper's distinctively American fiction uses

the motion of the journey to good effect. Indeed, as

the following list indicates, twenty-five of Cooper's

tales include a journey, either thoroughly or sketchily

developed, in the first chapter.

The Spy

The Pioneers

The Pilot

Lionel Lincoln

The Last of the Mohicans

The Red Rover

The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish

The Prairie

The Water-Witch

The Bravo

The Headsman

Homeward Bound

Home As Found

The Pathfinder

Mercedes of Castile

The Deerslayer

The Wing-And-Wing


The Hidenmauer

A "solitary traveler" rides
through the rain.

Elizabeth, "journeying" home to
Templeton, meets Natty.

Two ships journey to anchorage.

Lionel ends his "tiresome and
protracted voyage."

The Munro sisters "journey in
the woods."

A "traveler" journeys near

Mark Heathcote takes a
"journey . inland."

The Bush family "travels" across
the west in a wagon train.

Van Beverout takes an "expedition"
through town.

Monforte enters his gondola
for a "passage" across Venice.

"Travelers" begin a voyage.

Eve is a "traveler" home.

Eve continues her journey "home."

Four "wayfarers in the wilderness"
pause in their "journey."

The "departure of an embassy"

Natty and Harry "journey"

A craft arrives in port.

Nick goes "on an important
movement" to secure a patent.

Two men meet on a forest path.

Miles Wallingford The characters "voyage."

Satanstoe The narrator's "journey" begins.

The Redskins "My uncle Ro and myself had been
traveling . five years."

The Crater Mark's first voyage is to
"the capes."

Jack Tier A ship departs on the tide.

The Oak Openings Three travelers meet a fourth
man in a forest glade.

Undeniably, the journey is a vital component at the
beginning of Cooper's fictions.

Janis Stout's comprehensive study of the journey

in American literature describes six main types of

narratives and notes different sub-genres of the
family. The types are

1) Exploration
2) Escape
3) The Home-Founding Journey
4) The Return to Home
5) The Journey to No End
6) The Quest

She notes the first three types are "the three primary,

the earliest, patterns of journey narrative in American

literature," and that the patterns for most of the types
are "goal-directed."

Accounts of exploration generally play a minor

role in distinctively American literature, although they

are used frequently in non-fiction works which have
"chiefly historical" focus. Any time Cooper's

characters stride into virgin forests or float on

uncharted seas, they explore. It is in this sense

of examining the "never before seen" that Stout

classifies exploration. Any time the narrative treats

a character's movement through a space new to that

character, exploration is described.

The crews in The Sea Lions "steer with an

undeviating course into the mysterious depths of the

antarctic circle" (XIV, 102) as they approach "Cook's

'Ne plus Ultra'" (104), and the tale carries them into

strange regions of frozen wonder where fiery volcanoes
and exotic creatures interrupt the weird ice-scape.

Cooper also penned a similar narrative of

exploration, treating the seminal American exploratory

travel, when he created Mercedes of Castile, the tale

of Columbus' first voyage to the New World. In this

narrative, too, after the crew comes to land much

description is given of the scene. The strange, and

occasionally lovely, natives and scenes and the curious

customs of the place are "explored" extensively. In

Mercedes of Castile Cooper makes use of a characteristic

narrative technique which often tends to distract the

reader's attention from the main action of the tale.

Cooper gives the focus of his attention to a predictable

romantic hero, the twenty-year old Luis de Bobadilla.

The title of the tale is the name of Luis' stay-at-home

beloved. While Cooper does chronicle Columbus' voyage

with an almost log-like precision, working, as he notes

in the Preface, "with the journal of the admiral" (3)

before himself, Cooper downplays the exploratory tale

by encapsulating it within the romance of Luis and


Despite narrative flaws and although the New World

exploration in Mercedes of Castile may be thought of, as

may the Antarctic exploration of The Sea Lions, as a

species of imaginary voyage for Cooper, who never

personally visited the Azores or the Indies, these two

tales amply illustrate Cooper's knowledge of the journey

of exploration as a form for fiction.

The observation must be made here that brief

"explorations" occur in nearly all of Cooper's tales.

Any time a character first views a space, he experiences

a moment of "exploration." When young Natty first

glimpses the Glimmerglass, although he is in the company

of one who has often traveled the location, he

"explores," at least, as far as he is concerned. As the

bushes part, "An exclamation of surprise broke from the

lips of Deerslayer, an exclamation that was low and

guardedly made . .when he beheld the view that

unexpectedly met his gaze. It was, in truth .

striking" (The Deerslayer, II, 15). Deerslayer says of

the place, "This is grand!--'tis solemn!--This is a

sight to warm the heart! (17) . "a glorious spot"

(21). Cooper notes that Natty "found a pleasure in

studying this large, and to him, unusual opening in the

mysteries and forms of the woods" (22). Although Harry

has visited the area numerous times, despite the

Hutters' established residency of the spot, and even

though Indians have hunted the locale for generations,

Natty "explores" the Otsego when first he arrives.

Literally scores of such scenes dot Cooper's tales.

Although such "explorations" are purely personal and

typically fleeting, they convey a small wonder at each


The narrative of escape, unlike that of exploration,

continues Stout, is "pervasive and of central concern.

S. It is the most fully characteristic form adopted
by the American imagination." Flight narratives, about

the Pilgrims and the Puritans, about soldiers in defeat

and Indians in retreat, about Natty Bumppo, America's

first great fictional hero who finds himself no longer

able to abide the transmogrified Templeton of The

Pioneers--these narratives are of escape. Fiction of

escape offers the "motivational build-up toward the

culminating act of breaking out. . The journey that
follows . is not typically elaborated."

An example of an undeveloped journey of "escape" in

Cooper's works appears at the close of The Sea Lions.


The romantic story line has already concluded with a

marriage between the hero, Roswell, and heroine, Mary.

Then follows this brief passage

Roswell . .sold his property and
migrated to the great West. . Mary . .
had seen certain longings after the ocean,
and seals, and whales, in her husband; and
did not consider him safe so long as he
could scent the odors of a salt marsh. (XXX, 231)

This migration "to the great West" is about as

unelaborated an escape as can be imagined; Roswell's

"motivational build-up" is similarly absent.

No journey action of note is to be found in Natty's

narrative of escape either, but his "motivational build-

up" is the core of The Pioneers. His conflicts with

Marmaduke Temple, who represents the force of

civilization, and his altercations with the law reveal

his desire to hold on to a philosophy and way of life

which is not a viable possibility in the changing

pioneer community. Natty, by the close of his first

narrative, has seen America's resources so depleted in

the Templeton area that his occupation is forever gone.

His home has been reduced to rubble. Major Effingham

and Chingachgook, and even Oliver and Elizabeth, no

longer need Natty's aid. As the old hunter loses

friends, fireside, and virgin forest, he suffers a

superfluity of motivations which build up within him.


Natty was originally conceived of as a secondary

character whose function was in opposition to that

served by Marmaduke Temple. Natty was created to lose

his struggle. Yet, as Bumppo's character came to life,

it grew. Cooper seems to have sensed the vital

potential Natty had, for the author changes the thrust

of Leatherstocking's actions in the closing few

paragraphs of the tale. Natty, as he makes clear, does

not leave Templeton on a journey of "escape."

While it can be argued that many of Natty's feelings

toward the end of The Pioneers may be concerned with

getting ready to "break out" of the Templeton area, none

of his actions illustrates this motivational build-up.

By the time he appears at the gravesites, Natty has

already focused upon a movement "to," and not "away

from." As Cooper describes the scene, Natty's "decisive

appeal" is not his early one, which does point toward a

motive of apparent "escape": "These [clearings] be

nothing. . I have took but little comfort [in them]

sin' your father come on with his settlers" (XLI, 783).

No, Natty's "decisive" argument which finally silences

Elizabeth indicates his forward-looking orientation:

"I'm formed for the wilderness. If ye love me, let me

go where my soul craves to be ag'in!" (783). Natty may

feel he must "escape," but he acts so as to return to

his proper home, the wilderness.

When journeys of escape are elaborated, Stout

maintains, they usually appear as a "series of new

compulsions or repeated acts of escape . .or as a
modulation into another form of journey." Such

elaborated journeys of escape often develop as action

narratives which are best seen as chase narratives. The

escaping prisoner, the settler fleeing Indian

hostilities, and the ship's crew flying before the

pirate or the enemy craft all act to escape only so long

as the pursuer remains proximate. While such action may

be lengthy, especially at sea, it is not so much one

unified action, as developed in Cooper's fictions, as it

is the sort "series" of repeated acts which Stout notes.

The acts of the escape, which are responsive acts that

the pursued takes only so long as his pursuer is

proximate end as soon as the threat is removed. If the

escaping character, once distance has been attained,

continues to journey, he does so for a new reason; his

journey of escape "modulates" into another type of

action. He may decide to return home, as does Natty; he

may choose to establish a new home, to explore, or

simply to keep in motion until some new person, place,

or thing attracts his attention and generates activity.

His choice is often influenced by the terminated escape

action; however, the journey taken, if any, after an

escape has a different focus than has the "pursued/pursuer"

orientation of escape/chase action.

Briefly then, the works of Cooper do utilize action

of the type called "journey of escape." During the

introductory period of motivational build-up, no action

occurs. The action which does finally occur and which

Stout calls "journey action" is better described as

"chase action" and is discussed at length below. Chase

action is one of Cooper's most effective forms.

No journey in Cooper's fictions is an exemplar of a

"journey of escape" similar to Huck Finn's, for Cooper's

escaping characters habitually do have a goal toward

which they move as soon as they are free to do so. The

"escaping" journeyer acts so as to move "away from" the

threat. Cooper's characters do not act throughout their

narratives so as to disengage; they seem to have a

desire to attain, to move "toward" a goal. They act to

secure a safe place, not merely to escape a hostile one.

Even his characters who do journey throughout their

tales, in action here called "quest action," do evince

an orientation toward some goal. That the goal remains

unattained does not alter their focus on it. Cooper's

briefly extended action of the chase does lead the

characters "away from" their foe. Cooper's extended

journey actions are movements "toward."

The Home Founding Journey, which frequently "begins
with escape," is generally hopeful or confident in tone

and focuses on the future, the new home to be

established. This journey is characterized by some, or

all, of the following: a pregnancy or successful new

birth, a focus on the method of the travel, the

development of a social order, and serial overcoming of

obstacles, usually presented by the terrain itself.

This form is "always to some degree collective, even if
only to the degree of being familial."

Cooper's first treatment of the Home Founding

Journey is in the pages of The Wept of Wish-Ton-Wish.

Chapter I opens with the usual introductory exposition,

but this introduction reveals the modulation of journey

of escape into journey of exploration and into home

founding journey.

A colony of self-devoted and pious
refugees from religious persecution had
landed on the rock of Plymouth, less than
half a century before. . The labors of the
emigrants had been chiefly limited to the country
on the coast . But enterprise, and a desire
to search for still more fertile domains, together
with the temptation offered by the vast and
unknown regions . had induced many bold
adventurers to penetrate more deeply into the
forest. The precise spot [of the setting] was one
of those establishments of what may .. be
called the forlorn hope in the march of
civilization through the country. (I, 378)

The elder Heathcote had settled this region a

generation past, taking a "voluntary exile" from

England. "The very day he landed in the long-wished-for

asylum, his wife made him the father of a noble boy"

(388). Twenty years after this event, the father

"announced . that he intended for a second time to

establish his altars in the wilderness" (389).

Neither person nor property was transferred
from place to place, in this country, at the
middle of the seventeenth century, with the
dispatch and with the facilities of the present
time. The roads were necessarily few and short,
and communication by water was irregular, tardy,
and far from commodious. . Accompanied by a
few followers, he proceeded on an exploring
expedition, and . established . an estate
in the colonies. (390)

The birth of a son, the difficulty of locomotion along

the poor roads or via water, the collective nature of

the "followers", and their pre-established social order

point to a typical, albeit underdeveloped and sketchily

presented, home founding journey.

Wyandotte also opens with a home founding. Cooper

sets the stage for the journey like this

Our present tale now leads us to the
description of one of those early personal or
family settlements . in . a very remote
part of the territory. . Captain Willoughby
had married an American wife, and . .a son and
daughter were born . .. An adopted child was
also added to his cares. Our limits and plans
will not permit us to give more than a sketch of
the proceedings of the captain in taking
possession . . Our adventurers made the most
of their journey by water. After finding their
way to the head of the Canaideraga, mistaking it
for the Otsego, they felled trees, hollowed them
into canoes, embarked, and, aided by a yolk of
oxen that were driven along the shore, they wormed
their way . descending [a] river until they

reached the Unadilla, which stream they ascended
until they came to the small river . that ran
through the captain's new estate. The labor of
this ascent was exceedingly severe. (I, 6, 8-9)

The remainder of the chapter recounts with fair

detail the "hutting," the transportation of goods, the

opening of a natural dam, the planting, the

construction of a saw-mill, the first harvest, the

beginning of construction on a house, and the return of

Willoughby to his family, preparatory to their

departure to their wilderness home. In both The Wept

of Wish-Ton-Wish and Wyandotte, Cooper's home-founding

journeys modulate fairly rapidly into other narrative


However, in two of Cooper's tales home founding is

seen to be a more lengthy process. In Satanstoe Corny

Littlepage and the Mordaunt entourage journey to found a

home. The Mordaunt females travel in "a covered

vehicle" that transports "many articles of furniture,"

and the black servants have another "conveyance, strong,

spacious, and covered" (XIX, 321). The party is a large

one; a score of settlers moves into the woods.

Initially, the passage is fairly good.

Of roads, however, we were not long to enjoy
the advantages. . Herman Mordaunt was obliged
to quit his wagons, and to put all the females on
horseback. . [A]fter a delay of half a day, time
lost in making these arrangements, we proceeded.
The wagons were to follow, but at a slow pace, the
ladies being compelled to abandon them on account
of the ruggedness of the ways, which would have

rendered their motion not easy to be borne. . .
[T]he uneven road .. .soon became very little
more than a line cut through the forest, with an
occasional wheel-track, but without the least
attempt to level the surface of the ground by any
artificial means. (XX, 335)

As the journeyers approach their destination, Herman

Mordaunt tells Corny about the cost and trouble "in

getting the ten or fifteen families who were on his

property, in the first place, to the spot itself" (340).

Because these journeyers have an already erected

"log building" which Herman Mordaunt's agent has

prepared for his family, the only actual beginning of

settlement itself occurs at Mooseridge, Corny

Littlepage's prospective home. The choosing, felling,

cutting, notching, placing, filling of chinks, and

roofing over of the trees is described. "We were quite

a week in completing our house," Corny states (XXI,

353). The initial journey is complete by Chapter XXI,

but Corny's narrative of home founding does not end

until the very last page of the tale. He concludes,

"Early in October [Anneke and I] were married, and the

remainder of the telling of the tale "may fall to the

share of my son Mordaunt, should he ever have the grace

to continue this family narrative" (XXX, 511). More

than fifty chapters later, Cooper lays the Littlepage

family to rest.

But, at least, Hugh Littlepage, of The Redskins,

does finally rest. The Bush family, on the other hand,

is last seen in the final chapter of The Prairie

"Pursuing their course . the principals of the

family themselves . never heard of more" (XXXII,

429). This clan departs the tale as they entered, still

seeking, "Whatever might be the final destination" (I,


The Return To Home is not usually "as congenial a

form in American literature" because American authors

often present such returns through narratives that

indicate "defeat, frustration, and the giving up of
freedom" to be the result of the return. While many

American authors felt a strong need to "define

themselves" and their homeland by reference to Europe,

their resultant fictions are "freighted with the irony
of conflicting motives and ideals." Cooper treats the

return to a European home extensively in Notions of the

Americans, a nonfiction work, but he does not structure
a romance upon such a return.

John Paul Jones' "return" to Great Britain in The

Pilot does not qualify as a narrative created to

illustrate his "self-definition" via a return to

European home; it is a tale of adventure which depicts a

hero already fully developed. Miles Wallingford does,

finally, travel to England, but his "definition of self"

occurs in so many places--in Canton, off Sumatra, near

Madagascar, off Guadeloupe, by Virginia, in New York, on

a voyage "around the world" (to Madeira, Rio de Janeiro,

British Columbia, Hawaii, Ecuador, Marble Land, and New

York), to France, Russia, and Italy--that it would be

foolish to label his brief English sojourn as a "return

to home." In The Bravo, The Headsman, The Heidenmauer,

and The Wing-and- Wing, Cooper's scenes are European,

but so are his characters. Cooper does not offer a

full-blown narrative of an American character returning

to the European home to "define" himself.

It may be that Cooper felt he had offered quite

enough "definition" via European return in his non-

fiction works, or it may be that he had hit on the mode

that best suited his own temperament in the first

attempt, the "Notions" technique of an American

character's return to America as a self-defining return.

Whatever the reason, Cooper frequently treats the return

to the American home as the journey most rewarding for a

structure in his tales.

Lionel Lincoln returns to Boston after a seventeen-

year absence and feels "the place begins to freshen my

memory, and I now recall the scenes of my childhood"

(Lionel Lincoln, II, 219). The mysterious Ralph, also

returning to America after a stay in England, states, "I

have noted the increase of the town as a parent notes

the increasing stature of his child; nor is my love for
it less than parental" (II, 222). Both men return to

home and learn who they are in that place.

Elizabeth Temple, returning home after four years in

New York, examines Templeton as it bursts into sight

before her.

The scene . was so rapidly altering under
the hands of man that it only resembled in its
outlines the picture she had so often studied with
delight in childhood. . [S]o 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.
(The Pioneers; III, 562)

Mixed with the self-definition of the experience of the

return to home is a type of wonder, similar to the

wonder of discovery, if the returning traveler has been

absent from home for an appreciable time.

The "wonder" of rediscovery of the American home is

often not a pleasure-filled one. Perhaps the most

painfully "wonderful" return Cooper offers is Hugh Roger

Littlepage's journey back to upstate New York in The

Redskins. Although Cooper's polemical purposes

overshadow his characters and plots severely, the action

is "return to home" and Hugh's "self-definition" is as

lengthy as it is painful. While the changes in America

are profound, the hero changes not at all as he

rediscovers his home and defines himself in relation to

it. Despite the loss of his pew canopy and a barn, he

retains his property in defiance of the anti-renters and

secures his beloved, Mary Warren. He is a "sadder man,"

but not a "wiser" one in any meaningful sense of the

word. This is because he is one of Cooper's perfectly

"proper" heroes. Such characters, which function as

vehicles for conveying the author's message, need no

improvement. They are as good as is humanly possible.

All Hugh actually seems to learn is that America does

indeed have severe problems which must be borne because

they cannot apparently be remedied. With a species of

melancholy wonder at the facts of his life, Hugh makes

the best of that life, of himself, his extensive

property, and his heiress wife. While his journey has

altered his location in space and his companions, it has

not materially changed the man. Yet, when he is finally

properly "home," no more need be said.

In Homeward Bound and Home as Found Cooper offers

his fullest homeward journey, another return to an

American home. The journey itself seems to have taken

control of the author. As Cooper writes in the Preface,

[Homeward Bound] was commenced with a sole
view to exhibit the present state of society in
the United States, through the agency, in part, of
a set of characters . who had freshly arrived
from Europe, and to whom the distinctive features
of the country would be apt to present themselves
with greater force. . By the original plan,

the work was to open at the threshold of the
country, or with the arrival of the travelers
[home]. . But . .the work [grew until it
was found to be] actually closing at, or near, the
spot where it was originally intended it should
commence. (475)

This return to America after a twelve years' absence is

a journey that takes 52 chapters to effect. After

several chases, a gale, a transfer to another ship, an

expedition to Africa, an escape, an attack, another

escape, a bloody fight, yet another escape, and several

score lesser actions, Eve arrives in the New World. But

her journey is still far from over, for she must yet

travel the Hudson by steamboat and the Mohawk Valley by

canal boat and carriage, a further seventeen chapter

hegira, before she arrives at home. Needless to say,

somewhere along the way Eve manages to "define" herself

in response to her home-seeking journey.

The Journey to No End, the futile travel "of

uncertain destination or duration" has become the
characteristic American vehicle. This journey of

lostness is a journey of futility, of "rootlessness and
disorder." Many modern American fictions delineate

this journey, which has come into full flower in this

century. While Cooper did not make full-blown use of

this type, the zeitgeist of his era not resembling that

of our later times in this respect and the author's own

attitudes shaping a fictive world that seems ultimately

to have an orientation on a home place, Cooper does

offer certain examples of this journey type as early as
1824 in The Pilot.

The Pilot contains Cooper's first reference to The
Flying Dutchman. Long Tom Coffin asserts that, while

he himself has never seen the ship, he has "seen them

that have seen her, and spoken her, too" (XXI, 123). In

The Red Rover a ship, strangely out of place on the

ocean, calls to mind "the Flying Dutchman (XIV, 323).

While one character opines that this ship "can never be

the Dutchman," a common sailor notes that he "will not

swear that a real living ship" follows the Royal

Caroline through the worsening storm. House likens the

hero of this narrative to Odysseus, noting the fact that
he journeys throughout all of the romance. However,

he is ultimately seen to be a simple human whose journey

does end. It is in the reference to the Flying Dutchman

that Cooper offers the journey to no end.

Folklore has it that the Dutchman is a plague ship,

denied entry at every port where she calls. Eventually,

all aboard die. but the ship sails on. Crewed entirely

by corpses, the Dutchman can be seen in stormy weather,

often off the Cape of Good Hope, a wandering ghost-

vessel, doomed to journey without arrival, forever

tossed on the seas of ill-luck.

On a less legendary note, the closing action of The

Water-Witch offers a journey to no end. Tom Tiller, the

Skimmer of the Seas, bids a final adieu to his beloved,


"Whither go you?" she asked . "Whither
do you sail, and when do you return?"
"I follow fortune. My return may be distant--
never! Adieu, then, Eudora. . .
"We will go together! I am thine . .
Away, away!" cried the frantic girl .
"Think, for one moment, think!" he said.
"Thou wouldst follow an outcast--an outlaw--one
hunted and condemned. . With a ship for a
dwelling--the tempestuous ocean for a world!"
"Thy world is my world!--thy home my
home--thy danger, mine!"

Eudora was lifted from the ground as if her weight
had been that of a feather . she was borne to
the boat. In a moment the bark was afloat. . .
It lingered for a minute, and was swallowed in the
void. . It never returned. (XXXIV, 719-720)

On an utterly mundane level, Sancho Mundo of

Columbus' crew says that "sailing about the ocean is

[his] happiness" (Mercedes of Castile, XVII, 271). He

has been a wanderer for so long that "it sickeneth [him]

and taketh away the appetite, to walk on solid ground

"(XIV, 226). Throughout his life whenever his voyage

has ended he "has submitted to fate, and [gone] out

again, as soon as possible" (XIV, 227). This character

who wanders without end has some ties to shore; Sancho

was born on the land.

However, like Zephyr on The Water-Witch, Long Tom

Coffin is so much the journeyer to no end that he "was

born on board a chebacco-man, and never could see the

use of more land than now and then a small island to

raise a few vegetables" (The Pilot; II, 10). His life

begins in a state of journey, and it continues in that

same manner until his death, and beyond. The last view

of Tom shows him being swept rapidly through the brine

amidst the wreck of his beloved Ariel (XXIV, 150). His

body is never found; the sea, not giving up its "own"

dead, rocks him in an eternal, tumultuous embrace.

All of the journey types that American authors have

ever used are to be found in the works of Fenimore

Cooper. Not only does he utilize all the identifiable

types, but also he uses journey for both prosaic and

imaginative ends. At their most literal, journey

narratives are travelogues. The travelogue may consist

of a basic guide describing accommodations, meals, means

of locomotion, and worthwhile sights along a route.

Stripped of all fictive and imaginative devices, this

form, found even today in tourist guides, has no

pretenses at "literature." Portions of Cooper's non-

fiction approach this level of journey narrative. At

other times, Cooper takes pains to use his basic journey

framework as a soapbox for declamation of social

commentary, criticism, and panacea.

At the far end of the spectrum, Cooper writes

journeys of the sort which Philip Babcock Gove names
"Imaginary Voyages." Gove differentiates

grandss voyages" from little voyages, which he names

"journeys" or "trips," but he then specifically notes

that length in days or miles does not offer a method of

determination and that it does not matter if the account

fails to sustain the entire text. Types of "Imaginary

Voyages" include Utopias, Robinsonades, sea novels,

picaresques, chroniques scandaleuse, and framework conte
de fee tales. Gove concludes by calling all such

works "geographical fiction, comparable in scope to
historical fiction."

Cooper utilized the imaginary journey comfortably.

The Crater offers a polemical Utopian tale. Mark

Woolston endures numerous mishaps before he arrives at

the Edenic island in the Pacific which he names Vulcan's

Peak, colonizes, and eventually abandons when its other

settlers, wresting control from the founding father and

discoverer, "spoil" the purity of his simple social

order. When the tale closes, the entire island has sunk

back beneath the surface of the ocean which originally

covered it. The Monikins recounts two voyages, one to

Leaplow, a land remarkably like the United States, and

the other to Leaphigh, a country marvelously similar to

England. In one respect, however, the two lands are not

like any place in the world: denizens of both are

monkeys. Both these tales are social commentaries; both

make use of completely imaginary voyages as a way to

arrive at locations which are developed polemically.

Cooper's narratives cover the full spectrum, from

the unremittingly mimetic to the thoroughly imaginative.

He moves at will between the two worlds, sometimes

within the same tale. In Lionel Lincoln Boston is a

"nightmare world," and the tale is the most Gothic
Cooper ever wrote. Yet the location is the one Cooper

researched the most carefully and that he described with

the greatest fidelity to actual, physical location. In

The Water-Witch, "the real and unreal are brilliantly
interwoven." The Leatherstocking Tales, too, exhibit

Cooper's easy movement between the two extremes of

journey presentation. The Deerslayer nicely illustrates

the polar opposites.

In Chapter XXVII, Natty takes to a canoe in an

ultimately vain attempt to escape his captivity in the

Indian camp on the banks of the Otsego. Approaching the

bark, he finds "that the paddles had been removed! . .

[G]iving a right direction to its bow, he ran off into

the water, bearing the canoe before him, and threw all

his strength and skill into a last effort, and cast

himself forward so as to fall into the bottom of the

light craft." Natty's actions for the next half hour

are most realistically described: taking out his knife

"to cut a hole through the bark in order to get a view

of shore," being shot at, hitching his body along with

the utmost caution" to get "his eye at the bullet-hole,"

moving a "large, round, smooth stone . to keep the

trim of the light boat while he worked his own body as

far aft as possible," having his skin "actually grazed"

by another bullet, "rowing without the necessity of

rising" by use of a stick, and feeling "his face fanned

by the air" as his exertions yield the desired result.

This finely textured and minutely rendered description

continues into Chapter XXVIII without ever once moving

away from unremitting realism.

At the other extreme, Cooper gives his reader an

earlier picture of Natty, with "a window in his breast

through which the light of his honesty was ever shining"

(IX, 83), afloat in the ark at night upon the


In this manner half an hour passed, during which

time the ark had been slowly stealing over the water,

with the darkness thickening around it . while the

mountains that lined the sides of the beautiful basin

were over-shadowing it, nearly from side to side. There

was, indeed, a narrow strip of water in the center of

the lake, where the dim light that was still shed from

the heavens fell upon its surface, in a line extending

north and south; and along this faint tract--a sort of

inverted milky-way . the scow held her course (84).

Out of this reflected dreamscape, Hetty paddles a

canoe. Her body is "dimly visible, resembling a

spectral outline of a human form standing on the water,"

and it is illuminated faintly by "that species of milky-

way" which Deerslayer calls "Natur's dim road" (84).

Only in an imaginary voyage can a person float atop the

Milky Way and encounter spectral forms standing on the


Both mimetically and imaginatively, Cooper utilizes

his American journeys. He also evinces a conscious use

of the journey "out and back." Cooper's habitual

utilization of this journey pattern seems to indicate

his understanding of the symbolic dimensions of the

movement. As the journey away from home and back to it

was to be raised into unmistakable symbolic dimensions

by Hawthorne, and a host of following American authors,

it is noteworthy that Cooper was apparently so fond of

the pattern. In The Sea Lions the romantic hero,

Roswell Gardiner, departs from his home a callow youth.

During the almost unimaginably harsh winter in the

Antarctic, he finds a proper faith in God. Cooper says:

"Roswell Gardiner has never wavered in his faith, from

the time when his feelings were awakened by the just

view of his own insignificance, as compared to the power

of God" (XXX, 232). As a fact, Cooper's journeys "out

and back" include the actions of major or minor

characters in every single narrative he wrote. All his

tales contain movements away from and back to homes or

safe places. This characteristic journey action is

discussed extensively below. Sometimes the return to

area of origin is treated briefly, sometimes the place

of debarkation is slighted, sometimes the journey itself

is of small magnitude or brief duration, and sometimes

the response of the returned journeyer is not given at

all; however, the characteristic "out and back" movement

is ubiquitous.

The journey need not function as a symbol for man's

own process of maturity. Sometimes, in those

narratives by Cooper that take the characters to the

famous "neutral ground" between combatants or between

civilization and nature, the journey is a representation

of human conflict. As Stout notes, the journey in

American literature functions both as "a real event in
time and a timeless symbolic action." Cooper was

certainly aware of at least some of the import which

journey can be seen to have in his narratives. The fact

that he did not make conscious use of the form at all

times and in all places does not subtract from the fact

that he did make use of the form in all narratives in

multiple places.

Somewhere within Cooper the idea that journey was

somehow the "proper" movement for Americans had a

tenuous hold. In the same place within the minds of the

citizens, and in the fictive creations that speak and

act for the real people, was and is the same conviction.

Americans move as much as they do because they must;

their heroes do too. An examination of how Cooper

utilizes his various journeys, as well as his other

action types, both illuminates any particular text and

helps to explain his artistic talent.

Quest: A Seeking; Adventure; Usually
Involving a Journey

"Life is a pilgrimage, and a penance; though few
of us think so while journeying on its way; but so
it is to all. . .

The Heidenmauer
(XXIV, 751)

Because the quest usually involves a journey, Stout

discusses this action as a sub-genre of the family.

However, as Peter Revell has discussed, real differences

exist between simple journey and action of quest or of

search or hunt. In Quest in American Poetry he

discusses the differences among journey, quest, and

search or hunt. He notes that a journey is merely a

series of adventures. He states that quest and search

both have an underlying basis in pursuit of goal "but

that 'quest' seems to . imply (though the standard

dictionaries do not support this view) something

different from a search--the searcher knows what he is

looking for . while the quester seeks to find
something not completely known."

The quest differs from simple journey because the

ultimate goal of the quester is both "radically

uncertain" and "radically significant. . Equally
uncertain is the route that the quester must follow."

Further, when journey action ends, the journeyer simply

stops acting; when quest action closes, the quester is

typically emotionally affected and often either

radically transmogrified by the experience or destroyed

by the act.

As the questing hero moves toward his goal, his

interchanges with his fellows in society make clear his

basic loneliness. This loneliness is, as Blackburn has

noted, "the outgrowth of the sense of failed identity,

of the instability of an inferior social standing, and
of the failure to find human solidarity." Richard

Bjornson, speaking of the European novel, notes that the

questing hero exhibits ambiguous links with his own

past, that he always leaves home, that he undergoes some

sort of initiation, and that his contacts with his world

reveal its dehumanization and its pressures to

Cooper's questing characters are usually odd specimens

of humanity, as they would almost have to be. After

all, the quester is both isolated from humanity

emotionally and disjuncted from people spatially,

seeking through his world for a goal that his fellows do

not value with his intensity of emotion. The titular

character in Jack Tier is a short, waddling little

figure with a cracked voice, and Jack seems particularly

representative because he is notably peculiar in word

and deed. Boarding the Molly Swash from a skiff at sea,

Jack spins a yarn that he was accidentally left on an

island twenty years past and that he has been shipping

on other vessels ever since, trying to rejoin Captain

Spike and the Molly's crew. Spike cannot remember Jack,

but hires him on anyhow. The captain is a drinking

privateer, coarse and violent. When Spike attempts to

abduct the heroine, Jack rescues her and they escape;

however, at the first opportunity, Jack rejoins the

"willian" Spike.

When the Molly Swash sinks, Spike flings Jack out of

the yawl, but the game little character swims to safety

and is next seen wearing female attire, assiduously

mending clothing beside the hospital bed where Spike,

mortally wounded, is soon to die. This female, then, is

"Jack Tier--for it was he, appearing in the garb of his

proper sex, after a disguise that had now lasted full

twenty years" (XVI, 395). And for twenty years Jack has

quested across the oceans of the world seeking Stephen

Spike because, as she reveals to him, "I am your wife!"

(XVI, 405). Abandoned by her husband, Jack (Mrs. Spike)

has spent two decades seeking him out, forced to live as

a man so the quest could continue. "It is hard for a

woman to unsex herself . to throw off her very

natur' . and to turn man" (XVII, 411), but it is far

from impossible if the woman has reason enough for her

actions. Jack Tier's motivations are sufficient, and

"his" peculiarities are explained when "her" true sex is

revealed. Her questing ends when Spike dies. She

remains in skirts, remembers how to cry, and comes to

forgiveness. Subsequently, she grows out her hair,

leaves off chewing tobacco, and becomes a sort of old

maid aunt to the child born to the hero and heroine.

Once her quest action concludes, she becomes a "normal"

female person again.

With quest, as with journey, the character moves in

response to an internal motivation. Yet, the character

who journeys moves from one place to another place; a

character who quests moves from one place to some thing.

The quest object may well be another place, as is

evident. Religious pilgrimages are quests to attain


Cooper's only full blown religious pilgrimage

occurs in Chapters XXIV-XXIX of The Heidenmauer. In

this text, the pilgrims journey afoot to expiate the sin

of their community, the burning of a local Bavarian

abbey. Of their number, only three seem to display the

properly reverent attitude of religious pilgrim; the

remaining dozen characters seem simply to be journeying

because they are forced to do so. The three true

pilgrims, Father Arnolph, a deeply devout Catholic,

Lottchen Hintermayer, who believes her only child to

have died, and Meta Frey, who loves the assumedly

deceased Hintermayer son, display the requisite

emotions for people on pilgrimage. They pray often and

fervently. They weep, faint, or stand transfixed by

awe. They are the least interesting members of the

group as they follow along after the leaders to the

shrine in Switzerland.

None of the proper pilgrims displays the sort of

sublimely transcendent union of quester with quest

object which proper quest narratives offer. Cooper

could understand, intellectually, the concept of

Catholic religious pilgrimage; however, he was not able

to comprehend the emotional verity of the act. This

single pilgrimage he offers, his sole religious quest,

is a failure. As a journey, the action is successful

enough. The dozen members of the group who are just

going along according to instructions are interesting

characters and they offer comic relief. But as a quest,

the action is unfortunately flawed. The three devout

pilgrims fail to come to life as they act. However,

even though the pilgrimage in The Heidenmauer is not a

good example of a religious quest to a sacred shrine, it

does reveal Cooper's knowledge of this particular form

of quest action.

Other quests found in Cooper's works are not

movements to special place; questers may move toward an

object, a person, or some ideal state of consciousness.

For example, the term "quest" is often given to

narratives involving no spatial journeys at all. While

Stout maintains that "the designation quest for a purely

mental yearning and effort" is a misnomer, she notes

that it is with this externally inactive form of the

quest that American journeys "have their strongest
affinities." While the concept of quest without

"movement" is possible, the idea of "journey" without

"movement" is absurd. Some quests involve no journey;

quests are different from journeys.

One way to see the difference between the two

actions is to examine the emotional intensity of the

quester's evaluation of the quest object. Another way

is to examine the emotion in the rhetoric surrounding

the moment of attainment of quest object. The quest

object, unlike the object of attainment for the

journeyer (i.e.: "journey's end"), may be either

materially real, physically obtainable or abstract,

ultimate, and intangible. Journey's end is the place

where action stops; quest's end may be anyplace--or no

place at all, in the sense that the quester may have to

die and depart all earthly places to attain his object.

When the journeyer finishes his action, he turns to some

other relatively average activity. When the quester

achieves his goal, he experiences an apotheotic moment

of emotional release, a transcendent instant.

The quest object itself, its intrinsic value, is

immaterial. Ahab pursues a whale; Gatsby a light. It

is the quester's personal evaluation of his quest

object, the "radically significant, beyond definition or
rational assessment" value he gives the item which

invests the object with its import. With a monomaniacal

orientation on the object, the quester gives pursuit.

He follows after his goal with such intensity that he

comes to view the real world around himself as somehow

not real any longer. Often the quester is frightened by

the world, or mystified by it, or horrified. Only when

he attains his desire, his quest object, is he content

with a contentment which appears apotheotic to non-


Cooper wrote no quest narratives of the caliber of

Moby Dick; he was not the artist Melville was. But he

did attempt quest narratives. Jack Tier's quest for

reunion with Captain Spike and the several characters'

pilgrimage to Switzerland in The Heidenmauer are two

examples. Three other quests that Cooper penned are

effective and merit lengthy examination.

In the hopes of beginning an extensive chronicle of

American history, Cooper wrote Lionel Lincoln. Readers

of his era and of subsequent ones agree that the tale is

a failure. Cooper mishandles his plot, stifles his

characters, and makes the wrong choice with his tone.

The only truly interesting character in the narrative is

Ralph, and he is not the hero. Because Ralph is not the

focus, his actions are not followed. Because of his

under-development, his quest is not immediately


Ralph, unbeknownst to all, is actually Sir Lionel

Lincoln, a baronet; he is also a lunatic, escaped from

an English madhouse. Not surprisingly, given his

peculiar manner of speaking and his even more unusual

appearance, the other characters view Ralph with scorn,

confusion, and fear. To one woman, he "is some madman"

(XII, 283). To another, he is not human at all; "he can

even read our secret thoughts, as I had supposed man

could never read them" (XIV, 291). To Meriton, Ralph is

a "disagreeable old stranger . with his mean, filthy

bundle of rags" (I, 214); to Lionel, Ralph is

"remarkable . [hallowed] by the air of great age and

attendant care" (VIII, 255). The idiot savant, Job,

"worships [Ralph] as a God" (VIII, 258); the heroine,

Cecil, hears his voice and "instantly recalls] the

tones of the aged messenger of Death" (XXX, 388).

Ralph has left behind his home, distancing himself

so far from his past that even his name is lost. "I am

returned from a sad, sad pilgrimage" (I, 215), Ralph

intones, and he says, "I am alone . .without love"

(VI, 244). Ralph is so alienated from humanity that he

says he finds all the people in all the world evil, and

all their acts vile. "All is treachery and sin" (IV,

231), he raves at one point. Ralph is so far severed

from his proper past that he seems to have actually

forgotten how old he is; chronologically no more than

fifty years old, Ralph moans of his great age and of the

"generations" of sinful men which he has seen pass away.

He states that he has borne "the burden of life till

Death has forgotten him" (XXXIII, 403), and in the

saying he reveals his quest.

I, who have seen ages pass since the blood of
youth has been chilled, and generation after
generation swept away, must still linger in the
haunts of men! (XXXI, 396). . 'tis the old
that cannot die. . I [grew] to manhood, and
learned] how hard it is to live, but .. I
cannot die! (XXXIII, 402-403).

Ralph is on quest throughout his narrative, peripherally

and dementedly, it is true, but he quests after his own

death. When he is finally granted his desire and death

comes to him, "a ray of passing reason lighted his

pallid and ghastly features, . his look gradually

softening. . A calm and decent expression possessed

those lineaments . and, stretching forth his arms in

the attitude of benediction . he fell . .

perfectly dead" (XXXIII, 405). Ralph's "interests," as

he states early in the narrative, are all "already in

the grave" (IV, 231). When he attains union with his

goal, his Gothic quest ends.

Various actions by Natty Bumppo, the most

extensively studied character in Cooper's canon, have
been seen as quest actions. Walker labels the action

in The Deerslayer "quest" action, arguing that the

narrative of Natty's first kill can be seen as action

with "religious overtones suggestive of the quest for
the pure in heart for the Holy Grail." Peck believes

The Last of the Mohicans to be a narrative of "mythic
quest," with Uncas as the questing hero.

In The Prairie a third example of Natty's questing

action is evident. In this text, the same quest after

death which animates Ralph occupies the aged Natty

Bumppo, albeit not presented in as gristly a guise as is

Ralph's. In Lionel Lincoln the quest for death is not

the primary focus; in The Prairie, at least in reference

to Leatherstocking, it is. Cooper had set the stage

perfectly for Natty's quest for death at the close of

the narrative which first presented the hero. The final

chapter of The Pioneers depicts Natty "stretched on the

earth before a head-stone of white marble" and musing to

himself, "Who will be there to put me in the 'arth when

my time comes?" (XXXXI, 781). His concern is justified,

for he has "none of his name and family" in "all the

world." Also, he intends to depart the Templeton area

and leave behind all the lovely scene he holds so dear.

Natty states: "I'm weary of living in clearings . I

crave to go into the woods ag'in--I do. . If ye

love me, let me go where my soul craves to be" (XXXXI, 783).

The Prairie presents Natty first as a "colossal" (I,

218) figure, and then as a being emaciated, "suffering,

withered," "of more than eighty" years of "decay" (I,

219), moving through a "bleak and solitary" (I, 216)

land which is also "aged" (II, 221). Natty is no longer

a hunter, his occupation gone as completely as is his

home, the wilderness woods. "I have no regular abode,

and seldom pass more than a month at a time on the same

range" (II, 222), he states; "Seventy-and-five years

have I been upon the road" (II, 223). His travels have

brought him to such a desolate spot, according to him,

that "You may travel . weeks, if not months . in

these open fields" and find "neither dwelling nor

habitation for man or beast" (II, 223). when Natty

speaks these words, he is surrounded by the Bush clan,

who are soon to be attacked, besieged, and beleaguered

by enough Indians to keep them busy for weeks. Indeed,

Natty himself does allow that "hundreds, nay, thousands

of the rightful owners of the country [are] roving about

the plains" (II, 225). Natty is suffering from the

myopic vision of the quester, unable to see, here at the

opening of the narrative, the reality of the Indian camp

where he will, later, find the acceptable place to die.

Although when Natty speaks of "the inner country"

(XXXIII, 434) he literally means the "inhabited lands,"

his words conjure the image of that very subjective

world which the quester inhabits. When Natty can see

the Pawnee village for what it "really" is, he finds it

to be good, and he waits out the remainder of his life

in the midst of the respectful savages.

Cooper skillfully describes the close of Natty's

quest for death. Seated in a thronelike seat,

illuminated by the setting sun, accoutered with his

rifle and the preserved skin of his dog, attended by a

crowd of onlookers, Natty prepares to die. After he

leaves the "Here!" an Indian honors his passing with the

eulogy: "A valiant, a just and a wise warrior, has gone

on the path which will lead him to the blessed grounds

of his people" (XXXIII, 442).

Yet not all Cooper's quests end (or is it begin?)

with death. In Mercedes of Castile, the questing hero

is Christopher Columbus and his quest is to find the

New World.

As Cooper makes clear, Columbus is obsessed with his

inner vision, "filled with the vastness of his purposes"

(IIII, 53), "awakened . to mightier things" (IIII,

59), set apart as "the chosen vessel" (V, 98), seeing a

"truth that was concealed from most eyes" (XIII, 198).

Many of the people around Columbus believe him to be no

more than a "mendicant adventurer" (v, 106); he is often

an "object of scorn" (VIII, 112), this "madman" (V,

109), this "visionary" (VIII, 117). Utterly solitary,

he has no family and no friends as he travels Europe

urging his suit for funding.

Columbus, even before he finally sets sail, has

spent a generation "on his weary pilgrimage" (IIII, 57).

As he tells the tale,

This matter hath now occupied my mind quite
eighteen years. During the whole of this long
period I have thought seriously of little else,
and it may be said to have engaged my mind
sleeping and waking. I saw the truth early and
intensely. . I feel a reliance on success,
that cometh from dependence on God. I think
myself an agent, chosen for the accomplishment of
great ends. (V, 103)

His "great ends" are, first, "to see the wealth of

the Indies pouring into the coffers of Castile" in

consequence of this voyage and, second, to effect "the

recovery of the Holy Sepulchre" (XII, 183) through use

of this wealth. When Columbus finally prepares to leave

Europe in pursuit of his great ends, his face exhibits

"the chastened rapture of a Christian who was about to

quit a world of woe, to enter on the untasted, but

certain, fruition of blessed immortality" (XIII, 194).

Perhaps because Cooper himself was aware that his

book was failing somehow to vivify the rapturous quest,

he wrote in a character to accompany Columbus. And, in

order to make the point of the quixotic exercise

unmistakable, Cooper names the character Sancho--Sancho


The voyage to the New World is chronicled with a

documentary precision. It is, according to Columbus, a

voyage which "never had a precedent on this earth, for

its length or for the loveliness of its way" (XIV, 220).

Columbus believes his voyage will carry them to Cathay

or to Cipango (Japan), and he produces a map "from Paul

Toscanelli, a learned Tuscan" (XIX, 317), which shows

the city of "Quisay." This city's name means "The city

of Heaven" (XIX, 318). The quester does not know where

he is going in his quest. The pole star seems to "jump"

in the sky as the voyage continues, and the compasses

fail to point properly north. So uncertain is the

location of the quest object--or even its verity--that

Columbus himself is tricked by a low-lying bank of

clouds into believing that land has been sighted. His

face "became radiant with delight and pious exultation.

Uncovering himself, he cast a look upward in unbounded

gratitude, and then fell on his knees, to return open

thanks to God" (XX, 323). Although this sighting is a

false alarm, when the New World is actually seen,

Columbus and all the crew exhibit "exultation" (XXI,

346). His face revealing "the glow of inward rapture"

(XXI, 356), Columbus says, "Laud be to God!" (XXI,

Cooper is obliged to remove Columbus from the

central position in the narrative after he has attained

his quest object. This shift of focus back to the

typically lifeless young and noble hero, Luis de

Bobadilla, does not help the tale; in fact, focus upon

the languishing romantic lead puts the kiss of death on

the quest narrative. However, just at the end of the

tale a breath of life wafts back into the pages when

Columbus has a final moment of attention. The old man

is aship again and he says,

I now go forth from Spain, on a far more
perilous adventure than [the first]. . Then,
I sailed concealed in contempt, and veiled from
human eyes by ignorance and pity; now, I have left
the Old World followed by malignancy and envy. (XXXI, 508)

In Mercedes of Castile Cooper consciously uses the

quest to discover the New World as his ordering

mechanism. Once the quest object is attained and the

tensions which the quest action generated is lost, the

focus of the narrative disappears, illustrating just how

integral the ordering mechanism of quest action really

is. Possibly Cooper feared to offer the public yet

another work "which could scarcely be a favorite with
the females," and it might be for this reason that

his love story stretches all around the quest tale, like

a great anaconda, to choke the life out of the story.

However, the truth remains that Cooper was unable to

write a really effective quest narrative. He may

have known it himself, for he shies away from focus on

the quest hero, habitually presenting the quest moment

through the eyes of another character or with recourse

to his calm, authorial persona. Even when the focus is

directly on the quester, his tongue seems somehow tied:

"His lips moved in a vain effort to speak
Ralph, in Lionel Lincoln

Natty, in The Prairie

"Laud to be God!"
Columbus, in Mercedes of Castile

The problem with Cooper seems often to be that his

turgid prose destroys the surest method to precisely

identify quest: the revelatory moment when quest is

culminated. Cooper's words do not produce the emotional

effect necessary to the task. It may be fairly noted

that Cooper was not habitually concerned with writing

"The Great American Quest." Yet it can also be as

fairly noted that Cooper's fundamental purpose, his sub-

textual foundation, was to recreate the great American

quest itself, the quest of attaining a national

identity. Cooper, the man, knew American reporters to

be slanderous rumor-mongers, American lawyers to be

opportunistic bombasts, American voters to be uneducated

vacillators, and American citizens to be greedy and

selfish opportunists. But Cooper, the writer, knew the

artistic truth behind the unremarkable reality of his

New World home. And this artist could not help but

reach toward, yearn after, that myth.

Part of that American myth was, for Cooper,

marriage. All of his formulaic romantic story lines,

then, can be said somehow to spring from the world of

myth. The wedding ceremony, is thus that fusion of

quester with quest object. Frequently, the tale closes

just after the wedding itself because the end of the
quest brings an end to the action of the quester.

Such scenes, of course, offer a conclusion "favorable

with the females." The formula ends with "And they lived

happily ever after." But there seems to be another

dimension to the closure of tale with marriage, a

feeling of static "rightness" akin to the emotional

quiescence which the quester feels when his quest is

finally realized. Cooper's "proper" romantic leads,

however, are often so refined that they fail to vivify

the emotional intensity which is the surest indicator of

quest attainment. Further, Cooper's convoluted syntax

and painfully turgid prose usually interfere with the

realization of any emotional plateaus which the

characters purport to feel.

Finally, it may not be that Cooper is simply unable

to write the words that would vivify a quest; perhaps he

is also unwilling. It is certain that any man married

for 41 years to the same woman, as Cooper was, surely

knows that marriage is not an extended union of quester

with quest object that either destroys him or else

transmogrifies him radically. Yet, the idea that a

proper marriage was somehow a perfect marriage seems to

remain with the man. Lawrence has discussed the yawning

gulf between Cooper's "Wish-Fulfillment" and his

"Actuality" in reference to the Leatherstocking myth.

The "vision" which is Cooper's wish fulfilling fictive

reality in Natty's world is the author's "presentation

of a deep subjective desire" that is somehow "real" and
"almost prophetic." It is another species of this

"real" vision which animates Cooper's equally fictive,

but equally powerful, concept of the "ever after" which

he assigns to his lovers.

In 1820, Cooper wrote:

If there be bliss in this life, approaching
in any degree to the happiness of the blessed, it
is the fruition of long and ardent love, where
youth, innocence, piety, and family concord, smile
upon the union. (Precaution; XLVII, 715)

As late as 1850, in Cooper's last published narrative,

he still believes:

Perhaps there is nothing on earth that so
nearly resembles the pure happiness of the
blessed, as the felicity that succeeds the entire
union of two hearts that are wrapped up in each
other. The affinity of feelings, the
community of thought, the steadily increasing
confidence which, in the end, almost incorporates
the moral existence of two into one, are so many
new and precious ties, that it is not wonderful
the novices believe they are transplanted to a new
and ethereal state of being. ( The ways of the
Hour; XXX, 190)

Cooper's terms describing marriage as "approaching

the happiness of the blessed" which "transports" the

couple to "a new and ethereal state of being" embody

quest-object attainment. If he fails to recreate the

apotheotic moment, it is not because he lacks knowledge

of it, but because he is burdened with refined

characters who speak too "properly" to be properly

human, hampered by his own emotional reserve and

ambivalence, and constrained by the dictates of his

century and the conventions of his art.

Hunt: To Search Diligently; To Seek

"We looked carefully, in all directions, in the
hope of discovering something that might give us
an insight."

Afloat and Ashore
(XII, 334)

Journey narratives and quest narratives are two

self-motivated types of action that Cooper uses with

differing degrees of success in his various fictions. A

third type of self-motivated action, a type not properly

termed either journey, or quest, is the hunt or search.

A hungry or thirsty character, a character who is

impecunious, a marriageable youth with no potential

mate, a vaguely dissatisfied man or woman may set out to

hunt. The character may have no certain or definable

goal, seeking neither journey's end nor quest object.

He simply begins to move about in search of surcease

from his personal dissatisfaction. The searching

character casts about in the environment, vaguely

attempting to somehow rectify the "wrong" aspect of his


Hunt or search action differs from journey of

exploration action, for the explorer acts to learn

something new about his world while the hunting or

searching character, as here defined, acts so as to

remedy an existing lack within himself. While both

actors may feel a similar internal motivation, the

"discontent" of wanting to move toward "something," the

explorer wants his vague need filled with sights or

knowledge never before seen or conceptualized; the

hunter has a specific lack of some sort which he wants

remedied. Both explorer and searcher are dissatisfied

and both move through space because of their emotional

feelings. And, it is true, the explorer who has no firm

idea of where to find a "new" place may cast about in

hunting action. Similarly, the hunting or searching

character may be "hunting" for previously unknown or

unseen places if he suffers from a "lack" of scenic

novelty. Yet, brief consideration of the difference

between action of the sort generated by a narrative

about Lewis and Clark and action described by a

narrative about thirsting people seeking a source of

water in any wilderness illustrates the real difference

between the two motivations. Proper explorers act to

attain "new" locations; proper hunters and searchers act

to resecure that which they have somehow "lost."

The hunt or search is typically an action of

relatively short duration. While characters may quest

or journey throughout an entire narrative, or even two,

Cooper's characters rarely search for very long.

Cooper's hunts are used either as brief, active

interludes or as a means of entry into one of the other,

more sustainable actions.

In The Last of the Mohicans Cooper presents a

typical and brief hunt. The Fort Henry massacre has

begun. The Munro sisters are surrounded by maddened

Indians. In the midst of the slaughter Magua has been

"raging from group to group, like one who, scorning to

touch the vulgar herd, hunted for some victim" (XVII,

107). When he finds Cora, he takes her captive. His

peculiar "raging from group to group" keeps him from

slaughtering, which is the proper act for an enraged

savage on the field. Magua has been "hunting" for

Lieutenant Colonel Munro, but he has not been finding.

When he locates Cora, a suitable substitute to assuage

his need, he begins a journey.

As is evident, a searching character on hunt may

find some item not even sought. This phenomenon

illustrates the basic self-orientation of hunting

action. When the personal lack is rectified, no matter

whatever item satisfies the searcher, his hunt is


As The Pioneers opens, Natty is in need of food.

The buck he has shot is loaded onto Judge Temple's

sleigh. Although the wounded Oliver Edwards (Effingham)

says he will bring "a quarter of the buck" (I, 556) back

for dinner, Natty does not need the food; no hunter of

Bumppo's skill needs help to find game for his rifle.

Natty shoots a nearby pheasant and calls to Edwards,

"never mind the venison, boy." Here the

Leatherstocking's hunt for dinner yields not only fresh

game, but also serendipitous meeting with travelers in

the woods.

In The Wept of Wish-Ton-Wish only "six-and-thirty"

sheep, rather than the requisite "seven-and-thirty,"

arrive back at home. The sheepboy adds that he has been

"an hour among the briars and bushes of the hill,

looking for the lost wether" (II, 395). "Hast thou

ridden carefully through the clearing?" asks the owner

of the animals. The boy replies he has. The owner then

rides away from his home, loitering "along the path .

and at times bending his gaze around the whole of his

limited horizon . (II, 395). What the wether's

owner finds is a stranger, arriving at the secluded

settlement. Here again a man on hunt discovers an

unsought find. Many hunters find what they seek,


Harry March and Natty hunt together for a canoe

which Harry had earlier hidden in a hollow tree.

Harry knew the direction . and he now led
on with the confident step of a man assured of his
object. . After proceeding near a mile, March
stopped and began to cast about him with an
inquiring look, examining the different objects
with care. (The Deerslayer, II, 14)

But poor Harry is unable to find the hollow tree until

Natty indicates, "See; this is the spot you came to

find!" (15).

Natty hunts often. At the climactic moment when

Deerslayer has just slain his first human being, the

Mingo who will shortly bestow a new name on the hero,

Natty goes hunting for a rifle. "The piece was found

where its owner [the Mingo] had dropped it" (VII, 62),

and only after securing the weapon does Natty approach

his fallen foe. Soon again there is a hunt. Natty,

Judith, and Chingachgook hunt for the key to the chest

on the ark. Natty cannot find it, so he asks the Indian

to join in the search. Chingachgook immediately begins

to cast about for the hiding place, and all three are

"soon engaged in an anxious and spirited search,"

turning their "inquiries to those places that struck

them as ingenious hiding-places" (XII, 108). They

"examine" and "rummage" until Chingachgook suggests that

they look in the "coarse pocket" belonging to Hetty.

There the key is secreted.

One type of activity which is a type of search or

hunt is the well-established scouting action found in

all Indian tales. By whatever name it may be called, to

scout out or reconnoiter, investigate, get the lay of

the land, or to take a "look-see," this type of casting

about is a hunting act. Indians "sent out to

reconnoiter . soon return to report their want of

success in making any discovery" (XVIII, 162) in The

Deerslayer. Others of their number check in an opposite

direction; "others had examined in different

directions." At the same time, Hetty hunts for an

Indian friend, but does not "find" her (163). Some of

the savages keep watch against their foes, two of them

constantly passing back and forth in "vigilance" against

a surprise attack. In three paragraphs in Chapter

XVIII, Cooper presents six different hunt or search

actions. None of these yields the desired end.

People ashore, hunting afoot or in conjunction with a

beast of burden, are subject to the sorts of physical

constraints that limit all land-bound peoples: they get

tired fairly soon. They must rest. Mimetic

characterization requires that fairly brief segments

only can be devoted to land searches or to land actions

such as chase, discussed below. After a relatively

brief time, all characters relying upon their bodies or

any corporeal body must either find what they seek, find

an acceptable substitute, or turn to other actions, such

as eating or sleeping. After these sorts of resting

activities, the hunting action may recommence or it may

not. Either way, in Cooper's tales land hunts are

actions of short duration.

Sea hunts, however, are another matter. People who

are aship have the physical capability to hunt for far

longer than those ashore. Searches of several hours

length are lengthy shore hunts, but ships' searches may

last for unremitting days, weeks, or even months.

In Afloat and Ashore, Miles Wallingford ships

aboard the Crisis under Captain Williams. This is the

sort of man who "is never so happy as when he is running

round the ocean in places where it is full of unknown

islands, looking for sandal wood and beche-la-mar!" (XI,

320). On this particular occasion, the captain wishes

to "double the Horn", which place is subjected to such

conflicting descriptions that no two mariners "seem to

have found it exactly alike." Also on this passage a

"tempest" commences. The mariners lose their reckoning,

and the captain attempts to get a sight of some sort of

land "as it would enable [them] to get some tolerable

accurate notions of . position." None of the men

retains any hope of finding the passage they "aimed at."

For three full days, all hands search through the thick

weather, trying to locate some route to safety. "It is

not easy to make a landsman understand the embarassments

of" (323) such a situation, when the captain of a ship

does not know in which direction to sail in order to

find home. On the fourth day, they are blown into some

sort of passage through some islands which might be part

of Tierra del Fuego. The storm continues. On the

morning of the sixth day, the Crisis' crew realizes it

has "found a passage westward that actually led into the

ocean!" (327). Unfortunately, it is the Pacific; they

have passed "the Straits of Magellan without knowing

it!" (327).

For nearly a week, Captain Williams and his crew

hunt for the passage through which Williams, at least,

has already passed four times. Although the tempest

contributes to their inability to find the route, the

seekers continue to strain their eyes for the passage

whenever the weather allows them sufficient time to

hunt. Cooper wisely interspaces this extended hunting

action with fight action (man against his environment);

a minute recitation of six days' fruitless searching

would yield a poor narrative at best. People who hunt

or search when on a ship are not interesting to read

about when they are actively hunting: they look, but do

not see, as their ship moves through the water.

A more lengthy sea hunt is the one acted by Captain

Rowley, on the English frigate the Briton. Rowley's

orders are to "cruise three months" (XXIV, 418) in a

specified area of the Atlantic, searching for American

ships to inspect or French vessels to fight. Of course,

Cooper does not chronicle ninety weary days and nights

of heel-and-toe watches by the crew. His knowledge of

how to present a good tale precludes much more than the

briefest summary of the cruise: "More than two months

passed without the Briton's speaking, or even seeing, a

single sail!" While this hunt by the crew may well be

the greatest number of days devoted to this action in

all the Cooper canon, the one sentence summary of the

action itself--which is rendered in the negative--does

not offer an extended action sequence presentation.

Even when Cooper has the opportunity to present a

mimetic search of extended duration, as he does here, he

has the good sense not to weary the reader with one.

Characters often lose things or need things or

places they have not got. Most hungry characters in the

wilderness must devote much time to hunting for food.

All hunting generates action which is describable and

which may be of some narrative interest. However, hunt

action is not as major an action type as are journey or

quest actions. Most hunts are brief actions; long hunts

are typically presented in recapitulative fashion.

These three action types are similar in that they

all arise from internal promptings. The questing

character has the strongest personal compulsion to act.

His own evaluation of what is real and important to him

forces him to keep on acting in the attempt to gain

union with his quest object; the quester drives himself

unmercifully into action. He seems a most peculiar

individual to those characters who observe him. Unlike

the quester, the journeyer is a usual human type who

displays a universal action. While the journeyer may

act for any of several reasons--to return home, found a

home, escape, explore, or just keep in motion--his

action is familiar and his reason for acting logical.

Just so are the acts of the hunting or searching

character. His needs are usually ascertainable and

comprehendable and his acts are rational. All people

hunt and journey. One kind of journeyer, the questing

character, acts irrationally, but the actions he does

are describably human.

All three action types arising from internal

motivations are mimetic. Further, they provide both

brief and extended structures which Cooper uses to craft

effective narratives. Long journeys or brief hunts,

extended quests or fleeting searches, vignettes of

escape or voyages of exploration--all these acts shape

and direct Cooper's works. But it is not only the

inner-directed acts that generate motion; three outer-

directed action types contribute as effectively to the

structure of Cooper's tales.


1. Definitions from Webster's New Collegiate
Dictionary, 2d ed.

2. Janis P. Stout, The Journey Narrative in
American Literature (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood
Press, 1983) 3.

3. Stout 247. Cooper is the first internationally
successful American author to employ journey action
effectively in his work. Many fictions by nearly all
subsequent American authors make good use of journey
action. This phenomenon illustrates both the apparently
inexhaustable relevance of this action for American
artists and audiences and also explains one reason why
Fenimore Cooper's fictions continue to appeal to modern

4. Leland S. Person, Jr., in "Cooper's
The Pioneers and Leatherstocking's Historical Function,"
Emerson Society Quarterly 25 (1979): 1-10, notes the
departure of Natty at the close of The Pioneers. "A
similar splitting up of the main cast recurs in each of
the Leatherstocking novels" (1). Journey is often used
in the final chapter of Cooper's works, not merely in
the Leatherstocking tales, leaving many narratives in
the same state of "motion" as they opened, albeit in a
different location sometimes.

5. Percy G. Adams, Travel Literature and the
Evolution of the Novel (Lexington: The University Press
of Kentucky, 1983) presents another study of travel
literature. In Chapter 5, Adams discusses what he
considers to be the six basic "movements" in literature:
1) The Journey, as found in Tom Jones
2) The Wandering, as found in Huckleberry Finn
3) The Quest, as found in Sir Gawain
4) The Pilgrimage, as found in Pilgrim's Progress
5) The Odyssey, as found in The Odyssey
6) The Going-Forth, as found in The Red Badge of
Adams does treat thematic concerns, motifs, and
character types; however, his thesis is broad and its
development is diffused. A study of Cooper's actions
yields but few insights when approached via the use of
Adams' ideas.

6. Stout 30.


7. Stout 31. Exploration is a primary activity of
the heroine in much Gothic literature. Often that
exploration is a quest for some object known or
surmised. Cooper's use of such action is limited, for
his romances do not follow the formula for the
established Gothic tale.

8. In the sense that Antarctica remained
unexplored until long after Cooper died, the exploratory
voyages by the crews of the two Sea Lions could be
labeled "Imaginary voyages" of sorts similar to that
found in Poe's Narrative of A. Gordon Pym (1838).
However, Cooper presents this exploration as a realistic
journey. This may be seen when the journey of the Sea
Lions is contrasted with the journey of John Goldencalf
in The Monikins or Mark woolston in The Crater. I treat
the "Imaginary voyage" later in this chapter.

9. Stout 31.

10. Stout 32.

11. Stout 33.

12. Stout 42.

13. Stout 45.

14. Stout 66.

15. Stout 68.

16. In 1836 Cooper offered the world his first
"Gleaning" from Europe. Since Cooper's avowed purpose
is not "story" in these works, it is not surprising that
his use of action should function in a much different
manner than it does in his tales. In the non-fiction,
the action of the travel leads directly to description
of picturesque scene or to idea. Cooper moves to the
proper place quickly and gets on with the static aspects
of his true purpose. While Cooper's "gleanings" utilize
action, they do not tell "tale." In Notions of the
Americans (1828) the return to home is to an American
home. As Cooper's fictions reveal, this return to an
American home is the "Return to Home" which was the most
congenial to this author.

17. This is a remarkably effective moment in the
tale. Lionel Lincoln, unbeknownst to himself, is
actually the son of Sir Lionel Lincoln, which personage
is this very Ralph himself. Ralph is later revealed to

be an escaped lunatic, Lionel has inherited a propensity
toward this mental dysfunction, and the narrative closes
with all the major characters either dead or fled the
nascent republic. The returns to "home" here lead to
insanity or to violent death. The doubled and redoubled
returns seem a most deft example of Cooper's art. The
ambivalence of historical Americans, torn between
loyalties both to England and her traditions and to
America and her potential, seems perfectly embodied in
the characters' many disordered movements and actions
and, most especially, in the apparent ability to return
to two homes. Of course, this ability actually
illustrates the inability to properly "return" to

18. Stout 105.

19. Stout 111.

20. Different commentators on Cooper have
discussed the various "journeys to no end" which they
believe exist in Cooper's canon. George Dekker, in
James Fenimore Cooper: The American Scott (New York:
Barnes & Noble, 1967), sees in The Wing -and-Wing
parallels with a dual Ulysses figure (Ulysses of Homer
and Ulysses of Dante). He puts forth the idea of the
unending journey but ultimately skirts the issue.
Donald A. Ringe, in American Gothic: Imagination and
Reason in Nineteenth-Century Fiction (Lexington: The
University Press of Kentucky, 1982), describes Harvey
Birch of The Spy as "the Wandering Jew" (107). Leland
S. Person, Jr., in "Home as Found and the
Leatherstocking Series" (Emerson Society Quarterly, 27,
1981; 170-180) establishes the difference between
Natty's function as the mythic figure of "return to
origin for Americans" (their past), and contrasts his
function with the "nervous, rootless energy of the
American present" (174). He believes that the
Effinghams are ultimately unable to achieve satisfaction
on their "religious pilgrimage." He seems to indicate
their movement as being a sort of journey to no end, but
because his focus is not on the action itself, he moves
from matters of motion to matters of myth, leaving this
particular area unresolved.

21. Cooper's last reference to this legend may be
found in "The Lake Gun" (1850), a political allegory
which offers as the "Wandering Jew" a tree trunk which
purportedly has floated for ages about the surface of

Seneca Lake. Indian legend has it that this log is
actually an Indian chief, metamorphized for wicked

22. Kay Seymour House, Cooper's Americans
(Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1965) 123.

23. Philip Babcock Gove, The Imaginary Voyage in
Prose Fiction (New York: Arno Press, 1975).

24. Gove 87.

25. Gove 178.

26. Donald A. Ringe, Long Fiction of the American
Renaissance, ed. Paul McCarthy (Hartford: Transcendental
Books, 1974) 108.

27. George Dekker, James Fenimore Cooper: The
American Scott (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1967) 125.

28. Stout 247.

29. Peter Revell, Quest in Modern American Poetry
(Totowa, New Jersey: Vision Press, 1981) 7.

30. Stout 88.

31. Alexander Blackburn, The Myth of the Picaro
(Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press,
1979) 20.

32. Richard Bjornson, The Picaresque Hero in
European Fiction (Madison: The University of Wisconsin
Press, 1977) 7.

33. Stout 90.

34. Stout 88.

35. As House notes, Natty is part picaro, "like
Don Quixote" (307).

36. Warren S. Walker, James Fenimore Cooper: An
Introduction and Interpretation (New York: Barnes &
Noble, 1963) 41.

37. Daniel Peck, A World by Itself: The Pastoral
Moment in Cooper's Fiction (New Haven: Yale University
Press, 1977) 121.

38. At least, this is what the reader must assume
he says. Actually, through what is surely an
unfortunate typographical error, the great explorer's
words read "Laud to be God!" Only a Freudian critic or a
metacritic could assign the proper reading to the

39. Preface to The Pilot.

40. Cooper's habitual narrative closes with
marriage or the promise of immediate marriage and new
journey action. Married couples either occupy homes or
move directly toward attaining stable homes. Closing
journeys, which often balance the habitual opening
journey actions, take the journeyer toward certain
safety; quest action, such as lovers often engage in,
lead the quester into unanticipated scenes and dangers.

41. D. H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American
Literature (London: Martin Secker, 1933) 51.



"You remind me of the necessity of being in
motion. Adieu."

Miles Wallingford
(XV, 360)


The acts examined in Chapter One are internally-

motivated, or self-directed actions. The three main

externally-motivated, or other-directed actions are the

stalk, the fight or battle, and the chase. But to

begin a discussion of these, one must first return to

journey, for some journey types are clearly other-


Travelers making rendezvous may journey solely at

the direction of the other person. Messengers and

guides direct their courses according to dictates from

other people. Soldiers at all levels of command usually

move in response from their superiors. After the battle

is over, these soldiers may either regroup and advance

or retreat and disperse as a result of the actions of

the foe. Hostages, prisoners, and captives move solely

at the discretion of their guards. And any person,

ashore or--especially--afloat, may find himself

suddenly having to act solely in response to forces of

nature. The pioneer fleeing a raging forest fire

performs other-directed acts as surely as does the

boater traversing a rapids or the mariner harried,

buffeted, or shipwrecked by a tempest.

In The Last of the Mohicans Cora and Alice spend the

entire book, save for their brief interlude at Fort

William Henry, in movements directed by either Natty,

their father, the Indians, or--in Alice's case--a

husband-to-be. There is merit in the claim that

Cooper's heroines' movements are overwhelmingly

controlled by a mate, a father, a brother, or a

designated male agent. A vast number of Cooper's

females are passed through their narratives like
"Fortune's Footballs," either as actual captives or as

apparent ones. All of Cooper's well-bred and dutiful

heroines are bound to obey, to attend, and--if the male

authority figure wishes to move--to follow their men.

In this sense, the women are hostages to their

upbringing and to their emotions or vows. Such females

are actually captives of their author's visualization of

"proper" female duty and conduct. The refined heroine

should always "live out of herself, as it might be, and

in the existence of those whom she esteemed or loved"

(Miles Wallingford; VI, 295).

But the "captivity narrative" as it is usually

described is a specific narrative form. Beginning with

the 1682 publication of Mary Rowlandson's own tale of

captivity, this narrative was a distinct American type.

After the latter part of the eighteenth century, the

original form transformed, according to Richard Slotkin,
from a "fearful" narration to an "imaginative" one.

While Louise K. Barnett gives a later date for the

transformation, she agrees that the original captivity

narrative was finished as a force before Cooper began to
write. The transmogrified narration of captivity was a

tale of "overt fiction in which the horrors and travails

of the frontier experience were combined with a

complicated romantic plot of English origin. In this

amalgam, a set of foreign and artificial conventions was

superimposed on the basically real and indigenous
captivity events." She calls this later form the

"frontier romance" and notes that it was influenced by

Scott. Both Slotkin and Barnett agree that Cooper

offers well-developed examples of this later form,

Barnett finding The Last of the Mohicans to be "an

excellent paradigm of the multiple captivity plot" (62)

and Slotkin discussing both The Prairie and The

Deerslayer in his Chapter 13, "The Leatherstocking


In the "romantic" or "imaginative" captivity

narrative several necessary characters appear

1) A maiden, passive
2) A male, young and white
3) A frontiersman, older and the ally of #2
4) A good Indian, friend to 1-3
5) A bad Indian, enemy to 1-4
6) A white villain, enemy to 1-4 and
possibly to 5
7) (Occasionally) An Indian maiden, good.

Cooper offers several examples of romantic captivity

narratives, but all of them display variations, of some

sort, from the unadorned schema. Inez Middleton is held

by white, not Indian, captors in The Prairie; although

the six requisite character niches are all occupied, the

function of the characters is not typical of the genre.

In The Wept of Wish-ton-wish the captive is the Indian,

Conanchet, and the captors are the whites, the

Heathcotes. Conanchet's six month captivity in the

white community is devoted to attempts by the Puritans

to convert him to Christianity. In due time, a young

female Heathcote, Ruth, is abducted by members of the

escaped Conanchet's tribe. Although no part of her

captivity narrative proper is directly presented, more

than a decade after Conanchet's escape it is discovered

that he has married the girl, now thoroughly Indianized

and known as Narra-mattah. Soon after her return to her

white home, Conanchet is killed and she dies. Here, the

several characters fill several different roles as the

plot complications develop.

In The Pathfinder Mable Dunham is, for a time, a

captive within a blockhouse. She has full freedom of

movement within the structure, but is at the mercy of

the surrounding Indians if she moves outside. All seven

of the possible character roles are filled in this text

and all the characters assume their correct niches. It

is the captivity itself which is atypical. Mable is

simultaneously free and captive. In The Redskins an

even more unusual captivity narrative unfolds. The

captives are white, but they are men: the older white

ally, Uncle Ro, and a minister. The "Injins" are white

men, wearing blackface. The captivity is brief, but

active. Ro and Rev. Warren are whisked by dearborn to

the local meeting house while Mary and Hugh (#'s 1 & 2)

follow volitionally. This deformed "captivity

narrative" serves as an excellent comment on the

deranged society which Cooper presents in the tale.

The Last of the Mohicans, is Cooper's masterful

treatment of a true captivity narrative. In it, all the

requisite categories are filled, sometimes several times

over, and the actions are representative of the genre.

Cooper handles the several conventions of the type

effectively, including one of the "foreign and

artificial" conventions which Scott bequeathed: the

characteristic young, white, male hero whose essence of

"proper conduct" appears to be the ability to maintain a

supreme "self control under trying circumstances". Such

a passive young man is notable for his inactivity.

"The hero's action was confined to an ideal that all but
prohibited activity," one critic notes. This passive,

or "wavering," hero receives, rather than does the

action. The meaningful action, given to Natty Bumppo or

Harvey Birch or Guert Ten Eyke, rushes around the hero

or bears him up on the general swell of movement. All

too infrequently does the hero step forward to do

anything volitional.

Like the passive Cooperian heroine, who seems to

live only "out of herself," the smitten hero often is

immobilized by his passion and seemingly paralyzed by

the proximity of his beloved. The adoring hero,

enmeshed in "the weakness of passion," must submit "to

its power, like feebler-minded and less resolute men

becoming little better than the vulgar herd under its

influence" (Wing-and-Wing; XXVI, 351). The hero in love

is a changed man. From "a very resolute he [becomes] a

very irresolute sort of person" (The Oak Openings; XIII,

204). Cooper believes that, "When a man is thoroughly

in love, he is quite apt to be fit for very little else

but to urge his suit" (XV, 242).

The "Fortune's Football" female and her "feeble"

lover are the two perfect types to take center stage in

captivity narratives, for their roles call for the sort

of passivity that characterizes a proper captive. In

The Last of the Mohicans infantile Alice Munro and

anxious Duncan Heyward (#'s 1 & 2) display archetypal

behaviors and obtain the proper reward for their right

acts. She is a captive; he is captured when he attempts

to rescue her; they eventually marry. Natty, of course,

is the perfect older frontiersman, ally of the young

man. The good Indian who lives is Chingachgook; the

good Indian who dies is his son, Uncas, the "last" of

the Mohicans. The bad Indian is Magua. The white

villain is the French commander, the Marquis of

Montcalm, whose dastardly machinations precipitate the

Fort William Henry "massacre." The role of "Indian

maiden, good" is not here filled, although Dew of June

(The Pathfinder) illustrates Cooper's knowledge of her

type and his ability to utilize the character

effectively. In The Last of the Mohicans, either

Chingachgook's deceased but beloved Wah-ta-wah (The

Deerslayer), the undifferentiated chorus of savage

virgins that eulogizes Cora, or the "tainted" Cora

herself fill the supporting female role when requisite.

The action of the captivity portion of the narrative

is exciting; the plot develops according to the plan.

However, in The Last of the Mohicans, Cooper writes a

captivity narrative with a difference. The difference

is that this time the formula works as it should. The

formulas exist because they offer a familiar and

accepted method of presentation to author and reader.

Most of the time, the narratives produced by formula are

no better than they ought to be, "familiar" and

"accepted." But sometimes a good author can pen a

formula tale that transcends its genre. Cooper's The

Last of the Mohicans is one such work. It is not just a

"good" story; it is actually "excellent."

Even when Cooper does not choose to write narratives

about captivity, he often writes narratives which

include action of captivity as a portion of the tale.

Old Major Effingham, in The Pioneers is literally

carried through his tale, a captive, of sorts, to his

own senility and physical disability. Even Natty

Bumppo may "travel" solely in the arms of other people:

"As soon as the body of Deerslayer was withed in bark

sufficiently to create a lively sense of helplessness,

he was literally carried to a young tree, and bound

against it" (The Deerslayer; XXVIII, 263). When Natty

moves in response to the dictates of other people,

though, he usually is able to stand on his own two feet.

Arriving at the fort in The Last of the Mohicans, and

"under the custody of a French officer . Hawkeye was

dejected. . and his arms were even bound" (XV, 89).

As an old man in The Pioneers Natty is taken as a

"prisoner" from the smouldering ashes of his hut and

marched into Templeton to be jailed until his trial.

"Presently the Leather-Stocking made his appearance,

ushered into the criminal's bar under the custody of two

constables" (XXXIII, 733). After justice has been done,

Natty is placed in the stocks. The aged trapper Bumppo

of The Prairie, along with Paul and Ellen "prisoners" of

Indians, must move when compelled "by a mandate . to

change their positions" (IV, 237).

Characters who journey on the water may, at any

moment, find themselves unexpected "hostages" to natural

forces. Even so small and calm a body of water as the

Glimmerglass may transport the unwilling traveler to

unexpected locales. Natty falls asleep in a drifting

canoe. When he awakens, he finds his craft has "drifted

twice the expected distance; and [has] approached

so near the base of the mountains that . it must

inevitably touch [the shore, inhabited by inimical

Indians], .. for the drift had amounted to miles in

the course of the night" (The Deerslayer; VII, 58). If

so brief a span on so small an area as this can

transport the drifting mariner "miles," how much greater

the unwilling journeyer may be carried by an angry sea.

When, as a seaman says in The Red Rover, mariners

find "the sea getting up in an unaccountable manner"

which may "threaten to engulf all before it" (XV, 331),

even a skillful captain may find his craft's movements

meeting "neither the wishes of his own impatience nor

the exigencies of the moment" (XVI, 337). When Captain

Wilder asks, "Does the ship mind her helm at all?" the

sailor responds, "Not an inch, sir" (337). These

mariners, at the mercy of "an air that apparently teemed

with a hundred hurricanes" (XVI, 338), find their

strenuous efforts too futile "to keep the despoiled hull

from becoming prey to the greedy waters" (XVII, 341).

As "the water rushed into the vortex, everything within

its influence" yields to the "gaping whirlpool" (349).

The characters who survive find themselves adrift on a

"blind and watery path" (XVIII, 350) in a little boat

blown about by an "unwelcome wind" (351). They are

threatened with a journey "across the whole Atlantic"

which would force them away from "that land it is so

important to reach" (352). And even when a rescuing

ship is sighted, their prospects for reaching the craft

are not assured; as Wilder states, The gale may

prevent--in short, many is the vessel that is seen

at sea" (XVIII, 354), but that it proves impossible to


A list of Miles Wallingford's very many

captivitiess," as recounted in Afloat and Ashore and

Miles Wallingford, could serve as a kind of study of how

an active and self-reliant man may be at the mercy of

nearly every portion of his world. Miles' first ship,

the John, wrecks because Captain Robbins is an

incompetent commander. The craft that rescues Miles is

bound for Philadelphia. Miles, forced by two men whose

desires differ from his own and under the authority of

the two, is captive to his superiors. Miles is held a

literal captive by Pacific Indians, French privateers,

British sailors-of-the-line, French privateers (again),

British sailors (again), and an American sheriff's

deputy who arrests him for his debts and marches him off

to prison. Miles, fated to journey during troubled

times, is captive to political enemies and democratic

functionaries. Miles is often becalmed and battered by

storms; he is cast away twice (from the Tigris' boat off

Cape May and from the Dawn), driven severely off course

twice (the Cape Horn attempt aboard the Crisis and off

Ireland in the Dawn), and repeatedly buffeted by

contrary winds. He is captive to nature's whims.

Miles is also a captive to society. Miles fears to

ask his beloved Lucy to marry him when she is wealthier

than he and moving in a "set" superior to his own

station. Finally, Miles is a captive to his own

emotions, rushing back to the sea to escape his sorrow

after his sister's death and shipping out desperately

after each supposed rejection by Lucy, whose true

affections toward himself he misunderstands repeatedly.

Perhaps in this way he is a captive to his own

stupidity; at any rate, he is assuredly trammeled by

myriad internal and external captors in both the natural

and the social spheres. While Miles' may be a

noteworthy series of captivities, it is certainly not an

atypical series.

As Mercedes of Castile illustrates, even as fine a

mariner as Christopher Columbus travels always at the

mercy of the elements. Inauspicious calms hamper his

progress, unpredictable winds cause a loss of reckoning

and an uncertainty about the proper course, unfavorable

winds prevent landings, and a near-hurricane drives

Columbus away from Spain, his proposed destination, and

toward Portugal.

When flood or fire, avalanche or volcano, ice or

bison charge come hurtling out of the environment,
people hurry to move away. Ashore, travelers are not

as often "captives" of nature; landsmen do move because

of natural threats, but only infrequently as "hostages"

in the same way that a floating character is physically


transported "by" the water. The only analogous movement

Cooper offers for the "shorebound" character is to be

found on horseback, and the analogue is one Cooper

specifically recognized.

"Two vehicles dashing along a highway, with

frightened and runaway teams, would not present a sight

one half as terrific" (Afloat and Ashore; XXV, 451) as

do two storm-tossed ships running before the tempest.

When even so fine a horseman as the Indian may have

trouble, as Hard-Heart in The Prairie does when the

grasslands are ablaze, how could it not be that white

men, and females most especially, would be equine

hostages, propelled unwilling through space. In The

Pioneers the "captives" are asleigh. When Richard

mishandles the team, the confused horses, "dancing up

and down with that ominous movement which threatens a

sudden and uncontrollable start," plunge in such a way

that two riders are "thrown" and Richard is pitched

"some fifteen feet" (IV, 568) through the air into a


In Satanstoe the combination of a sleigh ride

behind matched blacks and a partial thaw followed by a

snap cold enough to render the surface of the Hudson

River apparently stable creates a memorable late night

return from a dinner engagement. Corny Littlepage and

Anneke Mordaunt end up in a horseless sleigh perched on

a sinking block of ice, battered by the swift currents

of the Hudson.

The horrific "grating or grinding of the ice . .

sounded like the rushing of heavy winds, or the

incessant roaring of a serf. . The . ragged

barriers set slowly but steadily down . and the

whole river seemed to . be in motion" (XVI, 275).

Past the couple, "like the tempest," rushes an empty

sleigh, its horses "maddened by terror," that rolls and

tumbles across the broken ice. The two scramble up a

mound of piled ice as "a torrent" of water submerges

their previous perch. This "floating island" (XVII,

276) of theirs shoots "into an eddy, and turning slowly

round" (278) bears them away from the shore. They pick

their way across the "confused pile," waiting for "any

contact with the shore" that might offer them a means to

safety. "Several times did it appear . that [the]

island was on the point of touching . .and as often

did it incline aside" (280). A "small cake of ice .

floating in between" eventually provides a "bridge"

(281) to land. Behind them, the Hudson is "chaos

rushing headlong between the banks" (282). A house, a

complete bridge "of some size," and a sloop flash past

"with fearful rapidity" as the escaped captives turn

homeward through the snow.

In many ways, the journeying character may move at

the direction of some external force. Save in a fully

developed captivity narrative, most other-directed

journeys are action segments of relatively brief

duration. While they continue, the actions forced upon

journeyers may well be intensely important to the

characters who are compelled to move. However, most

characters in Cooper's fictions captured and controlled

by external forces effect escapes from their situations

with rapidity. Of course, true captivity narratives

offer lengthy action during which the captive is unable

to escape. As some of Cooper's characters show, the

lengthiest captivities are emotional. Such captivities

are demonstrably self-imposed and are as "self-directed"

as can be any human activity.

Stalk: To Approach By Stealth

"Here are the Mohicans and I on one end of the
trail, and rely on it, we find the other though
they should be a hundred leagues asunder!"

The Last of the Mohicans
(XVIII, 112)

All stalk, fight, and chase action in Cooper's works

is other-directed; such acts mandate a dual component.

The opposition is usually of man with man or with some

sort of natural being or force, such as animals or fire

or flood. While it is perfectly possible for anthropo-

morphized animals or personified forces alone to engage

in conflicts, examples of this type of action are not
found in Cooper's works. Cooper crafts narratives

which describe real beings in conflict with other

humans, natural forces, or creatures; occasionally

nature does produce conflicts between purely natural

forces, but all such opposition are rendered through
the consciousness of a human mind. With these three

actions, Cooper has twice the narrative possibilities as

he had with quest or hunt or most forms of journey.

With stalk and fight and chase, the author can give the

point of view either to the pursuer or to the prey. The

author can even alternate between the two.

While search or hunt, as Chapter One defines it,

depicts actions done by characters who wish to fill a

certain lack in themselves, stalk describes actions

characters do when a particular external goal has been

identified and is being approached. The stalker engages

in certain movements which the hunter does not exhibit.

The stalker is always quiet. The stalker uses his

environment as cover for himself, creeping through tall

grasses or squatting behind rocks or flitting from tree

to tree or submerging himself beneath water. The

stalker moves in response to the actions of his prey; if

the prey looks in the predator's direction, the stalker

stops and seeks to hide. when the prey's attention goes

elsewhere, the stalker moves again quietly toward his


A stalk is often action of fairly brief duration.

As may be expected, Natty Bumppo stalks and is stalked

throughout his life. Near the opening of The

Deerslayer, Hurry Harry and Natty hear a noise in the

forest near the canoe in which they float.

Both the adventurers started, and each
extended a hand toward his rifle. . .
"Put your paddle in the water, and send the
canoe to that log; I'll land, and cut off the
creature's retreat up the p'int, be it a Mingo or
be it only a musk-rat."
As Hurry complied, Deerslayer was soon on the
shore, advancing into the thicket with a
moccasined foot, and a caution that prevented the
least noise. In a minute he was in the center of
a narrow strip of land, and moving slowly down
toward its end, the bushes rendering extreme
watchfulness necessary. Just as he reached the
center of the thicket, the dry twigs cracked
again. . Hurry heard these sounds also, and,
pushing the canoe off into the bay, he seized his
rifle to watch the result. A breathless minute
succeeded, after which a noble buck walked out of
the thicket. (III, 27)

The prey may either become aware of the stalk, as

this "noble buck" does, or it may remain in ignorance of

the approaching stalker, as do the stalked creatures in

the opening chapter of The Pathfinder. Charles Cap,

Mabel, Arrowhead, and his Indian wife are traversing the

woods when they sight smoke from a domestic fire, and,

unable to "determine whether the sign that others were

in their vicinity was the harbinger of good or evil" (I, 298),

they decide to "go toward the fire, and ascertain who

had lighted it" (300). Arrowhead, scrutinizing the

woods as intently as "a trained pointer, while he waits

his master's aim" (298), leads the party. "For the

first half mile no other caution beyond a rigid silence

was observed; but as the party drew nearer to the spot

where the fire was known to be, much greater care became

necessary" (300). As they move forward their footsteps

"gradually became lighter," their scrutiny "more

vigilant," and their bodies "more carefully concealed"

by the "rustic columns . or trees" (301).

The stalkers decide Mabel should approach the three

men who sit around the fire "eating their grub" (301).

So, Mabel advances, alone,

toward the group seated near the fire. Although
the heart of the girl beat quick, her step was
firm, and her movements, seemingly, were without
reluctance. A death-like silence reigned in the
forest, for they, toward whom she approached, were
too much occupied in appeasing that great natural
appetite, hunger, to avert their looks for an
instant from the important business in which they
were all engaged. (302)

When Mable steps on a dry stick, Natty and his

companions rise to their feet to greet her. Here Natty

is the object of a friendly stalk, but he is often

involved in an inimical one.

A stalk may be of extremely brief duration. In The

Pioneers Natty is chatting with travelers. Suddenly he

"held up his finger with an expressive gesture for

silence. He then moved softly along the margin of the

road, keeping his eyes steadfastly fixed on the branches

of a pine. When he had obtained such a position as he

wished, he stopped, and . as soon as the rifle bore

on the victim drew his trigger" (I, 556).

In The Last of the Mohicans Natty, Uncas, and

Chingachgook, resting in the forest and feeling some

hunger, discuss the local situation. Unexpectedly,

Natty observes "the biggest antlers I have seen this

season, moving the bushes below the hill" (III, 19).

They decide not to hazard a rifle shot, so "Uncas threw

himself on the ground and approached the animal with

wary movements. When within a few yards of the cover,

he fitted an arrow to his bow with the utmost care"

(19). In an instant, the buck falls.

This is the stalk stripped to its essentials. Two

parties must be proximate, either through serendipitous

chance or directed action. The stalker must identify

its prey through sensory input, such as sight or sound

or smell. The aggressor then responds physically,

moving surreptitiously to approach.

The stalk in The Pathfinder leads to a friendly
meeting and a resultant journey. The stalk in The

Last of the Mohicans leads to conflict and a sudden

death. Stalk, as will be discussed in Chapter III, is

often an action which begins a chain of events.

The discussion of action by recourse to such rigid

categories as the six delineated here naturally leads to

some problems of classification. The tracking or

trailing of prey illustrates this point. "Following a

trail" is a demonstrably other-directed action. But

sometimes it is all but impossible to determine if

"trailing" be stalk action or chase action. In both

groups of action, the pursuer has a clear focus on his

object, either through sight, sound, or with recourse to

a tangible proof of passage. While, if the point of

view is helpful, some instances of stalk present clear

proof that the prey knows itself to be in danger, at

other times the extent of the prey's knowledge cannot be

known. Surely, the tracker on the trail of an unwary

antagonist is stalking. The movements of two opponents,

both of whom are known to each other, is chasing. The

actions which fall in between the two categories are the

difficult ones to label, as the following example from

Satanstoe illustrates.

Corny, Susquesus, Guert, and Jaap know there to be

hostile Indians in the woods around Mooseridge, the

Littlepage homestead. As soon as the party ascertains

that their hut is unoccupied, the whites and Jaap enter

the structure while Susquesus, a friendly Indian, casts

about for signs in the woods. He finds evidence of the

enemy. After a meal, the men decide they are probably


as safe spending the night where they are as attempting

to travel through the dark woods. They secure the door.

During the night Susquesus wakens Corny, and the two

slip out into the woods to listen. Hearing a chilling

cry, they attempt to locate the origin of the sound;

and, when they near the place they believe to be the

correct one, they stop and select "the dark shadows of

two or three young pines .. where, by getting within

their low branches, [the two men] are completely

concealed from any eye" (XXV, 418). Agonized groans

echo through the night. When day finally breaks,

Susquesus uses "the greatest caution in looking around

before he [leaves] cover . peeping through such

openings as offered" (421). A bloody corpse meets their

gaze. Susquesus again reads the signs on the forest

floor, noting the traces left by their foes. When the

two arrive at the hut again, they take a "long and

distrustful survey of the forest" before they venture a

close approach. When the news of the bloody night's

deeds has been discussed, the four men, wishing to

contact some allies whom they know to be nearby but whom

they cannot signal to with a rifle shot because the

sound would alert their foes, set off through the woods,

their "senses . keenly on the alert" and avoiding

"everything like a cover that might conceal ambush"


Twenty more pages of description follow. The four

continue to move in response to their enemy, but not in

any clearly identifiable manner. The party covers miles

of ground, and never sights the first Indian, besides

Susquesus. The stalk movement is protracted in

Satanstoe, but it is not very well focused. What

Susquesus learns from his reading of tracks is not very

helpful, nor is the action the party takes very

meaningful. while a "proper" tracker may learn much

from examination of the "spoor," most characters never

notice the "trace" at all, and many who do examine the

"sign" fail to understand what they have seen. Many

stalks begin as track readings; many stalks abort before

the characters have the chance to frame a proper

response to the trail. But, like stalk proper, a good

reading of the trail may lead to a closing of the

distance between two parties. Both actions can offer

entries into other forms of action.

Fight: A Struggle, Contest, Contention,
Competition, or War

"The battle is not always to the strong,
neither is the race to the swift."

The Pilot
(XIV, 80)

The nomenclature for fight action is diverse,

probably both because human beings engage in so many

types of fights and at so many levels and also because

the human species is so aware of and so interested in

such conflicts. When the strife includes many

individuals whose actions are centrally ordered, the

conflict is named a war and the resultant action labeled

a battle, an offensive, a skirmish, or, perhaps, an

"action" or a "brush." Actually, for the purposes of

fiction, "battles" during "war" are practically never

described; the language cannot convey the experience and

the human mind cannot properly encompass the magnitude

of the action. A recitation of events in any war leads

invariably to history, and that is not the concern of
the storyteller who wishes to spin a "good tale."

Cooper very often does make use of a war as the

containing framework for a narrative. Beginning with

inclusion of the Napoleonic Wars in Precaution and

continuing right through the canon to The Oak Openings

(1848), which includes a peripheral conflict generated

by the War of 1812, Cooper's texts utilize historical

warfare. The conflicts he treats span a period from

1740, the year Natty in The Deerslayer is involved in

action preparatory to the French and Indian War (1754-

1763), to 1848, the year Stephen Spike in Jack Tier

smuggles gunpowder to the enemy during the Mexican War.

In just about half of the tales Cooper wrote, war or

rumor of war contributes to the depicted action.

Cooper treated the global war which might best be

called the British "War for Empire" (1754-1763) in The

Wept of Wish-Ton-Wish, Satanstoe, The Pathfinder, The

Last of the Mohicans, and The Deerslayer. In America,

the actions of this war are called "The French and

Indian War." The continental European actions resulting

simultaneously are known as "The Seven Years' War." In

The Red Rover Cooper utilizes a setting not strictly

American, so the war is known by the latter name in this

tale. The war he treated next most frequently in his

fictions is the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783).

Lionel Lincoln, The Spy, and Wyandotte utilize the

conflict ashore and The Pilot asea. The "Napoleonic

Wars" (1805-1814) provide battle action in Precaution,

Miles Wallingford, and The Wing-and-Wing. The 1745

conflict of the "Jacobite Rebellion" underlies The Two

Admirals; the "quasi-war" between the United States and

France supports much action in Afloat and Ashore.

When most effectively woven into the texture of a

tale, battle action provides a gripping focus. The

outcome of battles often determines the fate of the

characters. The scope of the conflict augments the

purely individual importance of the actors and lends a

more universal interest to the actions of the specific

players. Even when the battle action is not integral to

the text, it allows Cooper to add excitement and action

which, although rather peripheral, is mimetic and


In Precaution, which offers Cooper's first use of

battle, the struggle is of this second, relatively

peripheral, type. Cooper does not have recourse to war

until his penultimate chapter, for the previous 47

chapters have treated "matters of the heart." Perhaps

the author himself felt his text needed a less

restricted field as it neared its conclusion; he

switches his focus to war. The Napoleonic conflict,

"which for a time threw the peace of the world into the

scale of fortune," provides action to conclude Cooper's

first narrative. After all the birth mystery plots have

been unraveled and the numerous marriages have

transpired, Cooper turns to war.

Napoleon had commenced those daring and
rapid movements, which for a time threw the peace
of the world into the scale of fortune, and which
nothing but the interposition of a ruling
Providence could avert from their threatened
success. As the th dragoons wheeled into a
field already deluged with English blood, on the
heights of Quatre Bras, the eye of its gallant
colonel saw a friendly battalion falling beneath
the sabers of the enemy's cuirassiers. The word
was passed, the column opened, the sounds of the
quivering bugle were heard for a moment above the
roar of the cannon and the shouts of the
combatants; the charge, sweeping like a whirlwind,
fell heavily on those treacherous Frenchmen, who
to-day had sworn fidelity to Louis, and to-morrow
intended lifting their hands in allegiance to his
"Spare our life in mercy," cried an officer,
already dreadfully wounded, who stood shrinking
from the impending blow of an enraged Frenchman.

An English dragoon dashed at the cuirassier, and
with one blow severed his arm from his body.
"Thank God," sighed the wounded officer,
sinking beneath the horses' feet.
His rescuer threw himself from the saddle,
and raising the fallen man inquired into his
wounds. It was Pendennyss [the hero], and it was
Egerton [an acquaintance]. (XXXXVIII, 717-18)

Here, with Cooper's first use of battle, are found

the general characteristics of his habitual treatment

of this action. A general, panoramic sweep over the

setting is offered. The general rapidly gives way to a

particularized vignette of local action. Conversation

usually ensues, amidst the frenzy. A few paragraphs

later, Cooper offers his second battle; this time he

dwells on the sentimental hero and so avoids any

description of real action, save for the mounting of a


As the opening cannon of the enemy gave the
signal for the commencing conflict, Pendennyss
mounted his charger with a last thought on his
distant wife . and gave the remainder of the
day to duty.
Who has not heard of the events of that
fearful hour, on which the fate of Europe hung as
it were suspended in the scale? On one side
supported by the efforts of desperate resolution,
guided by the most consummate art; and on the
other defended by a discipline and enduring
courage almost without a parallel.
The indefatigable Blucher arrived, and the
star of Napoleon sunk.
Pendennyss threw himself from his horse, on
the night of the eighteenth of June . with the
languor that follows unusual excitement, and
mental thanksgiving that this bloody work was at
length ended. (XXXXVIII, 718)

Cooper relegates all of the action to Blucher's

arrival, neglecting to give even one battlefield act to

Pendennyss. The nascent author disposes of the Battle

of Waterloo, for so this lifeless fray was, with the

phrase "the star of Napoleon sunk." Yet, the basic

pattern remains. The central character moves into the

background as the battle scene is offered in large

scale. Once the large action is met ("Blucher

arrived"), Cooper shifts the focus to a close-up on the

main character. Even in this faltering delineation,

Cooper uses this structure.

In Cooper's next published work, The Spy, the battle

scenes are well-developed throughout. Here is the first

narrative where Cooper "found his voice," and, from

Introduction to conclusion, the voice tells of war.

"The dispute between England and the United States of

America, though not strictly a family quarrel, had many

of the features of a civil war," Cooper relates, in the

"Introduction" (443). To conclude the narrative, Cooper

offers more war. "It was thirty-three years after .

that an American army was once more arrayed against the

troops of England; but the scene was transformed from

the banks of the Hudson to those of the Niagara"

(XXXV, 653).

A young Captain Wharton Dunwoody and a nameless old

man meet coincidentally just before battle. Of course,


the old man is Harvey Birch, the titular hero. Before

Dunwoody has the opportunity to ascertain Birch's true

identity, the men are "interrupted by sudden and heavy

explosions of artillery, which were immediately followed

by continued volleys of small-arms, and in a few minutes

the air was filled with the tumult of a warm and well-

contested battle" (655).

The men move toward the American camp, which is a

scene of activity.

Everything in the American camp announced an
approaching struggle. At a distance of a few
miles, the sound of the cannon and musketry was
heard above the roar of the cataract. The troops
were soon in motion, and a movement made to
support the division of the army which was already
engaged. The summit of [a nearby] hill was
crowned with the cannon of the British, and in the
flat beneath was the remnant of Scott's gallant
brigade, which for a long time had held an unequal
contest with distinguished bravery. A new line
was interposed, and one column of the Americans
directed to charge up the hill. . During the
last of these struggles, the ardor of the youthful
captain [Dunwoody] . urged him to lead his men
some distance in advance, to scatter a daring
party of the enemy. He succeeded. (XXXV, 655-656)

Immediately after the battle, Captain Dunwoody hunts for

the old man, finds his body, reads the paper in the tin

box the corpse grasps, and discovers Birch's true

identity. One further sentence closes the tale.

Here in The Spy and, for the most part, in all of

Cooper's succeeding narratives, the movement from

general battle action to particular functions

effectively and is presented intelligently. The actions


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