Works by James Fenimore Cooper and William Cullen Bryant – English Literature Essay
Upon reading works by James Fenimore Cooper it is clear that primeval wilderness scenery was used to capture the attention of his audience. The backdrops to stories as From the Pioneers, allowed for Cooper to introduce vivid and wild challenges to his characters. He was able to show his character’s achievements and flaws through their ability to overcome or fail in such unimaginable conditions.
Characters like Natty Bumppo are created to show their life experiences in their physical description. He is an older man, now in his seventies, but of great height. His hair is now grey, his skin sunburned, and his body so thin he is thought to be emaciated. However, this is not the description of a broken man, but rather of a once physically powerful man who now wears his past struggles. His sunburned skin demonstrates that he does rest in preparation for death but rather he is still holding on to his fighting spirit and work ethic.
What is most dramatic is that Cooper’s characters are venturing into a land that is actually now more inviting than it once was. This further develops the reader’s opinion of Bumppo as a determined settler of the wild frontier. One who has dedicated his life to this pursuit. This seemingly uninhabited mountain region, where even those who are skilled at horsemanship must be on constant watch, was previously a thousand times more harsh and dreary. Elizabeth Temple and other settlers however see this land as an opportunity and one that is full promise. Not the land of famine and hardships that one might perceive it to be.
Cooper’s characters are driven by the hope that they will find and accumulate great wealth. They also feel as though the pain, famine, and disease they have experienced are simply apart of settling this rough territory. In their minds God is smiling down on them for their efforts and surely they will be rewarded for their suffering.
In contrast to Cooper’s dreadful imagery there is that which William Cullen Bryant presents. Bryant gives the reader a romantic view of the West that would surely tug at the heart of whoever reads his work. Readers suffering from city life cling to the ideas that Bryant presents. No more overwhelming city noise and congestion that coincides with the rapid growth of east coast cities.
The Prairies, a poem telling of a dream through westward prairie land gives the reader a look into the imagination of Bryant. Depictions of vast unchained farm land give the reader the chance to envision themselves gliding through high standing prairie grass and feeling the warm open air rush by them as they venture out to claim their new land. The character seeing Indian burial grounds tells the reader how quickly those things that we hold closest can vanish. Entire cultures, languages, tribes, religious practices, and even love, all gone, and perhaps unnoticed by the unobservant eye.
In the last line of The Prairies, Bryant’s character awakes from his dream only to find himself in the wilderness alone. This contradiction to Cooper is quite telling of the wants and desires of an author like Bryant. Though in the poem the venturing man seems alone, he is surrounded by the past that created his present. He is far from lonely! His spirit knows that he is not in a famine struck land, but rather one with a rich history where the deer, the bee, and the ghosts of natives still live on.