Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Pathfinder, or The Inland Sea by James Fenimore Cooper (1840)

The Pathfinder may well be the best of the three Leather Stocking series I've read so far.
Extremely typical of JFC writing in that it may take a page or two to define a small point but what are we reading for anyway?

Being from Michigan and having spent 1000's of hours on the Great (and other) Lakes I really enjoyed the sea fairing parts.

This book even more than the others has Natty constantly describing everyone's "nature." JFC living in a time and place where this must have been the only way of dealing with the Melting Pot that the North American Continent was (hmmm, still is.)

Just as in "The Last of the Mohicans and The Dearslayer we have Hawkeye delivering distressed white men & women from the dangers within the sparsely inhabited North American Continent. Much less warfare in the writing and much more sailing and danger in place.
We talk so little about this time in American history, its as if American History started with the civil war.

I have also come to believe that JFC was trying to create a desperately needed America myth. It hasn't stayed with us the way that Wister's "The Virginian"did however.

My copy is abused, maybe from the 30's.

Some of the Passages I like:

Mabel looks out upon Lake Ontario for the fist time...
Part of the reason I love this old writing is the Grandeur that that was everywhere, the sense of small that one had when adventuring. Now its a bit different; when I flew to Oregon it was the world that was small.
And again; to have a world laid out in front of you that was Endless, and there for the taking. Now its a bit different...

 Here we have a scene from the Fort where the Men have a shooting contest...

JFC certainly nails the deception of the young by the old in this passage. The belief that fairness and for an outcome as dictated by providence is what we have when we are young. It is later that we notice a finger on the scale.

The character of "Cap" is a wonderful "blowhard" from the East, your classic "expert at one thing knows and applies it to everything sort of load mouth." A great piece in the story's puzzle.
Its the last sentence that illustrates JFC's insightful and humorous snap at the end of a moment sharpening the human side of the scene.

In a long passage we witness Mabel's father dying of wounds received thru indiscretion of impatiences (as pointed out by Cap several times.)
My takeaway however relates to the inevitability of our parents leaving us alone on this earth.

In this scene The Pathfinder is resolved to give Mabel (whom he has every wright to) up to Jasper.
The part that strikes me has been a favorite subject of mine (one that doesn't interest others to talk about)  Its the way in which we aggrandize our friends; we give them all sorts of superior powers over and above other mortals, we wish only the best for them and excuse every transgression.

Ultimately The Pathfinder falls victim to the very thing he adheres to most; his insistence in "one's nature" this is the reason that he cannot take Mabel for his wife. And so with all kindness hands her over to Jasper for the all the reasons that are natural.