The Garden The Machine Analysis

2067 Words 9 Pages
The Garden, The Machine, and the American Voice
Perhaps one of the more discernable conflicts in art and literature is that which takes place between appreciating nature and expanding society. Many writers and philosophers, from Aristotle to Shakespeare, have naturally gravitated towards this fundamental dilemma, and shared their sentiments through art, poems, and literary works. Such tendencies did not escape the realm of American literature in the mid-nineteenth century. Up until then, before America had even established its independence from England, many approached the debate of nature versus urban society through the veil of pastoral ideologies. Through this veil, authors often described a simple country life as more preferable to the
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James Fenimore Cooper’s The Pioneers encapsulates America’s appreciation for “wild” nature over that of the serene, peaceful scenes described by their pastoral European precursors. The reader can see the manifestation of this appreciation through the American people’s enthusiastic reception of Natty Bumppo, one of Cooper’s most famous characters. His interaction with other characters from the stories serve to depict him as an individual who, unlike protagonists from other pastoral works, doesn’t refrain from society in order to escape social pressures, but because the bond between himself and the wild is in and of itself liberating. Born from that bond is a respect for nature that the social machine often disregards, which can be seen in the instance where the leather-stocking scorns surveyors for killing an excessive amount of pigeons out of irritation: “It is much better to kill only such you want, without wasting your powder and lead, then to be firing into God’s creatures in such a wicked manner,” (Cooper 77). While not strictly considered a naturalist writer (the literary movement isn’t considered to have started until later in the nineteenth century), this particular scene of slaughter shows how Cooper challenges the notion that social growth should outweigh the preservation of natural beauty. Through Natty, who clearly believes humans should respect and uphold nature, and through describing behaviors of his more careless characters, Cooper condemns the social machine’s tendency to destroy the environment. The American frontier was abundant with wildlife and untamed nature, and it was those qualities that Americans valued in their new world. Initially, Cooper didn’t intend Natty Bumppo as a more prominent character until the American public indicated their appreciation for the pathfinder. In a

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