American Themes Phillis Wheatley in James Fenimore Cooper's Pioneers and Its Connection to the Works of Other Writers

The American themes in Cooper’s writing have both to do with the country itself, and some core ideas established by writers such as Benjamin Franklin. I believe the main theme of Pioneers to be that America arose quickly because of hard work. Cooper writes mostly about how America was previously, and at the time of writing, largely untamed wilderness; Cooper wrote, “only forty years have passed since this whole territory was a wilderness”. It was because of dedication and perseverance that colonists were able to settle there like described by writers such as Smith and Bradford America was built because “there was no grinding of the poor, The word speculator was then unknown to them”.

I believe Cooper is also implying that because of this dedication they were able to succeed in the Revolution, Another theme in this story is that a young colonist “who hears of the settlement of a country, knows but little of the actual toil and suffering by which it is accomplished”.

This reminded me of the end of William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation; both authors fear of the attitude of the new generation in the colonies. There is also a theme shared by American minority writers: the settlers will one day regret their unjust actions This is evident at the end of Pioneers when the narrative describes “that many a man has experienced before him, who discovers after the excitement of the moment has passed, that he has purchased pleasure at the expense of others” While not an entirely American theme, the idea of past injustices being acknowledged is common with slave writers Cooper’s writing best connects to Phillis Wheatley’s A Farewell to America.

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In both writings, the authors place great emphasis on the beauty of America—a romantic style Wheatley uses strong descriptive phrases like “smiling meads” and “flow’rets rise /And boast their gaudy pride”, while Cooper uses large prose paragraphs to set the scene of his story—long descriptions of “an extensive district of the country”.  There is also the similarity that I previously mentioned about acknowledging exploitation. In Wheatley’s Letter to Samson Occom, she writes: “God grant deliverance in his own Way and Time, and get him honor upon all those whose Avarice impels them to countenance and help forward the Calamities of their fellow Creatures”. This is similar to the speech Leather- stocking gave about the treatment of pigeons in Pioneers. Cooper’s work also connects to some of the values in Benjamin Franklin’s writing.

Franklin’s revoking of meat, as well as excess use of resources (temperance, frugality, and moderation is similar to the message at the end of Pioneers. Also, when Cooper describes the colonies being built with “the word spectator being unknown” to the builders, this reflects Franklin’s virtue of industry: “Lose no Time. Be always employed in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary Actions”. Overall, “The Pioneers” is a reflection of many of the key themes and ideas that were central to the cultural and political landscape of early 19th-century America. Its exploration of the tensions between civilization and wilderness, individualism and self-reliance, and the concept of the “noble savage” continue to resonate with readers today and have influenced a wide range of American writers.

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American Themes Phillis Wheatley in James Fenimore Cooper's Pioneers and Its Connection to the Works of Other Writers. (2023, May 14). Retrieved from

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