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Masculine Discrepancies on the Frontier: James Fenimore Cooper's Ideal American Man

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Masculine Discrepancies on the Frontier: James Fenimore Cooper's Ideal American Man

Within the genre of the frontier novel, great consideration is given to early American ideals of masculinity. According to Aiping Zhang, in his article "The Negotiation of Manhood: James Fenimore Cooper's Ideology of Manhood in The Last of the Mohicans," James Fenimore Cooper was exceedingly interested in developing a new American definition of the ideal man. Zhang writes that "masculinity was always one of the primary issues in [Cooper's] life and his writings as well . . . the selection . . . of (the) male figures in The Last of the Mohicans must have a lot to do with his personal search for the ideal image of American man'' (2). With the realization that his writings could promote a new definition of the ideal American man, Cooper presented the male characters in The Last of the Mohicans as either well-suited or ill-fitted for frontier life, which Cooper metaphorically substitutes for early America.

Thus, if a male character is able to survive and adapt to the frontier life, Cooper implies that this is the new ideal for the American male. Zhang suggests that Cooper does not provide a single definition for this new ideal of American manliness; however, I find that Cooper does put forth a clear aversion towards the sentimental male, whom he paints as incapable of surviving the frontier. He presents David Gamut, the master of psalmody, as a sentimental male who behaves spontaneously and inappropriately on the frontier. At times, when all the other characters--including the women--are behaving with vigilance, Cooper describes Gamut's behavior as rather absent-minded, such that Gamut sings during battle while the other characters flee. Throug...

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...entimental male in The Last of the Mohicans, and it is clear that his inappropriate presence on the frontier is Cooper's way of negating sentimentality as part of the new ideal of American manliness.

Works Cited

Brady, Corey. Virginia Cope, Michael Millner, Ana Mitric, Kent Puckett Danny Siegel, Eds. A Dictionary of Sensibility. 20 Nov. 200l.

<http://www.engl.viginia.edu/%7Eenec981/dictionary/contributors.htm>

Cooper, James Fenimore. The Last of the Mohicans. New York: Bantam, 1989.

Zhang, Aiping. "The Negotiation of Manhood: James Fenimore Cooper's Ideology of Manhood in The Last of the Mohicans." Papers from the 1999 Cooper Seminar (No. 12) James

Fenimore Cooper. His Country and His Art, The State University of New York College at Oneonta, Hugh C. MacDougall, Ed. 21 Nov. 2001 <http://www.Oneonta.edu/external/cooper/articles/1999suny-zhang.html>
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