Reality in Fenimore Cooper's The Pioneers

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Reality in Fenimore Cooper's The Pioneers

Looking back on the mountain-view that was described as the main character's of Fenimore Cooper's The Pioneers caught sight of Templeton, their hometown, in the distance, Elizabeth, the primary female character, "felt as if all the loveliness of the mountain-view had vanished like the fancies of a dream" (59). While it may be true that during the moments that Elizabeth looked down on the scene, the scene was her reality, this reality was not an accurate portrayal of the town itself‹the point of Elizabeth's comment. For both Elizabeth and the reader (through Cooper) in the mountain-view the reality of objects was forgotten because no detail was available from the distance at which the party stood. Once the reality was forgotten each of the objects took on qualities not implicit in the object itself. That is, the objects and the scene were idealized. Both Cooper and Elizabeth, then, seemed to take part in the "action of inventing imaginary states of things," the Oxford English Dictionary's definition for fiction.

The most significant precursor to this fictive account is the change in scale of that occurs. Before the description of the mountain-view commenced Cooper tells of the horses pulling the parties sleigh: "The horses soon reached a point, where they seemed to know by instinct that the journey was nearly ended, and, bearing in the bits, as they nodded their heads, they rapidly drew the sleigh over the level land." The details of the horses movements explain the senses of the riders and the reality of the situation. Sleighs viewed during the description of the mountain-view, however, are no more than "a few dark and moving spots." This change in scale obscures all details in the objects being observed. A moment later the "habitations of man" are also called "spots of white . . . amidst the forest." Even when closer scrutiny is given to less distant "habitations," only the color is mentioned. In this scene few details of the objects that comprise the scene are given, instead the objects themselves are the details.

There is nothing in this lack of details that is fictional, or inventive in itself. But once the details are gone Cooper is not tied down by actual elements of the objects when giving them further meaning. Cooper's primary method of ascribing further meaning to the objects is through anthropomorphism. A tree

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