Saturday, January 10, 2004

The Pilot by James Fenimore Cooper

One of Cooper’s early and lesser known books, written in 1823, the same year as the first Leatherstocking Tale. Most interesting thing is the character of Long Tom Coffin, a sailor who is in many ways the same character as Natty Bumpoo. Well, not so much the same character as the same kind of character. Long Tom is a sailor through and through the same way Natty is a frontiersman. His speech and thoughts are composed in nautical themes and metaphors, the same way Natty’s are based on a life on the woodland frontier. Second most interesting thing is the pilot (who is supposed to be John Paul Jones, but is never named as such) and his tentative ability to lead the other characters in the novel through the shoals of good and morality as well as those of the sea. It’s not fully developed here as it is with Natty, especially in The Pathfinder, but it is there, and I think you can see Cooper beginning to tinker with the idea. If I had nothing but time, I would go back and re-read The Leatherstocking Tales and see just how much Natty is a combination of Long Tom Coffin and the pilot.

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