Saturday, January 31, 2004

The Spy by James Fenimore Cooper

This is Cooper’s second novel and supposedly the first work that got him noticed as an author. It is pretty much an adventure story set during the American Revolution. Here again I find a character, like Natty Bumpoo in the Leatherstocking Tales and Long Tom Coffin in The Pilot, who lives, speaks, and thinks in the metaphors of his profession. Natty is a frontiersman, Tom is a sailor, and in The Spy, Archibald Sitgreaves is a doctor. Dr. Sitgreaves is a medical officer with the American army, and spends a good deal of time in the book tending to the injured and complaining about how the typical soldier on both sides is too careless when inflicting harm on the enemy, believing that there are ways to knock men out of combat without killing them or maiming them for life. He, like Tom Coffin, is a supporting character in the story, which centers on a family of divided loyalties in the Revolution, the Whartons, and their neighbor, Harvey Birch, who may or may not be an English spy (not, as it turns out in the end. He is in fact a double agent in the direct employ of George Washington himself).

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