What is the importance of settings in James Fenimore Coopers novel's the prairie and the deerslayer?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It is precisely in the setting of Cooper's works that a strong and dominant theme in his thinking emerges.  Preceding  American Transcendentalism, Cooper was drawn to the idea of nature as being something that can be reflective of the subjective experience and apart from what he saw as the corrupting influence of the cosmopolitan social order that was emerging in 19th Century, Pre- Civil War America. At the same time, Cooper was on the search for what he saw as American character, something that he felt could be revealed in the natural setting in characters like Natty Bumppo.   Cooper's works call out to an idea that would be later echoed by Transcendentalist thinkers in its lauding of nature as a realm of perfection, one where settlement of the frontier and the natural setting led to the eventual removal of its uniqueness and distinctive traits.  Similar to later thinkers such as Emerson and Thoreau, Cooper believed that universal truths can be subjectively experienced and grasped through the reverence of nature.  It is for this reason that his novels are set in the wilderness of nature, a world away from society in the hopes of creating a domain better than it.

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