Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Born among the rugged stones of the New England hills, in the Housatonic Valley, Israel Potter grows up with all the virtues of the hard, principled new land. After an argument with his father over a girl whom his stern parent does not think a suitable match, Israel decides to run away from home while his family is attending church. He wanders about the countryside, hunting deer, farming land, becoming a trapper, and dealing in furs. During his wanderings, he learns that most men are unscrupulous. He also hunts whales from Nantucket to the coast of Africa.
In 1775, Israel joins the American forces and takes part in the Battle of Bunker Hill. He fights bravely, but the battle, as he sees it, is simply disorganized carnage. Wounded, Israel enlists aboard an American ship after his recovery. Once at sea, the ship is captured by the British. Israel is taken prisoner and conveyed to England on a British ship, but on his arrival in London, he manages to escape.
Wandering about London, Israel meets various Englishmen who mock his American accent. Some of the English are kind and helpful to him. Others cuff him about and berate the scurrilous Yankee rebels. He finds various odd jobs, including one as a gardener working for a cruel employer. He escapes from this job and finds one as a gardener on the king’s staff at Kew Gardens. One day, Israel meets King George III. The king, completely mad, realizes that Israel is an American and is ineffectually...
(The entire section is 1090 words.)
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