Who was Hiram Doolittle in Cooper's The Pioneers, and what was his role in the plot?

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

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Hiram Doolittle is a representation of the American construction of self that threatens to endanger the natural beauty of the frontier.  Doolittle represents a world towards which Cooper holds a certain level of disdain.  His role in the plot is to advance the encroachment of White society upon the Native American, and upon the landscape, in general. Doolittle is the agent of action in informing the authorities that Natty Bumppo is breaking the law.  Doolittle also obtains the search warrant for Natty's home. Finally, he forces the confrontation with Natty Bumppo that inevitably gets the Native American in court for assault. Doolittle seeks to advance his own personal name and all attached with it.   His role in the plot is to increase the chasm between Natty Bumppo's world and the world of White America.

Hiram Doolittle represents the force of cultural majority that Cooper feels threatens the greatness intrinsic to natural America.  He is a character easily defined as one "whose ambition exceeds his skill, and whose greed is stronger than his morals."  For Cooper, Doolittle represents the fundamental problem with American identity at the time. The intricate and nuanced beauty of the American frontier cannot be appreciated by individuals like Doolittle.  Their attempts to manipulate it for their own self- serving gain is what Cooper defines as wrong with the current mindset of American society.  Doolittle is described as a "jack of all trades and master of none."  Cooper sees America developing into a world of Hiram Doolittles, when it really should be taking note of the insight and profound world- view of Natty Bumppo.  Cooper's use of Hiram Doolittle begins to trigger a motif in American literature of the collision between what is and what should be, with the former seeming to dominate the mindset of American society. Cooper laments the emergence of America is one with more Hiram Doolittles than Natty Bumppos.   It is in this way that Hiram Doolittle impacts the plot of the story as well as its themes.

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