"Men Who Hunt Perpetually For Their Personal Northwest Passage"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: This quotation, serving as the foreword to the first book of Northwest Passage, a novel of exploration and adventure during the latter half of the eighteenth century, fittingly reflects the theme and subject-matter of the book as a whole. It is the story of two men, one with a dream, the other with a talent, who, hunting "perpetually for their personal Northwest Passage," endure discouragement, physical hazards, and repeated failure without relenting their obsessive efforts or altering their determined courses. Major Rogers, a courageous, untiring soldier, dreams of finding a northwest passage across America to the East. He proves himself well qualified for such an exploration only to be thwarted by an ambitious political machinery. However, neither reversals, physical suffering, nor disfavor deadens his determination or blurs his vision of the Northwest Passage. A talented artist named Langdon Towne, hoping to paint Indians in the natural state, risks social disgrace, physical dangers, and the loss of his beloved in order to pursue his financially unrewarding occupation. Both men exhibit the unextinguishable spark that compels them onward, one toward the realization of a dream, the other toward the fulfillment of a talent.

. . . On every side of us are men who hunt perpetually for their personal Northwest Passage, too often sacrificing health, strength and life itself to the search; and who shall say they are not happier in their vain but hopeful quest than wiser, duller folk who sit at home, venturing nothing. . . .