Further Critical Evaluation of the Work

(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

When Francis Parkman made the journey to Oregon in 1846, he kept a series of diaries, and these journals were the basis for his first book, THE OREGON TRAIL. Unfortunately the editor found Parkman’s notes too crude and earthy for public taste and in the transformation the writings were watered down.

In the foreword to the first edition Parkman stated that he was taking the trail to Oregon with his friend Quincy Shaw to study the Indians, and in this role Parkman proved to be a pioneer literary observer. While he did omit much ethnological material by today’s standards, the work is full of data on the Sioux and other Plains tribes. His compatriots included Henry Chatillon, who already knew much about the Indians; and Parkman acquired information from the mountain man Thomas Fitzpatrick, another “walking encyclopaedia” of information about the West. His treatment of the Indians, while it is most descriptive, reflects unquestionably Parkman’s views that the Indians were less than “civilized.”

What Parkman learned and accomplished during this adventure would provide the background for his later works on France and England and their role in the New World. Additionally he called attention to the miracles of this land with all of its environmental blessings: the minerals, soil, timber, and water. Logically, then, THE OREGON TRAIL focuses on the relation of men to the land and weather.

The work first...

(The entire section is 494 words.)