Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Templeton. Fictional New York frontier town in and around which all the events of the novel take place. It is modeled on Cooperstown, New York, which was founded in the 1780’s by James Fenimore Cooper’s father William and is the town in which James was reared. In his introduction to the novel, Cooper locates Templeton in the real county of Otsego which lies in “those low spurs of the Alleghenies, which cover the midland counties of New York.” Templeton is on the southern edge of Otsego Lake (as is Cooperstown), one of the sources of the Susquehanna River, and was founded by Marmaduke Temple, the town’s judge and patriarch. Clearly in the early stages of development, the town itself consists of only about fifty buildings, most of them unfinished. Through these buildings, Cooper reveals a society struggling to put into practice democratic principles. On one hand, the buildings exemplify the “composite order,” a mixture of seemingly incongruous parts built on principles of utility rather than beauty. In a fledgling community consisting of people from a variety of backgrounds and under threat from nature, the settlers must base their lives, politically, legally, morally, and physically, on what works rather than on tradition and what has worked in the past. The “composite order,” then, is at the heart of democratic egalitarianism and individualism and is reflected in such buildings as the Bold Dragoon and the church. These...

(The entire section is 575 words.)