Critical Evaluation

(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

THE REDSKINS: OR, INDIAN AND INJIN is the final novel in James Fenimore Cooper’s Littlepage series. Like many of his novels, this work deals with the conflict between a cultured upper class of high principles and an uncultured middle class with no principles except those of self-interest. Cooper’s characters are drawn in keeping with their sympathies, according to whether they sympathize with the rights of the landowning Littlepage family or with the grasping Newcome family. Cooper stacks the cards in favor of the landowners and makes the conflict one between the patroons and the poltroons. He tends to caricature his villains and to treat them with satire and irony. In spite of the rather restricted interest of the antirent controversy around which THE REDSKINS centers, the novel has suspense, action, romance, villainy, conflict, and some sharp, if limited, insights into the structure of American society. Cooper clearly saw the perpetual struggle for power within America, and he described it with compelling logic. The reader will discern Cooper’s belief that Jacksonian democracy had degenerated into an ill-conceived, leveling movement which threatened the genteel American ethic in the pre-Civil War period. Hugh Littlepage—gentleman, world traveler, and landowner—represented the ideal America which Cooper wanted to preserve from the opportunistic and materialistic self-interests of the middle class represented by Seneca Newcome.


(The entire section is 528 words.)