Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*New York City

*New York City. At the time in which this story is set, the city that James Fenimore Cooper calls New York is confined to Manhattan Island, whose northern territory is the last major stronghold of the royalist forces.

*Westchester County

*Westchester County. Large tract of land northeast of Manhattan, to which it is connected at the point of narrowest separation by the strategically important King’s Bridge. The country between the Hudson and Long Island Sound comprises a vast patchwork of hills and valleys, until it flattens out to the northeast into the plains of Connecticut. The hills are relatively gentle in the eastern part of the county, but they rise more precipitously as they approach the Hudson, into a ribbon of terrain that Cooper calls the Highlands.

Neutral Ground

Neutral Ground. Land lying to the east of the Highlands that is controlled by neither the British, who command the southern entrance to the Hudson, nor the Revolutionary forces, who hold the Highlands to the north. The effects of the war have left the Neutral Ground abandoned, its fields unplanted, its fences fallen, and its roads in a perilous state. Few of the sites at which the rival armies camp and exchange fire are named, but reference is made to the “hamlet” of White Plains, the heights above Sing Sing and—most significantly—to the village of Fishkill, around which the Revolutionary forces regroup. The most significant setting other than those detailed below is the ledge bearing the...

(The entire section is 640 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Clark, Robert, ed. James Fenimore Cooper: New Critical Essays. Totowa, N.J.: Barnes & Noble Books, 1985. Superior scholarship offered with insight and solid critical analysis. Excellent source for the beginner and for the serious student.

Crawford, T. Hugh. “Cooper’s Spy and the Theatre of Honor.” American Literature 63 (September, 1991): 405-419. An interesting and controversial gaze into the character and motivations of Harvey Birch, Cooper’s protagonist.

Darnell, Donald. James Fenimore Cooper: Novelist of Manners. Newark: University of Delaware Press, c. 1993. A recent close analysis presenting manners as Cooper’s method of introducing his views on society, humor, and social mores. Chapter three is especially insightful concerning The Spy.

Fields, Wayne, ed. James Fenimore Cooper: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, c. 1979. This useful volume offers lengthy biographical, historical, and critical studies of Cooper as the representative American author. The volume is particularly well edited.

Long, Robert Emmet. James Fenimore Cooper. New York: Continuum Books, 1990. This lively text offers a colorful introduction to Cooper the man and insightful comparisons to his contemporaries. Chapter 2 provides a concise summary of The Spy.

Ringe, Donald. James Fenimore Cooper. New York: Twayne, 1962. The book contains an excellent chronology, bibliography, and cogent biographical sketch. The Spy is referenced in Cooper’s canon.

Spiller, Robert E., and Philip C. Blackburn. A Descriptive Bibliography of the Writings of James Fenimore Cooper. New York: B. Franklin, 1968. This is an outstanding and essential tool for a study of Cooper.