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The Pioneers (Signet Classics) Mass Market Paperback – March 6, 2007

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Editorial Reviews


“His memory will exist in the hearts of the people...[and his works] should find a place in every American’s library.”—Daniel Webster
“Cooper emphatically belongs to the nation. He has left a space in our literature which will not easily be supplied.”—Washington Irving

From the Publisher

From its remarkable first scene--in which a gunshot finds an unintended target--to its fiery climax in the woods of New York State, The Pioneers is a rich chronicle of early frontier life filled with action, adventure, romance, and history. It is also the work that established James Fenimore Cooper as the first great American novelist. The first installment if what would later become the famous Leatherstocking Tales, The Pioneers introduces readers to the colorful and enduring character of frontiersman Natty Bumppo. Forced by a local landowner to obey new hunting laws, Natty Bumppo rebels and finds allies in the landowner's daughter and a mysterious young stranger. Against the backdrop of the changing seasons, a varied cast of unforgettable characters is caught up in a drama that illuminates the essence of the American character and the conflict between a restlessly expanding society and the unspoiled wilderness that was here before us all. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Signet Classics
  • Mass Market Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Signet (March 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451530470
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451530479
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 1.3 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #914,318 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By nto62 on April 4, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Marmaduke Temple opens this story as he retrieves his daughter Elizabeth from a boarding school in New York City shortly after the Revolutionary War. As they descend the mid-winter mountains of upstate New York into the valley the Temples call home, they meet the other major characters of the story, Natty Bumppo, Chingachgook, and Oliver Edwards. Cooper prefaces this book by telling us that he wrote it for his pleasure, not ours. As Elizabeth's first night back home consumes 178 pages, I was beginning to take the man at his word, but, from here, an outstanding tale unfolds.
The Pioneers is a book in the romantic style of it's age which also carries contemporary messages. The loss of wilderness and wildlife were already a concern in the late 18th century. As the population shifted westward, Native Americans were supplanted and the wilds they inhabited were methodically tamed. Marmaduke Temple and Natty Bumppo, the conservationists, approach the issue in differing ways. Temple exemplifies the responsible management of natural resources while Bumppo longs for the departure of civilization so that nature may reclaim it's own.
Surrounding the ecological message is a story of a human dimension that, though expectedly formulaic, is nonetheless pleasing to behold. The characters are finely wrought as is the portrait of 18th century American life. Easily transported, the reader will find the descriptions of natural surroundings evocative of period and place.
I was sorry to see the last page, though the last page was masterfully done. While James Fenimore Cooper need not be proclaimed by me as the author of classics, I consider this book one and the same and rate The Pioneers a resounding five stars.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 27, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is the fourth chronologically of the Leatherstocking tales, although the first to be written. It is different from the first three (the ones I've read) of the chronology, it that it contains less (or no) adventure and really just paints a picture of everyday life on the disappearing frontier of 1790's America. Actually, it paints a romanticized picture of the life of the wealthy landowner's family. The setting was modeled after Cooper's father who founded Cooperstown, NY. The book is a blend of "sociology" with a conservation message, making it ahead of its time in that respect. It does contain the elements of Cooper's later writing: it is florid in its descriptions, verbose, and in places contains an undercurrent of racial prejudice. Its language is a mixture of formal and vernacular, some of the vernacular slightly hard for the modern reader to follow. It also contains the "pain in the butt" character (e.g. Harry March in Deerslayer) which Cooper liked to include. In the Pioneers, the character is only mildly annoying.
I found the familiarity of the culture to be amusing and interesting. There is much which hasn't changed in 200 years. Among many examples, there was nearly a "traffic" accident on Christmas Eve, a lawyer trying to drum up a law suit, and the stubborn competitiveness which is both the great strength and the great weakness of our country. This is a very interesting, and educational book, which I highly recommend.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Edward on January 6, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The title page of James Fenimore Cooper's 1823 novel "The Pioneers, or the Sources of the Susquehanna" defines it as "a Descriptive Tale"; and indeed the narrative is more a series of descriptions rather than a straight-forward plot. There is a well-drawn set of characters living quiet country lives. There is a plot "teaser" that is fairly obvious and finally resolved in the penultimate chapter, and there is a vague love triangle that never intensifies. In fact,Cooper seems to be not so much concerned with events as with attitudes. The story opens at Christmastime of 1793, and the settlers discuss the tumult of that year in Paris and the Vendée. (One of their company is an émigré who keeps muttering "Les monstres!" and "Mon pauvre roi!") Unfortunately, Cooper seems to have lost track of his time scheme because several months later in the story it's still 1793. This is one of the Leatherstocking Tales, which means that Nathaniel Bumppo (called Leatherstocking by the newcomers, Hawkeye by the Indians) is one of the major characters. But "The Pioneers", unlike "The Last of the Mohicans", does not involve Natty in dangerous adventures. (Which is just as well -- he's suppose to be 70 years old.) Instead, the novel presents frontier life in central New York at a settlement on Lake Otsego through commonplace but colorful occurrences: a fishing expedition, a turkey shoot, a gathering at the Bold Dragoon, a trial. The remarkable aspect of "The Pioneers", and the reason today's readers will identify with it, is the many arguments for the conservation of natural resources, both flora and fauna.Natty Bumppo's concern is understandable, as he is a man of the wilderness.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
In "The Pioneers," Natty Bumppo, the adventurous hero of "The Last of the Mohicans," is 70 years old and has become disenchanted with a young American republic whose rapidly advancing population and government encroaches upon the free-spirited life to which he is accustomed. Natty's run-down shack is allowed to stand at the pleasure of Judge Marmaduke Temple, a well-meaning yet stern patriarch who received a vast land grant at the end of the Revolutionary War and who builds a town whose existence depends on the rule of law and order. The plot of the novel flows from the inevitable conflict between the advance of this new civilization and the claims of the rugged individualists who can barely abide its rules.

In his Preface, Cooper warns the reader that the book contains none of "the strong excitement that is produced by battles and murders"; unlike his later books, this is no adventure story. Nevertheless, he still manages to animate his novel with daring heroics, melodramatic chase scenes, and daring rescues. Also adding suspense are the appearance of a mysterious young man (whose identity is fairly obvious, but no matter) and the secrecy of what Bumppo is hiding in his cabin.

After several briskly told opening chapters, about two nearly disastrous accidents, Cooper slows things down a bit, describing the Judge's household, the townsfolk, and their churchgoing and barhopping ways. Because the Judge's relatives and friends range from blustering pretenders to crusty old-timers, these sections are filled with unexpected humor. (But one does have to wade through an awful lot of prose about the weather.) Fortunately the last half of the book is fast-paced, including a hilarious yet oddly electrifying court trial and jail rescue.
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