King Philip's War in representative American literary works of the period 1820-1860

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Chartier, Richard G. (Richard Gerard), 1933-
Newcomb, Robert H.
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This study examined the literary treatment of the Indian in the works of five representative writers who, between 1820 and 1860, used the materials of King Philip's War as their narrative focus. The works are James Eastburn and Robert Sands' Yamoyden (1820), a verse romance, John Augustus Stone's Metamora (1829), a stare melodrama, James Fenimore Cooper's The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish,(1828) G. B. Hollister's Mount Hope (1851), and D. P. Thompson's The Doomed Chief (1860), all prose romances.The above works reflect the principal trends and influences operative upon American writers who utilized Indian subjects during the Romantic era. King Philip's War appealed to these writers primarily because its remoteness in time cast, in William Tudor's words, "a shade of obscurity resembling that of antiquity,"l and its events and characters were colorful enough to be of romantic interest. Primitivistic tradition had conceived the Indian as Noble Savage, presumably a creature better able to live virtuously than civilized man.1William Tudor, Jr., "An Address Delivered to the Phi Beta Kappa Society," The North American Review, II (November,1815), 14.Most writers felt the need, nevertheless, to accommodate this myth to historical realities. Unlike the Noble Savage of tradition, experience had shown the American Indian to have been neither "innocent" nor able to withstand the encroachments of civilization. A new and paradoxical concept of the Noble Savage therefore emerged--that of a being heroic but cruel, generous but vengeful, honest but immoderately passionate, and a man, above all, fated to be crushed by a higher culture which he did not understand and which did not understand him.Stone's Metamora is closest to the primitivistic tradition. The play contains little, if any, implication that the savage's way of life is inferior to that of the civilized man. In each of the romances discussed, however, just such an unfavorable implication is central to each author's treatment of the Indian. Yamovden, on the other hand, is a muzzling work which leaves the reader doubtful that Eastburn and Sands ever had a settled conception of the Noble Savage.Stone excepted, the writers studied were concerned about historicity and tried to base their treatment of the Indian, in part at least, upon authentic historical materials. Generally, they followed Puritan sources in order to Five a sense of realism to the background, a procedure plainly evident in the works when the narrations of several battles are compared with Puritan accounts. The writers did not hesitate, however, to depart from their sources when history contradicted the characterizations made necessary by romantic themes.The several works discussed show evidence of the influence exerted upon characterization and plot making by the literary conventions which dominated the popular writing of the early and middle nineteenth century. Most characters are stereotypes which fill roles in a standard plot in which the white heroine is endangered, rescued, then reunited with the white hero.The study was organized as follows: chapter one described the growth of enthusiasm for Indian subjects in America from 1815 through 1830; chapter two discussed the Noble Savage myth and its influence upon American writing; chapters three through seven examined Yamoyden, The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish, Metamora, Mount Hope, and The Doomed Chief as works representative of the general trends and influences discussed in the earlier chapters; and the conclusion summarized the study and attempted to formulate the writer's conclusions concerning the Indian's Place in American romanticism.