Literary Portraits of Native Americans: Connecting Identity with Environment in Novels by Brown, Cooper, and Sedgwick
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As the republic of the United States was forming, the early Americans crafted a narrative in order to create a distinctly American identity. One way that early white American authors achieved this was through Othering Native Americans. My research is based around three novels that present a portrait of the Native as the cultural Other: Edgar Huntly: Memoirs of a Sleepwalker by Charles Brockden Brown, The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper, and Hope Leslie by Catherine Maria Sedgwick. Each of these authors focuses on interactions with the environment, rather than ethnicity, in their formation of the Other. Brown presents the Native as savage while Cooper portrays the Native as the idealized and equally unrealistic romantic hero of the wilderness. However, Sedgwick provides a more nuanced and complicated portrait of the Native within the wilderness, contradicting the assertions presented in Edgar Huntly and The Last of the Mohicans.