Images of the Hunter in American Life and Literature

By Lynda Wolfe Coupe | Go to book overview

Conclusion

At the heart of the American national image is power—no matter what specific form one may argue this image should take. By considering a cluster of images of the hunter rather than seeking an all-encompassing metaphor for the American experience, we gain insight into the process of the creation, emergence, development, challenges, and future of the nation; and the meaning of its nationality. Looking specifically at pairs of American hunter figures, Pocahontas and John Smith represent the power to create a new nation and nationality; Daniel Boone and Natty Bumppo represent the power to develop it; Teddy Roosevelt and “Buffalo Bill” Cody represent the power to expand it both nationally and internationally; William Faulkner's Ike McCaslin in “The Bear” and Ernest Hemingway represent the power to transcend degenerate forces that threaten it; and, finally, Thomas McGuane and the character Ayla from Jean Auel's Clan of the Cave Bear represent to power to reinvent it.

From the inception of European attempts at colonization in America, the interactions of European and Indian cultures have shaped the national experience. Looking particularly at the English settlement at Jamestown is instructive since the ideal of amalgamation between these cultures was not realized in practice except in a few notable cases, the most dramatic and enduring of which is the Pocahontas narrative. Her name has been linked with John Smith's in the popular imagination for centuries through the rescue story, even though in reality her marriage to John Rolfe was the union that brought peace for a time to the colony of Virginia. However, the possibility of such amalgamation is the idea that underlies our fascination with the Pocahontas figure.

Pocahontas's courage and defiance of authority were and are still appealing qualities to Americans, as well as the romantic implications of a beautiful Indian princess saving a dashing adventurer. However, that the

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