Perhaps more than any other nineteenth-century American author, James Fenimore Cooper sought to represent the culture and struggles of Native Americans. Although his depictions of indigenous tribes still bear traces of the endemic racism that was part of the larger American culture at the time, they did represent a literary breakthrough in the era. In the novel The Wept of Wish-Ton-Wish, Cooper shifts the focus to the earliest encounters between Native Americans and Puritan settlers. Protagonist Captain Mark Heathcote sets out to build a pioneer community of his own and tries to maintain a peaceful relationship with the tribal peoples in the area.
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About the Author
James Fenimore Cooper (September 15, 1789 - September 14, 1851) was a prolific and popular American writer of the early 19th century.His historical romances of frontier and Indian life in the early American days created a unique form of American literature. He lived most of his life in Cooperstown, New York, which was founded by his father William on property that he owned. Cooper was a lifelong member of the Episcopal Church and, in his later years, contributed generously to it. He attended Yale University for three years, where he was a member of the Linonian Society, but was expelled for misbehavior.
Date of Birth:September 15, 1789
Date of Death:September 14, 1851
Place of Birth:Burlington, New Jersey
Place of Death:Cooperstown, New York
Education:Yale University (expelled in 1805)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Wept of Wish-Ton-Wish based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
If you liked THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS, you will love James Fenimore Cooper's 1829 novel, THE WEPT OF WISH-TON-WISH. But first, let's push beyond that obscure title! "The Wept" is the "wept for" daughter of a 1676 Puritan family on the wild frontier of Connecticut. Her name is Ruth Heathcote. When seven years old, she was taken by Narragansett Indians during a raid on her home. Years later her Indian husband, the great young chief Conanchet, gives her -- long since renamed Narra-mattah -- and their baby son to her grieving parents. Fenimore Cooper wrote this moving cross-cultural love story in Switzerland. Consulting an inaccurate glossary of Indian terminology, he took "Wish-Ton-Wish" to mean the Whip-Poor-Will or American night hawk. Wish-Ton-Wish was the name given by a small band of Puritans to their settlement in a beautiful but isolated valley in the Royal Colony of Connecticut. ***
The way for Fenimore Cooper's historical novels of America had been prepared by three immigrant English literary genres: Indian captivity narratives, field reports of Indian wars and moralizing sermons by divines like Increase Mather and his son Cotton. All these elements appear powerfully in THE WEPT OF WISH-TON-WISH. What happened to young Ruth Heathcote also happened to hundreds of other young English girls and women. In Ruth's case, she weds a young chief who had first been a captive in her home around 1662. There he had been taught English and elements of Puritan Christianity by an old Roundhead soldier named Submission. The old soldier of Oliver Cromwell was hiding out from the wrath of the restored King Charles II, for Submission had been among the victorious judges condemning King Charles I to execution. ***
Cooper recreates the Puritan mindset, recorded in many sermons, that the North American wilderness is the home of Satan who will do anything, including firing up his heathen Indian subjects, to oppose and repel the English Saints now moving into New England. Marriage between white and Indian is unthinkable. But Ruth Heathcote's family nonetheless accepts their half-breed grandson as God's inscrutable will. ***
Finally, this powerful novel is also a combat mini-epic, including a fragment of King Philip's War which spilled over into Connecticut in 1675-76. The little community of Wish-Ton-Wish endures two terrible attacks, a decade apart, by vengeful Indians. The battle scenes are as vivid as anything in Cooper's other frontier tales, such as THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS, THE DEERSLAYER and THE PRAIRIE. ***
This novel has a memorable supporting cast: a saucy young woman who "torments" her Puritan lover into marrying her and providing her with triplets, glimpses of the great Oliver Cromwell as a young carouser, a Puritan preacher saturated with the implacable word of God, Indians and whites determined to exterminate one another. But at its core this is Romeo and Juliet retold as Conanchet and Ruth. These two star-crossed lovers face powers far too strong to allow them to be happy together for very long: opposed dreams, memories, religions, world-views, cultures, societies, races. It is too much for them. THE WEPT OF WISH-TON-WISH is tragedy of a high order and ends along lines of tormented mental giving way under stress reminiscent of Sir Walter Scott's THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR or the spiritual collapse of the Templar Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert in his duel with IVANHOE.
The author had a wonderful ability to transform thr reader into the world of two complex human inhabitations of early north Americas, their struggles and demise.