The American Hero
Every child has fantasy’s of being a super hero and leaping tall buildings in a single bound or staring death in the face everyday and somehow finding a way to escape. All of these imaginative thoughts have been derived from the past literary works by the great writers of the early American literary period. These early writers entered society into a world of action and adventure, where one can see spectacular events unfolding through the eyes of a notorious man of courage and feel as though they are defending there country or saving the woman they love. Though the modern heroes are much more
popular than classic American heroes, the modern hero has rooted from these same
literary works which once amazed people in the days of old. Because of its popularity, the public pores into movie theaters to see movie-remakes of renown literary works. Natty Bumppo was the first true recognizable American hero. He was looked up to by the masses and is still a popular symbol of the classic hero. Just as Natty Bumppo was the popular hero of his time, Indiana Jones is still the favorite of millions today. Indiana has overshadowed Natty’s success but still contains many of his attributes. The characteristics of the American hero are similar in both Indiana Jones and Natty Bumppo.
“An American novelist, travel writer, and social critic, James Fenimore Cooper is regarded as the first great American writer” (Groliers NP). “Cooper began writing at age thirty to demonstrate to his wife that he could write a better novel than the one he was reading to her” (Encarta NP).
“In proving this he soon became one of the most successful writers of his time. He was famed for his action-packed plots and his vivid, if somewhat idealized, portrayal of American life in the forest and at sea. He is most noted for the writings of the Leatherstocking Tales. The Leatherstocking Tales are a series of five novels that constitute an epic of the American wilderness. In these novels, Cooper introduces Natty Bumppo, the central character, who embodies the spirit of the frontier in The Deerslayer,The Prairie, The Last of the Mohicans, The Pathfinder, and The Pioneers.” (Groliers)
Over the years Natty Bumppo has been looked up to by many because of his
bravery, honesty, and his will to help people in a time of need. Readers have watched grow and mature as though they were with him the whole time.
“In The Deerslayer, Natty is seen as and idealized youth. Natty is later seen wondering through the forest and lonely waters and is confronted by hunters, Indians, and the hostile Europeans” (Groliers NP). This is an example of Natty encountering physical danger. This wilderness scout is the first of his kind in American literature and was seen nowhere before by the American readers. This novel allowed the readers to enter a world where they could relive the Revolutionary War, Indian wars, and battles on the frontier.
After The Deer Slayer, Natty Bumppo is seen in The Last of the Mohicans. In this novel, Natty is called Hawkeye because of his ties to the Mohicans. Indians of this time were looked upon as savages, “but Natty has taken unto himself the best of both civilization and so-called savagery” (Cliff Notes 11). Because he made peace with the Indians, he had a mysterious and dangerous quality in the eyes of the reader. In this novel Natty has many close native companions to join him in his endeavors on the frontier.
“During the French and Indian Wars, The Legendary woodsman, Natty Bumppo, is know by another famous alias’s, The Pathfinder. His companions in this story is his adoptive Indian father, Chingachgook and the beautiful, Mabel Dunham. They become involved in an attempt to rescue a besieged British fort where he faces danger many times.” (Eonline)
“The last novel of the Leatherstocking Tales Natty appears in is The Prairie. Here Natty is viewed as a decrepit, old man. This is when the hero everyone once loved and admired becomes weak and helpless. As he is lying on his death bed many people from far and wide come to pay their respects to the honorable Natty Bumppo” (American Experience 194-202). The past friends and war partners that are with him in his time of dying include, Indians from different tribes are there along side their enemy, the white man. The white men who are there are members of the U.S. Army. Both the natives and the officers stand side by side and show great respect to Natty the remainder of his long and notorious life.
Throughout the many adventures of Natty Bumppo, he always had many of the same characteristics. He always made the right decisions as he was either getting himself out of a dangerous situation, or debating if something is just or wrong. This quality always gave the reader confidence in Natty. Even if people would not agree with his decision in the first place, Cooper always had a way of presenting the story to where the reader is convinced that Natty Bumppo is making the right decision. Natty always had companions in his adventures as well. Because he had made peace with the Indians, and was taken in by the tribes, they are always willing to come to his aid if he is in danger.
Natty was adopted by a native and also adopted a Mohican himself. He always had a companion, who was faithful and loyal, fighting by his side. There were always many dangers which Natty would encounter as well. This is a quality in which most-all heroes attain. In these struggles he would escape in the nick of time, leaving the reader on the edge of their seat as he evades the situation.
Indiana Jones is a recent hero of America that has set new standards in both film and literature. Indiana Jones is a symbol of bravery, action, and knowledge to all who has seen or heard his adventures. He has achieved this reputation by perfecting the characteristics of past literary heroes and adding new elements of humor and action in his stories.
“George Lucas, the writer of The Star Wars Trilogy, once again astonished readers and box office viewers when he wrote the story of a unique archeologist that finds himself staring danger in the face every time he turns around. Though Lucas was known around the world for his writing of adventures through space, he once again electrified the movies screens and book stands with his Indiana Jones Trilogy.” (Planet Indy NP)
“The first book and movie in the series is Raiders of the Lost Ark. Readers and viewers find Indiana Jones in the Peruvian jungle in 1936, running a booby-trapped gauntlet to fetch a solid gold idol” (Planet Indy NP).
Indiana puts himself in danger in order to achieve the task at hand He retains
he artifact only to lose it to his chief rival, Belloq. This begins the story of Indiana Jones and his quest for the long-lost Ark of the Covenant. But during his search Indy is meet by the Nazis. Hitler hopes to find the Ark and use it to make his army invisible.” (Planet Indy NP)
Indiana Jones finds the Ark, but as he finds it, so do the Nazis. They had followed him the entire time and planned to take the Ark as soon as he found his prize. They did eventually get the Ark but Indy out-smarts them and gets away with the Ark the defeats the Nazis. Indiana uses wits in this novel in order to defeat his enemy, which is a prime characteristic of the American hero.
“Lucas and Spielberg join forces again and conjure up the sequel to the first Indiana Jones adventure, Temple of Doom. Indy gets right down to the problem at hand: retrieving a precious gem and several kidnapped young boys on behalf of a remote East Indian village.” (Planet Indy NP)
Indiana puts his life in danger in order to help his friends as he accepts to help the Indians get back what’s rightfully theirs. His companions this time include a easily frightened, night club entertainer, Willie Scott, and a feisty 12-year old kid named Short Round.
“Throughout, the plot takes second place to the thrills, which include a harrowing roller coaster ride in an abandoned mineshaft and Indy’s rescue of the heroine from ritual sacrifice” (Planet Indy NP). Indy once a again escapes a near death situation by using wits and his will to survive.
“In the third and last of the Indiana saga, The Last Crusade, we learn how young Indy first developed a taste for adventure and his life long fear of snakes. He is asked by an art collector to search for the Holy Grail. He doesn’t accept the offer until he finds that his father is missing while searching for the same artifact.” (Ebert NP)
Indy, again, puts his life in danger in an attempt to rescue his father. Indy finds himself trying to escape the long arms of the Nazis. “The much-sought-after religious artifact is not easily found. When it is finally found its powers are a bit too much for those impure in heart. As expected, the Jones family and companions prevail in the end and ride off into the sunset together” (Ebert NP). Indy rescues his father and accomplishes his primary goal and then defeats evil by out smarting them and showing a pure heart. Again, Indiana
is showing the attributes of an American hero.
These films show a get deal of heroism by Indiana Jones by evading danger, finding trust in his faithful companions, being smarter than the enemy, and always ending well. The viewers are left with thoughts of bravery in themselves after reading the book or watching the movie. Though Indiana isn’t faultless he is still portrayed as one of the greatest heroes of all time. These films allow viewers to fall into the story and feel as though they are there with Indiana. They are astonished by every escape that is made and
every idea he conjures up. Each movie that Indiana Jones appears in grosses over $175,000,000 and is one the highest grossing films of all times. Proof that the public views Indiana as there favorite American hero.
Natty Bumppo was viewed as the American hero of his time because of his acts of heroism by displaying bravery, never making a mistake, having a loyal companion, escaping physical danger, and always prevailing in the end. Indiana Jones also has many of these characteristics. Because of Indiana’s fear of snakes, he isn’t’ faultless; and this fear inhibits him from giving a perfect performance. Ever since he was an adolescent, Indy has feared snakes. But, as he grew older, he must cross snake-infested tombs and forest. This quality is admired by the audience because Indy is seen as being imperfect. This
appeals to the audience since they are imperfect as well and they can relate to his fears. The imperfection of Indiana makes the story all the more believable.
In both novels, the characters are attempting to assist the same groups of people. In every Leatherstocking Tale, Natty either has a Native companion, or is trying to rescue them. In The Temple of Doom, Indiana agrees to help an Indian tribe rescue their children and retrieve their sacred jewel. Also, both characters are seen during there childhood. This gives explanations for some of the characteristics in both heroes.
The Indiana Jones character faces danger much more often than does Natty
Bumppo, which maybe a sign of what the future will bring. Since Indiana Jones, the heroes have become more action related and have had less emphasis on plot and story line. Seems the viewers and readers alike demand to see battles and wars which only show violence and the onslaught of evil in there heroic literature and movies. These stories and movies are becoming increasingly popular and, as shown in recent comic books and movies, the future of action literature seems to depict the American hero of the future as only muscles and a thirst for blood.
Natty Bumppo’s and Indiana Jones’s characteristics are very similar. They both show incredible bravery by coming to the aid of strangers and friends when they are in grave danger. Both characters always have faithful companions who are with them throughout their journey. They always find a way out of danger by conjuring up the most effective plans for the situation at hand and in the end always escapes the villains. The heroes death is never caused by the enemy and the adventure always ends well. Though the future may bring a new breed of heroes to the public, Natty Bumppo and Indiana Jones will always be remembered, by all who may of read of them, as the true American Hereos.