The Americanization of conventional gothic elements in James Fenimore cooper’s The pathfinder
This paper examines the ways through which Cooper Americanizes the conventional gothic elements and techniques in The Pathfinder. It suggests that Cooper substitutes the American wilderness for the traditional castle or monastery used in European gothic fiction. With its atmosphere of threat and danger, the American wilderness is described as a gothic setting which produces feelings of fear and terror in the characters. Throughout the novel, Mabel Dunham and her companions feel insecure and uncertain in the wild and terrifying American natural landscapes. Cooper’s use of suspense and the sublime emphasize the gothic aspect of the American wilderness. In his adaptation of the gothic techniques to an American setting, Cooper also substitutes the Native Americans for the traditional ghosts and specters. This paper suggests that the savagery and hellishness of Cooper’s Indians make them as frightening as these mysterious apparitions. Their deviltry and ruthlessness intensify the characters’ feelings of terror and heighten the gothic atmosphere of the American wilderness. They are described as spectral-looking figures whose sudden appearances and disappearances make them seem like goblins. Considering the use of distinctively native elements and materials, this paper argues that Cooper transforms the gothic mode by adapting it to the American environment.