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Narrative techniques in Washington Irving and James Fenimore Cooper.

In United States, after the Puritanism and the exploration literature, the pre-romanticism
appeared with Washington Irving and James Fennimore Cooper. Pre - romanticism was a
new literary wave which was developed through Europe in the XVIII Century that brought
some characteristics as the exaltation of feelings, liberty , nature, nationalism, popular ,
landscapes and the primitivism . North American writers reflect a new national identity , a
young nation with a promising future. Washington Irving innovates with short stories where
the imagination and reality are mixed and James Fennimore Cooper innovates with fictional
novels and the frontier novel. The narrative technique and the narrator are the most
remarkable characteristics in this work.

Washington Irving ( Manhattan, 1783-1859 ) was the first pre-romantic writer who was
known internationally. He studied law in the university. In 1804 he worked for some years as
Consul in Spain. When he came back to New York ,he started in the literature industry as a
writer with several pseudonyms pseudonyms as Dietrich Knickerbocker and Geoffrey Crayon
which made him famous in America. He wrote a story “Rip Van Winkle “ under the. His best
books are:" Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon” , “The Spanish Sketchbook” , “The life of
Voyages of Christopher Columbus” , “The conquest of Granada” and “The legend of Sleepy

On the other hand , James Fennimore Cooper( New Jersey , 1789-1851 ) was a successful
american pre-romantic novelist and the creator of adventure historical novels in EEUU. His
infancy clues in staying in a mansion surrounded by nature and Indians , characters and main
theme in his frontier novels. His important books are “Precaution" “The spy” “The
Pioneers” “The last of the Mohicans”. When James Fenimore Cooper achieved fame, he
sailed through Europe and there he wrote “The patrie” and “Notions of the America"

The first work that stands out in this literary period is “Rip Van Winkle” .This is a story
based on a German tale called Peter Klaus. It tells the story of a man in the previous days to
the independence war. This man called Rip Van Winkle, tired of this wife’s sermons, escaped
to the mountains and felt asleep for twenty years, time in which the independence war
occurred. When he returned to his home, he did not recognize anything of the town. The
second work is “The last of the Mohicans “ which is set during the North American
expansion to the north and east, describing the confrontations between colonists, natives,
French and English sides. Cooper creates a romantic adventurous hero (Hawkeye) in the
frontier between the civilization and the wild side. He is a white hunter, friend of Redskins,
who must choose which live he wants, a civilized life as white people or a wild live as
The narrator is in both stories an external omniscient and objective narrator in third person
because .He knows everything and tells to the reader the feelings and acts of the characters.
In Rip Van Winkle there are three narrators: Dietrich Knickerbocker who talks at the end and
between of the story “The story of Rip Van Winkle may seem incredibly to many , but
nevertheless I give it my full belief(...)” This type of narrator is unbelievable because it does
not tell all the truth . Other narrator is Geoffrey Crayon who appears at the end of the story
“The foregoing tale , one would suspect, had been suggested to Mr. Knickerbocker by a little
German superstition". Finally, in this story the third narrator is the focalizer called Rip , who
is also the main character through whom we see the story and the landscape . This narrator is
unreliable because he changes his story about what happened to him in 20 years, changing
some parts “I was myself last night , but I fell asleep on the mountain, and they’ve changed
my gun , and everything's changed”. In the “Last of Mohicans “ the narrator is simple
,omniscient, retailer and meticulous in third person who handles perfectly disturbing elements
by surprise to get the attention of the reader giving sometimes tone of the narration. Cooper
can create credible characters that will anticipate the transformations which will occur in the
new country. Cooper offers a reconstruction of the franco-english wars and the participation
of the natives in them. The rhythm is slow in the first part of the chapter XVII and fast in the
battle narration due to narrative techniques. It is used the impact technique where the
atmospheres are anguished, disturbing and scary . “The advance , with Heyward at its head ,
had already reached the defile , and was slowly disappeared”. Inside the narrator there is a
focalizer, embodied in Cora and she experiences feelings and acts in the whole story or
chapter. “When the attention of Cora was drawn to a collection of staffers by the sound of

Going father , the descriptive technique is the most used in both authors because with it , they
describe the story , the feelings of the characters and the landscape . In Rip Van Winkle , the
main character is Rip ,a plane character described directly from the narrator as someone lazy
, happy, popular and helpful man .He takes his life in a easier way “I have observed that he
was a simple good natured man (…)henpecked husband”. The book is a fantasy in which the
main character is an American anti-hero, the image of an immature and innocent country ,
because the is not brave, he does not do anything. When he woke up for twenty years, People
and the nation changed except him who is a simple character who does not evolve “The
appearance of Rip, with his long grizzly bear, his rusty fowling place, his uncouth dress”. It is
clearly the technique of time jump which serves to pass from subject of the Britain crow to
citizen of the new independence country. Other character is Dame Van Winkle who is
described as someone evil, who is always insulting and making Rip miserable. “But his wife
kept continually dining in his ears about his idleness(…)Her tongue was incessantly going”.
When Rip came back, suddenly he felt relief and happy because his house was empty.
Secondary characters are his son( acting similar to Rip ) and his daughter ( an active woman,
with a full life ).
The characters in the last of the Mohicans are dynamic, simple and they are divided into two
groups: the French group which is composed by Montblanc colonel , the native huron called
Le Renard Subtil who will be Magua in the English band . The English group is composed
by the colonel Munro and his two daughters Cora and Alice , Hawkeye, the Mohican hunter
and his son Uncas, the hero in the novel . The most important female characters are Cora,
who is the focalizer in the novel that will be seeing everything and running away from french
band and huron tribes . She is described also as fragile but brave woman “I will go further
(…)will me if thou wilt”. Her sister Alice is described as a fragile secondary character .

The most important male characters are Magua , described as the anti-hero, someone evil
and Unca the hero, a good indian who wants to help the english band and the two sisters .
This description of Magua “Cora saw Magua gliding among his countrymen and speaking
with his fatal and artful eloquence" indicates that Magua is the strongest Indian in his group
and he is also wild when he and his tribe kill a baby and his mother with a mendaciously
description “ his bantering but sullen smile changing to a gleam of ferocity , he dashed the
head of the infant against the rock and cast its quivering remains to her very feet.” Finally, in
the next chapter Magua was died falling from the top of the mountain by Unca . “Stay, dog,
of the Wyandots”. The description in this novel is made by direct and indirect descriptions
“Cora saw the form of Magua gliding among his countrymen and speaking with his fatal and
artful eloquence,“ Woman, choose the wigwam or the knife of the Subtill!”. The description
in the last of Mohicans appears in the dialogues and in the introduction of the novel, making
slow down the rhythm and looking up emotion response in the reader. Sometimes ,the
author uses a subjective description due to the large amount of description feelings between

As a conclusion, both works set in a historical period when England invade United States ,
the War of Independence and the war of seven Days .The pre-romantic characteristics are the
subjective and objective description , the omniscient narrator and the nationalism exaltation.
we can say that both works are descriptive but in different ways :a satirical and ironical way
in RVW and historical, serious, violent and disturbing in TLM. In “Rip Van Winkle”, the
mythological characteristics of origin of the nation, folklore and legends are exalted.
Washington Irving warns of the danger of losing values of the new America and defends that
the folklore and literature are important values to explain the creation and identity of the new
country. However, Fennimore defends the history and epic heroes and he also reflects the
time of the American formation with the narration of the facts happened in times and places
presented with a huge descriptive power and compromising characters ( natives and whites ) .
Both works are linked because without one, the other would not make sense due to their new
fictional innovation