The Oregon Trail

( 8 )

Overview

Francis Parkman set out west from St. Louis in order to see the prairie for himself and "to observe the Indian character". Along the way he encountered some "unexpected impediments" to this aim. In fact, Parkman's whole journey seems full of misadventures, which he describes with dry good humor and a charming ability to laugh at himself.

The series of minor disasters makes The Oregon Trail entertaining, but it is also a valuable narrative of life on the prairie and has some ...

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The The Oregon Trail Oregon Trail

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Overview

Francis Parkman set out west from St. Louis in order to see the prairie for himself and "to observe the Indian character". Along the way he encountered some "unexpected impediments" to this aim. In fact, Parkman's whole journey seems full of misadventures, which he describes with dry good humor and a charming ability to laugh at himself.

The series of minor disasters makes The Oregon Trail entertaining, but it is also a valuable narrative of life on the prairie and has some wonderfully detailed descriptions of Indian villages and customs. The author is clearly impressed with native sportsmanship, and brings the thrill of the hunt to life in vivid detail.

Parkman has a boundless fascination for all he sees, and seems to fall in love with the prairie itself over the course of the book. He transforms this enthusiasm into his descriptions, which often verge on the poetic.

Unlike many explorers of the West, Parkman is not hardedged, and while he is accurate, he is also somewhat romantic. This book is not saturated with the violence that characterizes much literature of this genre. His portraits of native people, while not always flattering, seem good-spirited.

This is not a scientific or anthropological treatise, but Parkman has a passion for these subjects which, coupled with his unique adventures, makes this a very appealing narrative.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In 1846, a young man of privilege left his comfortable Boston home to embark on a strenuous overland journey to the untamed West. This timeless account of Parkman's travels and travails provides an expressive portrait of the rough frontiersmen, immigrants, and Native Americans he encounters, set against the splendor of the unspoiled wilderness. While Parkman's patrician air and unabashed racism sometimes jolt the modern reader, this remains a colorful classic by one of the 19th century's most prominent narrative historians. A circumspect abridgment and a laudable interpretation by veteran narrator Frank Muller enrich this audio version. Highly recommended.Linda Bredengerd, Hanley Lib., Univ. of Pittsburgh, Bradford, Pa.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781179819068
  • Publisher: Nabu Press
  • Publication date: 9/8/2011
  • Pages: 408
  • Product dimensions: 0.84 (w) x 7.44 (h) x 9.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Bernard Rosenthal is Professor of English at SUNY-Binghamton, Binghamton, New York.

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Read an Excerpt

Francis Parkman set out West from St. Louis in order to see the prairie for himself and "to observe the Indian character". Along the way he encountered some "unexpected impediments". In fact, Parkman's whole journey seems to be one long misadventure, which he describes with dry good humor and a charming ability to laugh at himself. The series of minor disasters makes The Oregon Trail a very amusing story, but it is also a valuable narrative of life on the prairie and has some wonderfully detailed descriptions of Indian villages and customs.

The author is clearly impressed with native sportsmanship:

"A shaggy buffalo bull bounded out from a neighboring hollow, and close behind him came a slender Indian boy, riding without stirrups or saddle, and lashing his eager little horse to full speed. Yard after yard he drew closer to his gigantic victim, though the bull, with his short tail erect and his tongue lolling out a foot from his foaming jaws, was straining his unwieldy strength to the utmost. A moment more, and the boy was close alongside. It was our friend the Hail-Storm. He dropped the rein on his horse's neck, and jerked an arrow like lightning from the quiver at his shoulder."

Parkman has a boundless fascination for all he sees, and he seems to fall in love with the prairie itself over the course of the book. He transfers this enthusiasm into his descriptions, which often verge on the poetic:

"Emerging from the mud-holes of Westport, we pursued our way for some time along the narrow track, in the checkered sunshine and shadow of the woods, till at length, issuing into the broad light, we left behind us the farthest outskirts of the great forest, that once spread from the western plains to the shore of the Atlantic. Looking over an intervening belt of bushes, we saw the green, ocean-like expanse of the prairie, stretching swell beyond swell to the horizon."

Unlike many other explorers of the West, Parkman lacks hard-edged cynicism, and while he is generally accurate, he is also somewhat romantic. The Oregon Trail is not saturated with the violence that characterizes much literature of this genre, and, while his analyses of the people are not always flattering, they seem good-spirited:

"Kettles were hung over the fires, around which the squaws were gathered with their children, laughing and talking merrily. A circle of a different kind...was composed of the old men and warriors of repute, who sat together with their white buffalo robes drawn close around their shoulders; and as the pipe passed from hand to hand, their conversation had not a particle of the gravity and reserve usually ascribed to Indians. I sat down with them as usual. I had in my hand half a dozen [fireworks], which I had made one day when encamped upon Laramie Creek, with gunpowder and charcoal, and the leaves of 'Fremont's Expedition,' rolled round a stout lead pencil. I waited till I could get hold of the large piece of burning bois de vache which the Indians kept by them on the ground for lighting their pipes. With this I lighted all the fireworks at once, and tossed them whizzing and sputtering into the air, over the heads of the company. They all jumped up and ran off with yelps of astonishment and consternation. After a moment or two, they ventured to come back one by one, and some of the boldest, picking up the cases of burnt paper, examined them with eager curiosity to discover their mysterious secret. From that time forward I enjoyed great repute as a 'fire medicine.'

The Oregon Trail is not a scientific or anthropological treatise, but Parkman has a passion for these subjects that, coupled with his unique adventures, makes this a very appealing narrative.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

1 The Frontier 1
2 Breaking the Ice 9
3 Fort Leavenworth 19
4 "Jumping off" 23
5 The "Big Blue" 34
6 The Platte and the Desert 46
7 The Buffalo 58
8 Taking French Leave 72
9 Scenes at Fort Laramie 87
10 The War Parties 101
11 Scenes at the Camp 122
13 Ill-Luck 139
14 Hunting Indians 146
15 The Ogillallah Village 167
16 The Hunting Camp 187
17 The Trappers 209
18 The Black Hills 218
19 A Mountain Hunt 222
20 Passage of the Mountains 234
21 The Lonely Journey 248
22 The Pueblo and Bent's Fort 266
23 Tete Rouge, the Volunteer 274
24 Indian Alarms 279
25 The Chase 289
26 The Buffalo Camp 298
27 Down the Arkansas 313
28 The Settlements 329
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A look at the American West that is unlike any other perspectives.

    Thomas Parkman paints a very clear and detailed picture of life among the Dakota Indians prior to the American Civil War. It is very intriguing to see what life was like and how this group of native americans and whites got along in the pre-civil war era. It also shows the thoughts of the time that helped to lead to the almost total annihilation of the Great Bison Herds of the Great Plains. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in getting a deeper understanding of the American West.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2012

    W

    The app oregon trail is good i do not have this book

    2 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2011

    Terrible! Shouldn't buy it waste of money!

    Love it! Can't stop reading!

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2001

    Telling it like it is

    I love old books the best because they really tell it like it is, before everyone started worrying about being politically correct. Francis Parkman killed buffalo for sport, thought Indians were second class citizens and pretty much lived the Oregon trail the way it was at the time, believing the things that a lot of people believed then. That is real history, like it or not. He seemed aware of what the white man was doing to the Indians but didn't seem too concerned, that is how it was lived back then. That's how I want to read it, not the Hollywood version. An awesome book!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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    Posted February 21, 2014

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    Posted August 13, 2013

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    Posted April 24, 2010

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    Posted April 29, 2011

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