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TOPICS AND QUESTIONS FOR
PRELIMINARY STUDY 1. Give an account of Parkman's experiences on the
Oregon Trail, as told in The Life of Francis Parkman
by Charles H. Farnham. 2. Tell of Parkman's life. 3. Read of the founding of Astoria from Irving's Astoria. 4. Study the historical narrative as literature; read one or
two selections from Xenophon's Anabasis, Cæsar's Commentaries, Marco Polo's Travels, the Report of Gen. Frémont's Expedition. Study the personal element in each.
DETAILED STUDY OF THE OREGON TRAIL 1. How is the setting given? 2. What direction does Parkman take in his journey?
How is this shown? 3. Write a lively description of the scene in the camp after
the death of Henry Chatillon's squaw. 4. What makes the sight of buffalo so welcome to the
travelers? 5. What is the purpose of the conversation between
Parkman and R. about famous literary men of
England and America? 6. Explain what the real fault of R. was. 7. Tell of the action of Parkman's party with regard to
his leadership and explain its significance. 8. Explain why the Captain remained with R. 9. Write a description of the escape and capture of
Pontiac. 10. From the first nine chapters select examples of (a)
historical allusions, (b) geographical terms, (c)
expressions. Show the value of each as it is used. 11. Why do the emigrants under Kearsley go ahead with Parkman's party?
12. Why was it an advantage for Parkman not to be a
trader? 13. Why was Parkman anxious to have the Indians go on
the war-path? 14. Why was his stay on the plains not one of unqualified
enjoyment? What do you consider aggravated this
trouble? 15. What is signified by his giving the feast to the Ogal
lallahs? Why was he, for so long a time, a favored
guest in their village? 16. Describe the scene at the setting up of the hunting
camp. 17. What value is there in the introduction of the Ogal
lallahs' belief in the supernatural? What devices are used to describe their religious ceremonies and
their police system? Show the significance of each. 18. How does Parkman learn of the real nature of the
Indian? Is his opinion favorable or otherwise?
Explain your answer. 19. Explain the application of the stanza from Childe
Harold, p. 421, beginning:
Morn dawns, and with it stern Albania's hills.
Compare it with the application of the earlier stanza
from Mazeppa (p. 54): "Man nor brute.” 20. Explain why Parkman and Shaw did not return to
St. Louis from Fort Laramie by the same route as
that taken westward by them in the spring. 21. Describe the scene as Parkman entered the dreary
recess of the Black Hills, indicating the strongest
impression which it gives. 22. How is the humorous element used in Chapter XXI? 23. What is the effect on Delorier of Tête Rouge's intrusive
ness? What do you consider the most effective
detail in telling of this? 24. How does Parkman present to us the full nature of
Henry Chatillon's skill as a buffalo hunter? What
is that skill? 25. What is the estimate of Henry Chatillon as given in the
STRUCTURE AND STYLE 1. Study the straightforward style of the narrative and
explain how this directness is secured. For this purpose portions of the narrative should be read
aloud until the style is completely mastered. 2. Discuss the structure of The Oregon Trail, its unity, and
the appropriateness of its division into chapters. 3. Select examples of long and short paragraphs, and tell
the value. 4. Pick out paragraphs that vary from the direct order
of narration, and explain what you believe to be
the reason for this variation. 5. Examine Parkman's vocabulary, its composition and
power. 6. Study the strong descriptions, especially in the chapters
on “The Black Hills" and ""The Big Blue.” 7. Select examples of fine description. Which is used
in greater proportion: narration or description? 8. Analyze the scenes in the Ogallallah village, showing
Parkman's use of details in producing the effect. 9. Indicate examples of appropriately named personages.
Of use of anecdote to further the thought of the
narrative. 10. Select examples of the use of provincial words or con
structions which help to produce the atmosphere of
the book and to make the characters real. 11. Select three passages which you consider especially
effective; specify what has led you to choose them.
1. Explain what you consider to be the hardships of life
endured by Parkman during his residence among the
Ogallallahs. 2. Explain in detail the two methods of hunting buffalo
and show how they were each followed by Parkman. 3. Give reasons for or against the statement that Parkman
and Shaw were justified in “taking French leave" of
their companions. 4. Explain the attitude of the Indians toward the whites.
Give reasons for or against the statement that “when the buffalo are extinct, the Indians too must dwindle away.
5. Narrate the circumstances under which Parkman
commenced his journey. 6. Discuss Parkman's use of nature in this narrative. 7. Discuss Parkman's ability to describe vividly; to tell
of an incident graphically. 8. Compare the trappers and the Indians throughout the
narrative with the use of the same characters by
Cooper and Irving. 9. Discuss the religion of the Indians. 10. What is the intuence of the prairies? Do they make
one less apprehensive and nervous, or reckless and
indifferent to both animal and human life? 11. Make out the geography of the narrative and trace the
course taken by Parkman. 12. Explain the incident of the Mad Wolf and the Tall Bear.
(See p. 345.) 13. Consider Farnham's statement that “this trip, and its
record were a striking culmination of his (Parkman's) study of nature in her wildest and grandest solitudes of prairie, desert, \forest, and
mountain.” 14. Many other American writers have written strikingly
of the Great West; make some comparisons. 15. Compare The Oregon Trail with accounts of other
expeditions, as The Adventures of Captain Bonneville (Irving), Roughing It (Mark Twain), and the chapters on the expedition of Lewis and Clark in The Crossing (Churchill). Explain points of similarity and of
difference. 16. Give an account of Quincy Adams Shaw's relations to
Parkman. Of Henry Chatillon's association with
Parkman. 17. What was the specific purpose aimed at by Parkman in
writing history? (See Parkman's autobiographic letter in Farnham's Life.)