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Reviews 307 This new edition will help keep alive Miller’s importance as a Western artist. Only here can one form a visual image of a fur trader’s caravan from a contemporary source, study the costumes and behavior of Indians as Miller and Stewart observed them, picture Fort Laramie with Indian tepees before it, see trappers at work setting their traps in beaver ponds, or view Miller’s rendition of the Wind River Mountains and their stunning lakes. A book like this deserves space on a book shelf not far from the imaginative literature to which it is closely related. Edgeley W. T odd, Colorado State University Eden Prairie. By Frederick Manfred. (New York: Trident Press, 1968. 348 pages, $6.95.) Eden Prairie, located in Frederick Manfred’s Siouxland around the turn of the century, is a fictive study of Adam and Eve caught between the tensions signalled by the title. Eden is primordial in its power, in its store of original energy; but Edenic innocence exists also on the harsh prairie, and the passage which opens the novel—two lyrical butterflies are gulped in flight—fore­ shadows the fate of human beauty. Manfred is concerned, then, with original innocence as it emerges in the only language available to his characters, the language of Victorianism, Puritanism, and man’s disrespectful biology. The result is a tension that is both comic and powerful, both grim and beautiful. Manfred’s Eve is a prig out of the Protestant Ethic, but she is also a spirited and oftentimes lovable prig. Karen Alfredson is prudishly offended by two students she catches in the act of love, but her efforts to separate them are fueled by the same original energy which brought the young lovers together. Karen protests her right to be the only thing an American innocent can be—a prude. Manfred’s Adam is Kon Harmer, a bookish lover of nature who prefers the sex of flowers to the touch of a woman; but Kon, in his own slow way, also protests his right to be himself, however distorted a self that might be. What has happened to Edenic innocence, Manfred believes, is that it is now without a social or psychological home. Both Karen and Kon have been evicted from history. Kon’s father, whose story is told in a moving flashback, has found his Garden of Eden. Yet he cannot love his bookish son, except in duty; and Charlie, his aggressive son, is a brute who wants 308 Western American Literature to commercialize the Garden. There is, then, no inheritance, no continuity. Kon is Adam in a world of crude Babbitts and rutting school children. Karen’s father has given her away, literally, with a proud handshake to sign the contract. Her foster parents are kind, but they represent hollow traditions (an artist should copy, not create) and Victorianism. Karen protests against their world and the doctor who represents it, insisting on her right to remain innocent, on the child’s side of puberty. Her language, however, is the language of Victorian melodrama and Horatio Alger Puritanism. A prim and comic fool, Karen is also an absurd steward of ancient values. From the factualist viewpoint—and the excellence of the novel consists in the power given to both viewpoints—the doctor is merely trying to help an eighteen year old girl move past puberty and into womanhood before she becomes incapacitated for a full and natural life. To Karen, it is rape, though she knows full well it is not the kind of rape recognized by the world of fact. The doctor is trying to rob her of honey, to exploit in the name of the world her innocent girlhood. Yet the world provides no proper ceremony: the doctor’s instruments are cold and cruel. In a similar way, the world wishes to rape the innocence of Kon, who is also reluctant to leave childhood and become an adult. Kon is caught, chiefly, by the memory of an Edenic afternoon, not with an Eve, but with his brother, Brant, a golden time of apples and naked delight when the two felt a power and a beauty they cannot transfer into...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 307-308
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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