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Abstract

The aim of this paper is to trace the development of myth as a sociological tool through the analysis of the Adirondack backwoodsman of the golden years (a category which includes guides, hunters and trappers) as a literary archetype of the romanticist era and its subsequent decline with the advent of industrialism and consumer culture. Following Kenneth Burke’s premise of literature as “equipment for living” for the support of “human welfare”, I argue that the backwoodsman’s significance as a ‘strategy’ answers to a nationalistic endeavor which functions under the dynamics of mimesis. With a view to exploring these mimetic games and the cyclic perfection of the myth in question as equipment for living, Northrop Frye’s theoretical framework is applied as a supporting argument. In the final part of the paper, I argue that new literary directions portraying the backwoodsman as a product for consumption break the cycle, causing the extinction of the guide as hero. This final stage exemplifies the process by which history surpasses myth and overcomes the archetype’s potential as ‘equipment for living’.Keywords: Adirondack backwoodsman, myth, mimesis, Kenneth Burke, Northrop Frye.