The Spy

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The Spy

James Fenimore Cooper

Publisher: Penguin BooksFormat: Paperback

James Fenimore Cooper wrote The Spy in 1821 intending the novel to preserve both the memory and the meaning of the American Revolution. Inspired by accusations of venality leveled at the men who captured Major Andre (Benedict Arnold's co-conspirator executed for espionage in 1780), the novel centers on Harry Birch, a common man wrongly suspected by well-born Patriots of being a spy for the British. Even Washington, who supports Birch, misreads the man, and when Washington offers him payment for information vital to the Patriots' cause, Birch scorns the money and asserts that his actions were motivated not by financial reward, but by his devotion to the fight for independence. A historical adventure tale reminiscent of Sir Walter Scott's Waverley novels, The Spy is also a parable of the American experience, a reminder that the nation's survival, like its Revolution, depends on judging people by their actions, not their class or reputations.

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