cultural discourse.” But his tiresomencomments on Vietnam/Indian similesnand supposedly myth-influenced U.S.nadventurism (Kennedy’s New Frontiernis implausibly termed “a program ofnrenewed economic expansion and forwardnmovement on the borders of thenAmerican empire”) prove less relevantnto his central theme than an analysis ofnWalt Whitman’s “From Far Dakota’snCanyons,” a “Death-Sonnet for Custer,”nwhose jaded narrator finds in anmessage of massacre an affirmation ofnthe “loftiest of life upheld by death.”nThe Indian ambuscade, thencraft, the fatal environment.nThe cavalry companies fightingnto the last in sternestnheroism . . .nConceding that “fatal environment”nrefers literally to Custer being surroundednand killed by Indians, Slotkinninsists that it also suggests “a grandnfable of national redemption, andnChristian self-sacrifice,” with the outcomen”somehow implicit in thenenvironment … as if Nature or Godncomposed the story and assigned itsnmeanings. . . . An environment, anlandscape, a historical sequence is infusednwith meaning . . . which convertsnlandscape to symbol and temporalnsequence into ‘doom’ — a fable ofnnecessary and fated actions.” Whitmannprobably meant nothing of thenkind, even his frontier locale beingnsecondary to a grander theme of bracingnheroism.nSlotkin introduces his themes withnthe Centennial Exposition, which celebratednAmerica’s near-miraculousngrowth and was shadowed by the newsnof Custer’s annihilation. Slotkin seesnan Exposition designed to show thensuperiority of the “American experiment,”nwith a child and singing blacksndeclaring that here “industrial progressnwas not in conflict with humane valuesn. . . did not lead to class hatred andnoppression.” But Slotkin finds the imageryn”a mask, the oratory hollow,”nthe pageant’s “corrosively ironic context”nactually being economic depressionnand Grant-era corruption.nThe dilemma of inequality in annation based on republican principlesnengendered a Marx-flavored thesis thatninevitable ideological “contradictions”nbelied fantasies of the frontier as anpermanent “safety valve,” either fornthe landless poor or for slaveownersnseeking to expand slavery farthernwest — or south, into Latin America.nApparently forgetting his history-as-nIndian-war theme, Slotkin even redefinesnthe myth’s “central tenet” as thentheory that economies and societiesnmust grow or violently perish. Then”central illusion” of this theory wasnfaith in Western resources vast enoughnto satisfy industry while providingnamply for each individual. Denyingnaccess to new lands, Slotkin argues,nwould have upset America’s “peculiarnbalance” of aristocracy and democracynwith the “frustrated rage of massesndoomed to eventual disappointment inntheir quest for upward mobility. Hownwere the lower orders to be placated,nwithout the carrot of expansion heldnbefore their eyes as an inducement tonsubmit?”nAnalyzing early fictional stock figuresnsuch as the obsessed Indian hatern(“simply writ large” in Melville’snAhab), Slotkin sees Fenimore Cooper’sninfluence everywhere. He alsonscrutinizes historical heroes. DanielnBoone, the preindustrial archetype ofnRegeneration Through Violence, isnsucceeded by Kit Carson and thenTexas demigods Crockett and Houston,nthe central theme of the latter twon”legends” being self-renewal soughtnafter “moral or material ruin” in Metropolitannstruggles. Sam Houston,nfleeing to the Cherokees, partly imitatesnCooper’s “natural aristocrat”nideal, but his rocky marriage “suggestsnsome fundamental incompatibility innthe mixture: a bride/civilization toonenervated by gentility … a hero toonmuch the man of the wilderness tonblend his nature with that of civilization’snhighest type.” One could almostnforget there was a real Houston (andnMrs. Houston), whatever Sam’s successnin having “brought ofF’ his “livingnor acting out” of a Leatherstockingn”scenario.”nSlotkin sees the “Last Stand” as thenchief fable in industrial America’sn”Myth of the Frontier.” He finds innCuster’s 1874 exploration of the goldrich,nSioux-claimed Black Hills of thenDakotas — dreamed of as a kind ofnLast Frontier and economic safetyvalvenfor the “Panic of ’73” — then”best case” for studying the “interactionnof western realities and Metropolitannideologies” and a “contradiction atnnnthe heart of liberal ideology: the imperativesnof industrial development versusnthose of social justice or reform.”nUsing the atypical New York World asnan “index” of conservative ideologyn(and making the “myth” seem chieflynthe WorWs plaything by generally ignoringnmore moderate newspapers),nhe views editor as auteur in juxtaposingnfeatures and editorials. (Postbellumnnewspapers frequently compared Indiansnto striking workers or other dissidents,nand the World, favoring thenHills’ seizure, “consistently” pairednreports of labor agitation and tribalnunrest.)nDevoting much space to Custer’snupbringing and private life in studyingnhis public myth, Slotkin rejects thendeterminist view that a similar doomednhero would have been “invented” hadnCuster not died at the Little Big Horn.nHe ponders Bruce Rosenberg’s theorynthat such defeat acquire a familiarn”Last Stand” pattern through a collective,nlargely unconscious process andninsists that glorifiers of Custer saw innman and massacre “realizations ofnthe myths in which they believed.”nShrewdly upsetting Guster-as-rebelnfantasies (“an early type of organizationnman, hiding in the costume of thencavalier trooper and the Frontier buckskin”),nhe indulges wildly in pretentiousnamateur psychobabble: citingn”Long Hair’s feminine characteristics,”nhe claims that Custer enjoyednthe adjective’s “implications of sensualnattractiveness” and an “ambivalentnlinkage” with his half-sister Lydia.nJournalists of 1865 would be shockednat what he finds in their hasty scribblingsnon a trivial incident in whichnFEBRUARY 1988 j 37n