The Big Burn is a dramatic story based on real events that took place many years ago leading to a great fire that destroyed over three million acres of forest land in the United States. The author used characters in the book to explain the immediate events, the history and long term legacy of the dreaded fires. This essay focuses on a character called Gifford Pinchot as the protagonist in the novel. The essay examines the roles played by Gifford Pinchot both in terms of immediately events and long term legacy created by the conflagration.
The author states his narration by bringing in two great men. They both come from wealthy families and are men with admirable legacies and biographies in America. The author paints Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot, as the main driving force behind the process of establishing forest rangers, setting aside land for establishment of national parks and as people who championed forest conservation. As the story progresses, however, Gifford Pinchot is brought out as the main character that played a crucial role and influenced the happening of numerous events in the book. Gifford Pinchot went down in history as the first chief forester and was widely acknowledged as the savior of what was left of Americas forests. Together with the then president Teddy Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot aided the government to nature the concept of conservation, therefore, creating the idea of public land as a national treasure. Gifford Pinchot faced stiff opposition from Oppositions to these rangers who were responsible for protecting the reserves and the robber barons (Ingold 126).
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Gifford Pinchot’s conservation ideals were controversial, people felt that concept of setting aside land for public use, for forests ,rivers and other relief features would deprive them off the mush needed land. Gifford Pinchot together with his boss fought against many political figures and business moguls and finally managed to create the Forest Service. As previously mentioned, The Big Burn, is a narration of the historical events that surrounded the destructive fire. The author believes that the fire was started by people who carelessly handled fire in the dry forests and further accelerated by the hurricane force winds. Majority of the casualties were the fire rangers who caught in the mille while trying to stop the fire. The results of the fire helped many Americans to concur with Gifford Pinchot and to realize the need to create national forests. Gifford Pinchot insisted that forests and natural resources should be protected and for future posterity. Initially, the public had a negative view about forest rangers and always looked down upon the. This incident, though traumatizing, changed the public perception about fire rangers, such that, the service became more established.
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The author tells us of Gifford Pinchot’s ability founded on his mind to see dead people. We are enlightened of his continuous relationship with his dead fiancée. Apparently, he even noted the days he clearly envisioned and spoke to her. Nevertheless, when he stopped seeing her he falls in love with another woman whom he eventually marries and has children with. Through Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot efforts the National Forest system is finally established after the fire and the enlargement of the National Park system. The Chief Forester with massive support from Teddy Roosevelt commenced the conservation movement and they were able to receive more funding hence building roads and better lookouts to respond to cases of forest fires.
Another trait that makes Gifford Pinchot a significant character in the cited chapters is the fact that he is persistent in his struggles to conserve the environment. All does not augur well even after the big burn and he is sacked by his adversaries in the Senate office. To his advantage was the changed perception of the public about land as a national treasure and its conservation and so he was able to keep pushing and gaining more land for conservation. Forest fires continued to be suppressed by well trained crews and through mass awareness everyone put some little effort to do away with forest fires (Ingold 148).
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It is unfortunate that the changes had to be as a result of the great fire. Even so, what Gifford Pinchot did was not all in vain. He was a brilliant Chief Forester who was able to put up with the pressure from the political and economic conflicts in the country coming mostly from the battle between capitalists and conservationists. The Gifford Pinchot State Park, named after him stands as a witness to this admirable hard work. His ability to mend lives of the less privileged due to his love of the outdoors and nature is highly recognized to date.
The Big Burn has featured other characters such as Ed Pulaski, a former forest ranger severely ruined by the fire. To his dismay, he was not compensated and he ended up being an embittered victim of the unfortunate events. The rest of his life he involved himself in the making of useful tools now found at the Forest Service. Ed Pulaski is also a significant character but his role was minor compared to that of Gifford Pinchot and Teddy Roosevelt. Gifford Pinchot crowns it all because first and most contributing factor was that he was the Chief Forester, hence he articulated for all forest rangers rights and he was head strong in the conservation and protection of forests.
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In conclusion, there are several compelling characters in The Big Burn novel, each of them played crucial roles in one way or the other, but the author focused on Gifford Pinchot, the first chief forester who stood against political pressure and continued with his passion for conserving forests, even after, being thrown out of office. Throughout the book, the story of the great fire pinpoints to the challenged efforts of the pioneers of conservation of forests led by the then president Teddy Roosevelt and his chief forester. The Big Burn is a good read and paves way for knowledge about the history and modern day conservation progress and people with a legacy like Gifford Pinchot and the dynamic president Teddy Roosevelt.
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