The Spy: A Tale of the Neutral Ground
Cooper wrote "The Spy" to preserve the memory and meaning of the American Revolution and in response to allegations of venality on the part of the men who captured Benedict Arnold's co-conspirator, Major John Andre. The novel centers on Harvey Birch, a man wrongly suspected of being a spy for the British. Only General George Washington knows who Birch really is. "The Spy" is Cooper's first great historical novel, and, indeed the first and original "Great American Novel." But it also serves as a parable of the American experience and a timeless reminder that a society's survival depends on judging people by their actions, not their class or reputations. Set in upstate New York on a comfortable estate, the Wharton family suddenly finds that the Revolutionary War has arrived in their parlor. Like many families during the Revolution, the Whartons ultimately face the need to decide where they stand as a complicated set of relationships among family members with both Patriot and Loyalist sentiments begin to unravel with a secret visit from Wharton's son, Henry, a British officer who has crossed behind American lines in disguise. American troops arrive unexpectedly, Henry is discovered and arrested as a spy, and held in the custody of Major Dunwoodie, who is Henry's sister's fiance and Henry's own childhood friend. The real spy, of course, is still on the loose. A tale of love and intrigue in a time of war, "The Spy" vividly recreates the divided loyalties and patriotic fervor on both sides of the American Revolution, and the sacrifices people must sometimes make for their beliefs and the people they care most about."