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Synopsis

Probing the Journals of Lewis and Clark far more closely than other works, the book develops the understanding that these Enlightenment gentlemen from Virginia gradually entered the unfamiliar world of the West and Native American animism and magic, and they responded differently. Clark adapted and learned from the Indians, whereas Lewis resisted them as "savages." Clark returned after having envisioned a "landscape of hope" and lives a long life of service to native tribes. Lewis saw a "landscape of despair" and in the three remaining years of his life encountered conflict and disappointment.

Both perspectives on the West are still alive. Some find in the virtual obliteration of Native American cultures and the despoiling of the land itself the loss of the West. But another impulse, toward energy, inventiveness, and community spirit, seems alive, especially evident in the smaller cities and larger towns along the route of the explorers. In such places the "landscape of hope" is very much alive. The experience of Lewis and Clark, then, parallels our experience today.

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