Out On the Pampas Book Report
G.A. Henty was a classic historical fiction author. Henty was a prolific historical fiction writer in England during the Industrial Revolution. Henty wrote around a hundred novels, but perhaps one of the best and least controversial of his works was Out on the Pampas. Out on the Pampas is about an English family called the Hardys, who decide to immigrate to Argentina in search of opportunity. They hire four men to help at their estate, a Spaniard, an Irishman, a German, and an American. All of them contribute to the story, whether it is helping to rescue a friend, building bricks for a home, or telling an amusing tale of the Mexican-American War, Out on the Pampas has it all. However, an important factor to this book’s success was the setting more than anything. Henty had to choose the right settings for the plot to unfold correctly. In this report we will examine Henty’s choices for the settings and see how they impacted the story.
The first setting in the book is England in the 1850s (we can assume this from minute historical clues). England during this time is the most heavily involved in the industrial revolution and the quality of life is improving. However, the Hardy family decides to leave England because they do not see any opportunity for their sons, Charley and Hubert. This goes right along with the setting. England is the ideal setting because in America, another country involved in the industrial revolution, the Hardys could simply travel in a wagon westward and settle in the west. However, in crowded England, there are no wagons to travel to a gold-rich land such as California in, in fact, there is nothing like California at all in England, or the British Isles for that matter. The only option to find opportunity would be to emigrate. If they hadn’t lived in England, they would never have went to Argentina to begin with.
The next setting in the book, excluding the time spent on the boat, was the city of Buenos Ayres (as spelled in the book) and the small town of Rosario. Buenos Ayres was more “European” than the Hardy’s had thought, with straight roads everywhere. When the Hardys, particuarly Charley, reached Rosario, on the other hand, “The boys were disappointed at the aspect of the town, which, although a rising place, contained under a thousand inhabitants, and looked miserably poor and squalid after Buenos Ayres.” The book also stated that this small town was a rising star in the country, and later mentioned how in the years the Hardys stayed Rosario had grown. In fact, the population had been exploding up until the 1930s when the influx of new immigrants slowed down. Today, Rosario is the third-largest city in Argentina, with over 1 million people.
The third and last setting that will be mentioned is the Pampas, which is the predominant environment throughout most of the book. The Pampas, as described in the novel, must have similar qualities. But unlike the previous two settings, it must have environmental qualities, not historical ones, since how the Pampas look today and the period of immigration into Argentina, it is reasonable to assume that during the time the Hardy’s settled there, that the Pampas were the open and seemingly boundless grassland that it was supposed to be. The description of wildlife in the Pampas was also accurate, including cougars (lions), armadillos, and the Greater Rhea, or ostriches as referred to in the book. In addition flamingoes are found all over Argentina. One of the more important purposes for the Pampas setting is its ability to be lit on fire. The novel notes this in Chapter XV: The Pampas on Fire, by saying, “A fire was already alight, made of grass and turf, the former being pulled up in handfuls by the roots, and making a fierce but short-lived blaze.” This explains how the Indians were able to light the Pampas on fire so easily. The grass’s ability to be lit easily also enabled the Indians to erase their trail through the Pampas. Also, it was much easier to make a living in the Pampas of Argentina then in the Great Plains of America for one reason; The Great Plains has a colder hardiness than the Pampas. In fact, half of the Great Plains is 5b and below on the hardiness scale whereas the Pampas are 9b, or almost ten, a big difference1. In other words, the Pampas are a warmer plain than the Great Plains of America. If the Hardys had moved to America, crop production would be more limited, since tropical plants can’t be grown in the plains, but anything from cane sugar to sweet potatoes can be grown in the Pampas due to its warmer, more tropical climate. The book mentions this on multiple occasions, saying, “…and Mr. Hardy bought some hundreds of young fruit trees—apple, pear, plum, apricot, and peach—some of which were planted in the garden at the sides and in rear of the house, others in the open beyond and round it; a light fence with one wire being put up to keep the cattle from trespassing. Clumps of young palms, bananas, and other tropical trees and shrubs were also planted about for the future adornment of the place.” And” The rest was planted with seeds brought from England—peas, beans, tomatoes, vegetable marrows, cucumbers, melons, and many others, some of which were natives of warm climates, while others were planted in small patches as an experiment.” In addition Mr. Hardy noted that “‘Ginger, vanilla, and other things would no doubt flourish here.’” These quotations all prove how versatile the Pampas are for farming.
In conclusion, we looked at three different settings in Out On the Pampas and saw how accurately they matched up to history and the climate of the Pampas. We went over how Britain in the 1850s was a good start since Britain was a small nation with no “western frontier” like America, so people searching for opportunity had to emigrate. The cities of Rosario and Buenos Ayres both met their respective expectations for the year 1850, Buenos Ayres being an economic powerhouse, and Rosario being a small, squalid town on the rise. And lastly, we saw the wildlife in the Pampas and the Pampas fit nicely with the story and plot, namely the grass’s ability to light it on fire with ease. In the end the setting of Out on the Pampas fits very nicely both historically and in the plot.
1: Plant Hardiness Zones determine the best areas for certain crops to grow. Garlic, for example, depending on the variety, can exist in zones 3 (minimum of -40°F) through 8 (minimum of 20°F), allows for it to be grown throughout the U.S. (except in areas of extreme cold or heat) and other countries, like China, where it can be grown (provided there is good soil) across the country except in the south and even in frigid areas like Russia and Mongolia.
Links to some plant hardiness zone maps are below.
USDA Plant Hardiness (for U.S.) : http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/#
Davisla Landscape Architecture (worldwide): https://davisla.wordpress.com/plant-zones/