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Marguerite YoungMarguerite Young

Hoosier Connection: Marguerite Young was born in Indianapolis and authored Angel in the Forest, a book about the two utopias of New Harmony, Indiana. In it she discusses the deforestation of southern Indiana, the exploitation of natural resources, and the arrogance of humankind toward nature.

Works Discussed: Angel in the Forest

Marguerite Young was born in Indianapolis on August 28, 1908. After her parents separated when she was three years old, she grew up with her maternal grandmother, who nurtured her imagination and love of literature. Young attended Butler University in Indianapolis and graduated with a BA in English and French. She went on to graduate with an MA from the University of Chicago in Epic and Elizabethan and Jacobean Literature.

Young published her first volume of poetry in 1937, while she taught English at Shortridge High School in Indianapolis. Later that year, she visited her mother and stepfather in New Harmony, Indiana, and became fascinated with its history. She moved to New Harmony and lived there for seven years, where she began Angel in the Forest, an account of the two utopias in New Harmony.

In 1945 Young published the book, and within the next six years she received numerous awards, including the Guggenheim Foundation award and the Newberry Library Award. After the publication of Angel, she traveled extensively and worked with several other authors, including Anais Nin. Over the next fifty years, she contributed to numerous magazines and published several more volumes of poetry. Young died November 17, 1995, in Indianapolis.

Angel in the Forest: A Tale of Two Utopias is a novel that deals with the Utopian experiment of settlers in New Harmony, Indiana, and describes the problems that the settlers faced.

The first group of New Harmony settlers established a religious community on the site, and found joy at the abundance of their natural surroundings. The new land offered much promise to the settlers.

There was, to begin with, plenty of rolling pasture for sheep and horses and brood mares. There were plenty of encompassing highlands, well watered with flowing springs, brooks, and streams. The central lands were as level as a floor, yet with grade enough for drainage. There were trees of every kind, heavy timbers--the oak, the beech, the ash, the birch, three kinds of nut trees, three to four feet in diameter, with trunks fifty to sixty feet high--a splendid material for carpenter work. (29-30)

The religious settlers attributed this abundance to God and worked to level the ground, cut down the trees, and build their settlement. They believed that God had placed all before them to take and that nature was a renewable resource. Young summarizes the belief of the pioneers with the following statement. "Corn in the valley should be the attestation of divine truth, as if God co-operated in building a world which, in short order, God intended to destroy" (30).

When they had finally managed to plant a successful crop of corn, the settlers assumed that since God had allowed it to grow, He also approved of the acts destruction involved in clearing the land. The settlers were confident that if God had provided once, He would provide again.

The settlers leveled the ground and created pastures. Unfortunately, they quickly depleted their natural resources. The settlers faced a lack of building materials, as detailed in this passage:

To build new houses was out of the question...there were no new materials to be procured in the whole country, no rocks ready blasted, no brick, no timber.... (173)

Young notes the frustration of the pioneers when "all the trees in the American wilderness had been cut down, and all the rivers were dried up, and all the hills were leveled..." (165). God had not renewed what the settlers used, so with the countryside destroyed, the residents had no choice but to seek out other land, leaving New Harmony to nature. While the settlers were gone, nature began its slow recovery. The nearby river "abounded in fish of every kind" and "deer might be seen bounding over [the settlers'] fields and browsing in their corn" (176). As quickly as the settlers had left, "[n]ature was freed from the oppressor" (176).

However, a new group of Utopians, led by Robert Owen, soon purchased the site and created a new city, now known as New Harmony. Young states that after a brief period of vitality, "the wilderness was doomed, though few could have guessed it, to become a network of roads--in the future, a loud honking, not of wild geese but of automobiles" (220).

Though Angel in the Forest primarily concerns the attempt to create two utopian societies, it carries with it Young's concern for the environment, both before and after human activity. The settlers, who believed in their right to plunder nature, transformed the land from its natural state into the land we know today. Using the history of New Harmony, Young shows readers that abusing the land is dangerous, as nature is not always a renewable resource.



Young, Marguerite. Angel in the Forest. New York: Reynal and Hitchcock, 1945.


"Marguerite Young." Archives, Washington University. Oct 15 2002 <http://www.faculty.washington.edu/connieei/


Historic New Harmony