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
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"
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
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/