As the architect for Judge Marmaduke Temple's house, Richard Jones attempts to preserve the culture and lifestyle of the "Old World," Europe,in the "New World," America. This theme of European transplantation is present throughout Cooper's novel, and Cooper appears to ridicule the idea. The above passage clearly illustrates Cooper's view that the thought of merging the Old and New World together is ludicrous because Cooper mockingly portrays Richard Jones as ignorant of literature and history through Jones' absurd comments in regard to the busts.
Cooper tells the reader that the busts are made with Plaster of Paris. The material itself, therefore, is very European, even in its name. However, although Jones tries to incorporate European flare into the decorating, Plaster of Paris is rather inexpensive and tacky in comparison to other sculpting materials such as marble. This fact immediately reveals Jones' limited appreciation for the finer cultural luxuries of life.
Jones' tastelessness sets Cooper's mocking tone for the rest of the passage, in which Jones continues to foolishly describe his decorations. Jones seems to identify the busts as great historical or literary figures based on trivial similarities of the busts to the actual figures. For instance, Jones calls one of the busts Homer because it "looks blind," which probably means that no one made the eyes for the statue. Jones is able to incorporate the great ancient poet Virgil into his decor by calling one of the busts, probably a disregarded mess-up by the artist, "the urn of Dido's ashes." Also, just because another bust has a "pointed beard," Jones decides that the bust must be of Shakespeare.
Jones tries to incorporate figures from both the New and Old World by adding the busts of Franklin and Washington to the collection. With this attempt, Jones draws on the idea of the pioneers' desire to mesh the two Worlds together. The assemblage of these different busts seems quite haphazard, however. There is no defining characteristic between the Old World and New World busts that links all the busts together and explains their connection to one another. While the Old World busts seem to focus on authors and literary characters, the New World busts are of men concerned with independence and freedom from the constraints of Europe and Britain. This ignorant and random selection reveals Cooper's belief that the New and Old worlds really do not blend so easily together. Cooper uses the passage and the ignorance of Jones' character to address the theme of blending European influences into the American frontier and shows his dislike for this attempt.