Summary and Analysis
The sorrowful group gathers in the morning for what seems to be a final meeting. Chingachgook and Hist are happy in their love for each other, but they are obviously depressed about their friend's departure, and his fate. Deerslayer and Judith still try to convince each other (without much hope) of their respective viewpoints. Deerslayer and Chingachgook, however, have formulated some plans. Deerslayer, although he accepts his companion's offer of help, prefers that Chingachgook flee with Hist to the Delaware territory. After giving everyone some advice for the future, Deerslayer asks Judith's permission to give Tom Hutter's gun, Killdeer to Chingachgook in case he (Deerslayer) is unable to use it; she says it is his to do with as he pleases. The two men decide to test the rifle and enjoy a last contest of shooting skills. Deerslayer again shows his quicker eye and superior marksmanship.
After the first moments of pleasure at the results of the bird shooting match, Deerslayer regrets the unnecessary taking of life. He muses about the fearsome use of power and the dangerous use of firearms by those who have not learned moderation, respect, and humility. Deerslayer's fraternal comments to Judith, Hist, and Chingachgook impress them with his wisdom. Hetty, however, is unable to follow closely the lessons he teaches the others about their behavior. Deerslayer allows Hetty to accompany him to the Indian camp despite his doubts about the wisdom of her presence during the coming agony, and in the canoe, lie endeavors to counsel her. He especially warns Hetty about her growing love for Hurry Harry which, in Deerslayer's view, is an impossible sentiment between two individuals so very different. Hetty does not grasp Deerslayer's meaning, and he ceases trying to convince her of moral dangers. They approach the place of assignation without incident.
There is very little action in these chapters as Deerslayer continues to control the dialogue and mood by further explanations of his philosophy and code. The tone is completely didactic, and all the participants are submissive to Deerslayer's moral superiority. For example, the hero elaborates on the differences between "natur' " and "gifts": The former is the basic human personality, composed of individual feelings and ideas, which is never greatly altered; and the latter refers to the influence of "sarcumstances" upon the person. Deerslayer also strives to define his religious beliefs: Indians and white men, compatible and friendly on earth though separated by such barriers as marriage, may possibly hope for reunion after death in the Christian heaven; people cannot judge the fate of others, such as Tom Hutter, and rewards or punishments are meted out justly by God.
Deerslayer, nevertheless, cannot always explain and justify the Christian teachings, especially to Chingachgook. When his Indian friends press him too hard on any issue, Deerslayer resorts to the romantic idea that these problems must be "felt" rather than "reasoned about." On several occasions, Chingachgook's telling arguments represent a more liberal and more modern approach — that of Cooper — to the dogmatic ideas of the preachers and missionaries. Chingachgook, though untrained in rhetoric and theology, conducts himself as skillfully as would an educated representative of the Christian civilization so questioned by Cooper. Also, Chingachgook, as noted in other Chapters, has all the dignity of a Roman senator, wrapping himself in his toga (or blanket) upon Deerslayer's departure.
Besides Chingachgook's questions which often demolish Deerslayer's answers and liberalize his friend's didacticism, the conclusions of the hero are not always valid in terms of the plot. For example, Deerslayer's guilt and tirade about the shooting scene are ironic because this episode will later emerge as an element in his salvation, as Cooper indicates at the beginning of Chapter 26. Cooper also seeks to rationalize his overt clue to the plot's solution by referring to "the inscrutable Providence" which guides the destinies of all creatures. The argument is likewise a combination of Cooper's faith in the essence of Christianity and his literary acceptance of the romantic belief in a controlling fate. Cooper's philosophical outlook is, however, optimistic; he does not rely on the common feature of the romantics that depict Providence as causing the downfall of the hero. Deerslayer's incorrect, though logical, analysis of the evil he has done in firing Killdeer at the birds is matched by a second ironic situation: the futility of his moralizing and preaching to Hetty. She replies so innocently that her ideas frustrate Deerslayer in his attempts to impose his views. But Hetty is also correct in her analysis on occasion. In short, neither person is absolutely all right or all wrong.
Irony characterizes Deerslayer's advice to Chingachgook and Hist about the need for a harmonious marriage, as well as his warnings to Judith that her beauty and emotions may lead her astray. Deerslayer, so astute and practical in matters of love when addressed to other people, is awkward in his own encounters with Judith and perhaps is unaware of her deep sentiments on his behalf. Cooper, didactic and moralizing, offers in The Deerslayer a battleground for conflicting ideas and provides two sides to the coin of his literary and philosophical problems.