The Deerslayer By James Fenimore Cooper Summary and Analysis Chapters 3-4

Summary

Hurry Harry and Deerslayer travel in the canoe to the other end of Glimmerglass in search of Tom Hutter and the ark. On the way they discuss frankly and heatedly their respective impressions of the Indians. Hurry also teases Deerslayer about the latter's plain features and about Judith's possibly outspoken comments upon seeing the young man. When they reach Rat's Cove, Natty starts in pursuit of the animal or human which has made a sound heard by the two travelers. Unable to restrain himself, Hurry shoots at and misses a deer and is scolded by Deerslayer; enemies could be signaled by the shot.

Continuing their journey, they find the outlet of Glimmerglass, and the rock which indicates where the ark should be. Hurry spots Tom Hutter in the distance where the latter is working on his traps, and he makes some unflattering remarks about Judith. Both men are embarrassed by her sudden appearance in the bushes near them. They have been exploring next to the ark, but the boat is so well concealed that the two travelers did not notice it. Judith, displeased by Hurry's comments, is pleased by Natty's spontaneous defense of her virtues as a woman.

Going aboard the ark, Hurry and Deerslayer talk with Judith and Hetty, respectively. Hurry converses earnestly with Judith to soothe her pride and re-establish himself as a suitor; Natty appreciates Hetty's simple, honest manner, despite the lack of her sister's sophistication and intelligence. Tom Hutter appears and is half-annoyed: Hurry is a week late, the Mingos are on the warpath, and a stranger — Deerslayer is on the ark. Although Hurry explains that he fortunately met Natty on the trail and that the two formed a team against any Indian attack, it is Deerslayer, however, who satisfies Floating Tom about his honest intentions after he explains his intended rendezvous with Chingachgook. Hutter realizes that the young man may prove a needed ally in any future battle with the Mingos, so he tells about some signs of enemies in the vicinity. Judith, for example, shows a moccasin, which Deerslayer identifies as the type that Indians from Canada would wear.

Certain that hostile Indians are now around the lake, Tom Hutter reproaches Hurry Harry because of the shot fired at the deer — a signal to the Mingos that more white men are at Glimmerglass. The three men start to remove the ark from its refuge in order to allow it to float on the lake where they can see any Indians approaching. Helped by the sunset, they almost succeed in leading the ark in the coming darkness beyond the reach of the trees on the shore. Deerslayer, catching sight of six Indians crouching on a tree that arches across the stream, shouts to Hurry Harry to give the ark a push. Five of the redskins fall into the water as they miss landing in the boat; the sixth Indian falls unconscious on the deck, and Judith shoves him into the lake. Natty pushes her into the cabin, out of range of bullets being fired by other Mingos on the shore. The ark safely reaches the open water of Glimmerglass.

Analysis

Three more characters join the story: the Hutter family. The five characters now introduced are all the "white" characters who dominate the action, and the introduction of the "red," or Indian, figures is foreshadowed by the discussion between Deerslayer and Hurry Harry about the different races. Hurry proclaims the superiority of the white race over the black and red races, but Deerslayer replies simply that "God made all three alike." However, Natty begins to explain a key concept, the idea that God "gave each race its gifts." For example, Natty mentions that a white man, whose "gifts are Christianized," cannot scalp a fallen foe; but scalping to an Indian is "a signal vartue" because he lives by the code of the wilderness. The illustration by Deerslayer is important in the plot because Floating Tom and Hurry Harry will later attempt to violate a white man's "gifts" by seeking scalps.

Two examples of the chase, or the theme of the pursuer and the pursued, occur in these two chapters: the hunt for the deer and Hurry's hasty shot at the animal, and the attack of the Mingos on the ark as the boat seeks to move from shore. There will be other instances of this technical device throughout the chapters. Cooper is probably at his best in writing excitingly and suspensefully about dramatic episodes, such as the chase. He never betrays beforehand the outcome of these dangerous encounters.

Deerslayer also answers Hurry's taunts about his possible reactions to killing an Indian for the first time by stating that he will not slay willingly and with pleasure. If and when the necessity to defend himself comes, he hopes to maintain his honor by acting bravely and nobly. Nevertheless, Deerslayer insists that the death of a deer or other animal is a small matter compared to firing a gun at a fellow human being. An Indian is "quite as human as we are ourselves," and Natty praises the missionaries for instilling this feeling in him. Religion, explains Natty, teaches that all men have souls and that each man will have to answer for his actions.

Although Natty spends his initial time on the ark talking with Hetty, he is impressed by Judith's beauty. Hurry Harry, however, has already prejudiced Natty against Judith by his gossip about her popularity with the officers of the nearby garrison. Natty admires Hetty's simplicity of manner and sympathizes with her feeble intelligence. He also realizes that Hetty is secretly in love with Hurry Harry. Tom Hutter is a shrewd, forceful, and mysterious character. He is wary of Natty's presence but likewise grasps almost immediately the usefulness of the youth.

Most important, the conflict has been started between the five refugees on the ark and the Mingos occupying the shores of Glimmerglass. There are several romantic elements, particularly Gothic devices, about this first episode on the ark: the twilight shadows lending an air of mystery and fear to the setting; the boat drifting slowly and silently into the mainstream; and the Indians, appearing suddenly like supernatural spirits.

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Although The Deerslayer was the last of the Natty Bumppo novels to be written, it appears __________ based on Natty's chronological age.




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