Summary and Analysis
On the following day, Glimmerglass and its shore show no visible traces of the past battle because Captain Warley, in charge of the soldiers, has ordered all the bodies to be buried. Rivenoak has been taken a prisoner, but he behaves in defeat like a true warrior and proud chief.
Hetty has been accidentally wounded during the battle, and the surgeon accompanying the troops announces that she is dying. Judith is humble as she begins to realize her sister's good influence and counsel. Hetty, surrounded by her friends, talks finally to Hurry Harry and wishes that he would imitate Deerslayer. She dies peacefully after impressing everyone, including Deerslayer, with her kindness and sincerity.
Meanwhile, Captain Warley explains the circumstances which brought him to Glimmerglass. A friendly runner first brought the report of a Mingo war party to the garrison; and the troops, meeting Hurry Harry on the trail, were directed by him to the lake. The soldiers heard the shots fired by Deerslayer and Chingachgook, which helped the rescue expedition arrive in time.
At sunset, Hetty is buried near the place in Glimmerglass where her mother and Tom Hutter were laid to rest. Judith makes one last effort to win Deerslayer's love, but he confesses that he does not want to settle down, which marriage would demand. She even tempts him with descriptions of a serene, isolated life at Glimmerglass where they would not be in contact with the settlements he abhors. Finally, Judith asks Deerslayer if the gossip he heard from Hurry Harry had initially prejudiced him against her. Deerslayer's face betrays him; Judith's fears are confirmed. Judith accompanies Captain Warley and the soldiers as they head back to the settlement; Deerslayer, Chingachgook, and Hist set out in the direction of the Delaware territory.
Fifteen years pass before Deerslayer and Chingachgook see Glimmerglass again. Hist has died, but her son, Uncas, joins his father and Deerslayer on the trail to the garrison on the Mohawk. Deerslayer, better known as Hawkeye because of the fame he has won in the intervening years, is overcome by the memories of those few, exciting days on the lake. He and Chingachgook are also overwhelmed with melancholy by the changes of time. The castle and the ark are in a state of decay. Other mementoes of the first warpath, such as the canoes and the Mingo battleground, likewise bear the signs of neglect. The graves in the lake have been disturbed by storms, currents, and other natural phenomena so that all traces of the burial sites have disappeared. Glimmerglass, nevertheless, is the same mirror of beauty; and the area, happily for Hawkeye and Chingachgook, shows no evidence of any settlers or visitors during their absence of 15 years.
When Hawkeye reaches the garrison, he learns that Captain Warley now lives in England and that a beautiful lady, not his wife, resides on his estate. Hawkeye's rejection of Judith's love has evidently led her back to the path of sin and perdition, as Hetty had feared.
Hetty's death occupies almost an entire chapter, and the long, sentimental scene resembles the description of Tom Hutter's dying hours with the emphasis upon the emotions. The romantics favored these melodramatic effects, and the death of an important character was often the motive for an obvious appeal to the feelings. Tears, for example, flow copiously. The contrast between the deathbed moments of Hetty and Tom Hutter is very noticeable: The former represents the triumph and coming reward of virtue and innocence, and the latter symbolizes the agony and punishment for a life badly spent in the service of crime. Thus, Hetty dies happily and Tom Hotter dies sorrowfully. Judith's reactions to the deaths of these two persons, so close to her, are an index to Cooper's morality. Judith loses none of her antipathy for Tom Hutter after his demise, but she suffers spiritually because of Hetty's death. Cooper's use of two members of the same family (despite Tom Hutter's confession that he is not the girls' father) is also indicative of his intention to compare and contrast the deaths.
Hetty, as Cooper states openly, is really a representational character who forms a link between the highest spiritual aspirations of man and the common lot of errant mankind. She is, for the author, one of the links binding the material and immaterial world. in short, Hetty becomes the symbol of innocence, purity, and literal belief in and acceptance of the Bible; she is an example and a guide to the other characters. Cooper, however, is a realist who seeks a practical and possible mode of conduct in a rapidly evolving world. Hetty's complete innocence cannot cope with the great and small crises of life, and it is therefore significant that she does not survive those few crucial days at the lake.
Although Hetty is the conscience and the vision of a better moral life, the enduring quality of nature is man's hope. Glimmerglass bears no scars and no memories of the bloodshed 15 years before. The thrilling comings and goings of the actors on this stage for a few days have not disturbed in any significant way this impressive symbol of the American continent. Everything touched by man has crumbled because of time, and human relationships are fragile. The mood is one of melancholy and nostalgia for the past and puzzlement about the meaning of time and circumstances.
This mood, pervading the last chapter, applies to Deerslayer, whose new sobriquet of Hawkeye ("for so we ought now to call him"), is perhaps another symbol of the vicissitudes of time. Although Cooper states that Judith had never won Hawkeye's heart, the girl remains a nostalgic memory for the hero. For example, he finds, after 15 years, a ribbon from Judith's elegant clothes, and Hawkeye ties the ribbon to Killdeer, the gift of Judith. Hawkeye again imitates the actions of a medieval knight who attaches some token of a lady to his lance or armor. The action is also symbolic of the nostalgic spirit of Hawkeye upon recalling his "first warpath" at Glimmerglass.
Hawkeye's reasons for not marrying Judith are twofold: He is basically repelled by the thought of marriage and the loss of his freedom, and he has been influenced morally and psychologically by tales of Judith's affairs with other men. Cooper is probably expressing in the reactions of Hawkeye two ideas: his own stern morality, based fundamentally in the Puritan tradition; and the necessity to adhere to the code of the epic hero, serving only a beautiful and chaste maiden. Cooper's world, however, is not characterized solely by virtue and purity: He states in the last sentence of The Deerslayer that "we live in a world of transgressions and selfishness. . . ." Man, steeped in sin by his natural inclinations, creates a bleak environment, relieved only by the appearances of a Hetty.