The Deerslayer: View of The Native Americans
James Fenimore Cooper was born on September 15, 1789 in Burlington, New Jersey. He was the son of William and Elizabeth (Fenimore) Cooper, the twelfth of thirteen children (Long, p. 9). Cooper is known as one of the first great American novelists, in many ways because he was the first American writer to gain international followers of his writing. In addition, he was perhaps the first novelist to "demonstrate...that native materials could inspire significant imaginative writing" (p. 13). In addition his writing, specifically The Deerslayer, present a unique view of the Native American's experiences and situation. Many critics, for example, argue that The Deerslayer presents a moral opinion about what occurred in the lives of the American Indians.
Marius Bewley has said that the book shows moral values throughout the context of it. He says that from the very beginning, this is symbolically made clear. The plot is a platform for the development of moral themes. The first contact the reader has with people in the book is in the passage in which the two hunters find each other. "The calls were in different tones, evidently proceeding from two men who had lost their way, and were searching in different directions for their path" (Cooper, p. 5). Bewley states that this meeting is symbolic of losing one's way morally, and then attempting to find it again through different paths. Says Bewley, "when the two men emerge from the forest into the little clearing we are face to face with... two opposing moral visions of life which are embodied in these two woodsmen" (cited in Long, p. 121).
Critic Donald Davie, however, disagrees. His contention is that the plot is poorly developed. "It does not hang together; has no internal logic; one incident does not rise out of another" (cited in Long, p. 121). But according to Robert Long, Bewley has a better grasp of the meaning and presentation of ideas throughout the book. According to Long, although the plot development may not be "strictly linear," it is still certainly coherent and makes sense. In addition, Long feels that, as Bewley states, the novel is a way in and through which Cooper presents moral ideas about the plight of the Native Americans (p. 121).
The story of The Deerslayer is simple. It is novel which tells the events which occur in the travels of a frontiersman. His name is Natty, and he is a young man at only twenty years old. Coming from New York of the eighteenth century, he is unprepared in many ways for what he encounters in the frontier. But he survives, escapes, and learns many things over the course of his adventures.
The two characters of Natty and Hurry are contrasted in such as way that Cooper presents his view of the Native Americans through them. As earlier indicated, they symbolize two men with differing moral aptitudes. Throughout the novel, the differences between the two show Cooper's feelings about morality as it relates to the American Indians. As Long states, "The voices of the two men calling to one another at the beginning introduces the idea of a world that has lost its coherence, is already reduced to disjunction and fragmentation. Natty and Hurry search for a point of contact yet move in different directions" (p. 122).
Cooper's descriptions of Natty and Hurry early in the novel make it obvious that they stand for opposite moral values. Hurry, for example, is described by Cooper as having "a dashing, reckless, off-hand manner, and physical restlessness" (Cooper, p. 6). In fact, it is these characteristics of him that gave him his nickname by which he is called - Hurry Scurry, although his real name is Henry March. He is described as tall and muscular, the "grandeur that pervaded such a noble physique" being the only thing that kept him from looking "altogether vulgar" (p. 6). The Deerslayer's appearance, on the other hand, contrasts with Hurry's significantly....
Cited: Cooper, James Fenimore. The Deerslayer. New York: The Heritage Press, 1961.
Kelly, William P. Plotting America 's Past. Illinois: Southern Illinois
University Press, 1983.
Long, Robert Emmet. James Fenimore Cooper. New York: Continuum Publishing
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