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Free MonkeyNotes-The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper-Free Booknotes
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Chapters I - III

Summary (continued)

Certainly Hutter is hiding--it is good to be cautious in this country. Deerslayer talks about his lack of looks--Hurry has admitted that Deerslayer is not handsome--and how he has had moments of vanity, and envy, but in the end a man must look evil in the face and not mistake his gifts. Hurry says that Judith certainly finds herself lovely, and Deerslayer allow that event he Indians are known to be vain. They continue to look for the Ark--maybe they are down the river? They check another cove, at the bottom of the lake, and hear the sound of a footstep. Deerslayer leaves the canoe with his rifle to investigate. Then Hurry sees a fine buck emerge from the trees to drink from the lake. He raises his rifle to shoot, and misses. The echo resounds. The deer shakes his head, then swims to the other shore. Deerslayer is unhappy with Hurry's rash action--now their cover is blown, and they certainly didn't need the deer meat. Hurry is only mad at himself for missing--he'd like to see Deerslayer's steady hand if a Mingo were aiming at him! They argue again about the idea of Indians being human beings. Hurry thinks Deerslayer has missionary ideas, is just a boy, and will soon learn that Indians are not brothers. Judith and Tom won't like an Indian-lover in their camp!

They get to the lake's outlet, the top of the river, and find it perfectly hidden. They start down--it looks like a canoe will barely fit--and find the thick cover so dense that when they start discussing the relative merits of Judith Hutter they are surprised to find her answering them, barely an arm's length away, leaning out the window of the well-concealed Ark.


In these three chapters, Cooper sets up the background of the tale. We find basic information about the major characters, and we hear quite a bit about Deerslayer's moral theories, as well as Hurry's. We know that Hurry is likely to get them in some trouble--he is rash--and that Deerslayer's calm and kind Christian feelings will get some exercise. We get a lot of information about how the men think of women, via discussions on Judith. Cooper's ideas, voiced by Deerslayer, about a woman's ideal moral purity are strictly standard for his time. Also, we get their theories on race. Hurry is clearly an unthinking racist, and Deerslayer has his theory of "gifts"--not equality, exactly, but an idea about each race's "nature."

For the time, Cooper's Natty Bumppo is rather radical in this respect. Cooper felt that the natives and the wilderness were treated horribly by the early white settlers. However, in the twentieth century, we might find his "separate but equal" doctrine a little suspect.

We get the set-up of the lake, and the background of Hurry's affection for Judith. We haven't gotten to the books action- provoking conflict yet--there is only the background threat of warring interference lurking behind the two frontiersmen's travels--but we have all the information we need for what is coming up a battle of hearts, and white against native.

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