Re: The Character of Duncan

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Posted by Kate on July 30, 1999 at 19:57:09:

In Reply to: Re: The Character of Duncan posted by Gayle on July 30, 1999 at 17:46:42:

: : Duncan was no doubt a fine, capable gentleman in his own world. He knew what to expect and how to react. He knew what the rules were in England. The colonies were a new and different world for him. His reactions were not always appropriate in situations and conditions that were strange to him.
: : As for Steven Waddington, well I shall just have to see LOTM again to make any sort of judgement about his performance - tough work! But, If I must, I must.
: : Pat

: Pat,

: You've hit the nail on the head with that assessment! Everything the British did, both socially and militarily was based on their understanding of how things were in England. That's the main reason they got creamed so thoroughly in so many campaigns here, and why they finally lost the country altogether. They couldn't adjust to Indian thinking and warfare, and they never did have a clue as to the renegade personality of the Americans who were settling the colonies. Every time they turned around they shot themselves in the foot, because they just couldn't accept the fact that "making the world England" was not everybody's idea. So Duncan was totally in character in every respect and very well drawn both by Mann and by Steven Waddington.

: I'm sorry you have to watch the movie again, but we insist. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet.

: Gayle


I do think you and Pat have very valid points there, re: how the British reacted to a new environment, and I would agree with that but I also think poor Duncan was just a product of his 'Time' and a casualty of that era. Yes, we do tend to overlook poor old Duncan in favour of our heroes, however, there is no doubting that Steven Waddington's portrayal of his character is very strong. We feel compelled to admire him, in spite of ourselves. After all, it is NOT his fault he's a such a loser!!

In the 18th Century, sons of the 'upper classes' were raised and taught to believe 'duty' is first, last and everything in between. 'Gentlemen' bought their sons commissions in their old Regiments and through the 'old boy' network, they advanced through the ranks. There was pressure on these sons to make 'Papa' proud, do well, fight fair, but fight with courage and above all - be honourable! Indeed, rather death before dishonour!! And always, these sons and Officers knew where their duties lay - to the Crown first and foremost; to king and Country. And Duncan is a British Officer right down to his regulation 'ribbon, hair, for the use of'. After years of being drilled by his father on the exploits of 'his' Regiment, the campaigns they fought, the honours they won, the brave and courageous brother Officers, Duncan simply *cannot* act in any other manner than that which he did!!

When he is asked of Col. Monro to state what he saw at Cameron's Cabin, he knows where his duty lies - to the Crown first, even if by compromising the truth, he knows he jeopardises the respect of the woman he loves. All his upbringing and training in the Army, everything that makes him what he is, is being 'tested' here - and he does not shirk from his 'duty'! He cannot!

It is also his duty to protect his Colonel's daughters (whether he was in love with one of them or not) therefore, even knowing that he has not secured Cora's love and affections, when Cora is in danger from Magua's band under the waterfall, 'duty' dictates he must protect her at all costs.

When Duncan sees that he will never have Cora's love and respect, he is angry, jealous and bitter. Though a British Officer, and seemingly to be without compassion and understanding, and seemingly uncompromising, typical of someone 'scorned', he seeks revenge rather than justice, over Hawkeye's perpetration of sedition and insists on the maximum penalty. Somehow this 'frailty' makes him seem more human and less 'British war machine' and we can identify with this side of him. Though we DON'T LIKE what he is doing, we understand how he feels and why he is doing it.

However, 'honour' is also an integral part of Duncan's life and make-up. In the Huron camp, he recognises that Hawkeye, too, is an honourable 'opponent', walking into the camp, and willing to die for the release of the captives. Still loving Cora, and still feeling duty-bound to his dead Colonel to protect his daughters, he recognises that Cora's (and Alice's) best chance of survival lies with Hawkeye. Here his in-bred sense of honour and courage compels him to forfeit his own life for that of his friends and one time adversary! It is a decision he has to make quickly and he doesn't hesitate. Death before dishonour! Upper class breeding and British Army codes and traditions of the time demand it be so!! And as such, Duncan does not question it.

Aye, Duncan is a man with a few good qualities and taken as a whole, I think we are wrong to think unhighly of him!! He is merely a product of his upbringing and training - a product of his time. Now I know you may not agree with my appraisal of Duncan's character but, I'd rather make the gravest of mistakes and 'post' this, than to surrender my own judgement about him!

Clear it up any?
Best wishes,

PS - You are so right, Pat -

:: As for Steven Waddington, well I shall just have to see LOTM again to make any kind of judgement on his performance - tough work!

It's an awful job - but, well, somebody has to do it!!

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