Posted by Gayle on November 07, 1999 at 07:17:49:
In Reply to: Re: The Deerslayer posted by Kate on November 06, 1999 at 20:40:52:
: 'Natty' and I have hardly met Hetty, so I can't really comment on their similarities yet. However, I suspect that she is far from being 'touched in the head'. I suspect Hetty's quiet, thoughtful ways (not to mention her 'louder' sister) tend to mask her real 'identity', but, again, let me get back to you on that.
Hetty is a very interesting character, and I think you will find as you progress through the book, that you have instinctively hit on a very good assessment of her. She really gets to be quite a heroine in her own way.
Cooper apparently was ambivalent about the idea of mental weakness - or the APPEARANCE of mental weakness. He used it in different ways to support different opinions, and his "flexing" on the subject gets a little ludicrous at times. He showcased, in three of the five Leatherstocking Tales, the compassion and care the Indian culture devoted to those who appeared to lack full faculties - Hetty Hutter in "The Deerslayer", David Gamut in "The Last of the Mohicans", and Doctor Battius in "The Prairie", and he respected the Indian way and openly criticized the "Christian" culture for their poor treatment of those who were perceived as mentally lacking in some way.
However, in a later book, "The Ways of the Hour", he ended the book by patronizingly characterizing the heroine as "suffering from heredity madness", because he couldn't think of any other reason a woman would leave an abusive husband, retake control of her own inheritance and choose to live in virtual social isolation in order to secure peace and dignity for herself. This was a woman who had an extensive classical European education, spoke several foreign languages fluently, and managed her own court defense when falsely arrested for murder. Hardly mentally deficient or "mad"!
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