Posted by Gayle on March 05, 2000 at 11:49:54:
In Reply to: Re: Book Club - The Deerslayer posted by MMMMarcia on March 05, 2000 at 11:00:05:
: Well now, I can't resist! I didn't read The Deerslayer as part of this discussion group, or with an eye to analyzing it later, and some time (more than a year) has passed since I finished it, so my recollections could be a bit foggy...BUT...as I seem to remember my impressions while reading, they were very close to what Kate is saying. I never felt that Judith really loved anyone but Hawkeye, though that "love" didn't have much of a chance to develop. I think she realized that her attraction to the other "gentleman" was a shallow one, and I thought she saw in Deerslayer a simple honesty and integrity that was missing in most of the men she knew. She was learning to value that very much. I think she really WANTED a man who had those qualities and who would treasure the woman he finally grew to love, and I think she hoped against all odds that Hawkeye would see the possibility of a real relationship growing between them.
: As for Deerslayer, himself, my feeling was he was just too callow and unformed yet to think beyond discovering himself. He seemed to have a very naive idea of femininity and no clue whatsoever about love. But I could see the conflict in his mind of residing in two worlds while not totally belonging to either one. Cooper seems to set him up so that we will want to know how or IF he ever resolves that conflict, especially as regards finding a mate. I found myself wondering if he had met Judith Hutter at a different point in his life, would things have taken another turn? He needed a great deal more wisdom than he was displaying in Deerslayer to understand what she was offering him, and appreciate the fact that it probably could have worked. I honestly think there was more to Judith than pretty clothes, even if she hadn't totally discovered everything about herself, either.
Great insight, MMMM! I agree that Judith would have appreciated a more in-depth person than Captain Warley (wouldn't any woman?), and it was very unfortunate that Deerslayer was at such an awkward stage of life when the two of them met. His life would (I believe) not have been such an all-around disaster in the end if he had had the steading influence of a home life. Judith did perceive the difference between a respectable life and a vagrant life, but she had been unwise enough to shoot her reputation in "youthful experimentation". Therein, of course, lies Cooper's moral message. I still sense that the hard and thankless life of an uneducated and severely fundamentalist longhunter would have jaded her in time. She settled, in the end, for making the best of her situation, and probably really believed that Captain would mellow with age and make an honest woman of her. At least her life with Warley was probably not as dismal as life on the frontier would have been, so she accepted the compensations.
As usual, I labor under a thin understanding of the mentality of the 1700s, but it strikes me that a man as callow as Natty was at the age of 24 or 26 was not likely to grow up a whole lot in the future. As you say, further reading is almost a must, just to see how the man developed. To my mind, he developed in unexpected directions, but there is no gainsaying the fact that his reaction to the the Fort William Henry Massacre represented a turning point in his life that changed him radically. It was his subsequent desperate effort to turn his life around, in "The Pathfinder", that made the path of his life even more poignant. The title was very significant with it's double meaning. You are right - most people who meet him in any of the five books are intrigued about the past and the future of this character. And so, the many attempts to analyze, reinterpret and rewrite his character and life over time. Read on, MacDuff!
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