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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS
The years covered in The Deerslayer are pre-Revolutionary, about 1740-1745, and the action takes place almost exclusively in the area of a lake, "Glimmerglass," in the New York colonies, near the Hudson River. It is worth noting that this book is one of several concerning the adventures of Natty Bumppo, a man of the wilderness who became Cooper's most memorable character. In this book, Natty (who is the Deerslayer) is still living in rather close proximity to the early settlers. The area where this story takes place was, at the time, really rather remote. The natives and the colonists were battling over allegiance, land rights, and resources. The story takes place over several days.
LIST OF CHARACTERS
Natty (Nathaniel) Bumppo
A white man who has been partially raised with natives, Natty takes to native ways, and to the wilderness. In The Deerslayer Natty is in his early twenties or so, and has recently left his tribal friends to test himself in the wilderness. He is portrayed as very clever--mixing the natives' unparalleled knowledge and sense of the natural world with a Christian's proper moral sense, Natty is indeed a unique individual.
Hurry Harry (Henry March)
A frontiersman, a bounty hunter (seeking Indian prey), a man of the wilderness, Hurry Harry is a fine physical specimen of manhood. Twenty-six or eight, he is very handsome, strong, and determined. He is also not very ethical. Hurry Harry is full of himself, has a temper, and is impulsive. He is also young, though he is a little older than Natty.
Unmarried daughter of Thomas Hutter, Judith and her sister are recently motherless and live with their father on the lake for part of the year. Judith, twenty years old, is renown for her beauty, but she has also been indiscreet, supposedly, in her attentions to the cavalry officers in the area. Judith has an honest heart, is able-bodied, witty, and a little vain. Judith becomes attracted to Deerslayer.
Judith's sister Hetty is "on the verge of ignorance"--i.e. she is somewhat mentally impaired. Hetty is very able, physically, and Cooper has given her the role of "idiot-savant." Hetty has an uncanny ability to "see" and understand situations. Her father has given her information which he would not trust Judith with. The natives consider Hetty's simple nature as a special case, a gift, and she is allowed to move freely in and out of their camps. Hetty is plain, and honest, and would hurt no one. She is troubled by much of what goes on around her.
Natty's native friend (of the Delaware tribal group--Natty calls him "Sarpent") is a young man who is stalwart, loyal, and a man of few words. He has all the amazing prowess and bravery of a native, and is Natty's closest companion--also his savior. He is the son of an important chief, and will someday take leadership duties in his tribe. He is in love with Wah-Ta!-Wah, a young woman of his tribe.
A young woman of great resourcefulness and simple beauty, Wah-Ta!-Wah has a queenly carriage and a sharp eye. She is in love with Chingachgook, and she befriends Hetty. Wah-Ta!-Wah, when captured by the Iroquois, shows her calm and sharp judgment of human nature. She is compassionate and intelligent.
The father of Judith and Hetty is a secretive man, living much of his life with his daughters (and previously his wife, who has died in recent years) in the remote wilderness outside of the new colonies. He is trying to establish the area of the lake as his own land. He is considered ruthless, and he is drinker with a terrible temper that gets him into trouble. There is the suggestion of a dark secret in his past. He is also a bounty hunter.
An Iroquois who leads the group around the lake, Rivenoak is a representative "Indian," both understandable in his prejudices, and ruthlessly vicious. He understands what the land-grabs mean to his tribal existence, and the way the white men work has not been to his advantage and he is angry. He is a compassionate leader of his group, and a sharp foe of Thomas Hutter.