1. Consider the depictions of Deerslayer and what these tell us about his characterization.
As a white man who has been raised in the tradition of the Native American Delawares, the characterization of Deerslayer encompasses both backgrounds. Furthermore, he is the recipient of the missionary work of the Moravians and so is also a representative of Christian values as well as those he has learned with the Delawares.
This varied background gives the novel the scope to at least attempt to show an understanding of Native American cultures while also tempering this with his Christian values for a white Christian audience. Above all, Deerslayer is depicted as the hero of the piece and although he is occasionally seen to be flawed, as when he is caught out boasting about not being a boaster, he is predominantly cast as the most virtuous of the characters.
2. Analyze the way this novel explains traditions associated with Native Americans.
The act of scalping is given great significance in the novel, and perhaps more than is necessary. It is, however, given some balance as the white men Hutter and Hurry are described as embarking on this procedure for money and not for the cultural reasons that are associated with the Native Americans that are described.
It could be argued, though, that this novel is limited in its depictions of Native American traditions and tends to have its main focus on the white characters. Although some insight is given, it is restricted by the strong Christian overtones, as preached by Hetty and Deerslayer, and possibly by a lack of insight and knowledge. There is a tendency to depend on stereotypes rather than subtlety throughout the novel and this is at its most evident when it comes to describing the enemy ‘Mingo’ camp.
3. Consider the role of Christianity.
Christianity is a strong current in this work and its main mouthpiece, Hetty, is used to reiterate the valued idea of turning the other cheek and not seeking revenge. Her often referred to ‘feeble mindedness’ may also be interpreted as an aspect of her innocence, and this is in keeping with her faith in the Bible. Of all the characters, she is the one who epitomizes the traditions of Christianity.
This religion is predominantly associated with the white characters and Deerslayer has notably been influenced by the missionaries he has come across while growing up. As with Hetty, he is used to voice aspects of the Christian faith, but his faith in God tends to be expressed in his professed love of nature. Through Deerslayer, then, Christianity remains an influential concern and is explained as a religion that does not have to be confined to a church as we are told that he sees God’s work in the landscape around him.
4. To what extent are women important to the narrative?
Hetty, Judith and Wah-ta! –Wah are three central characters in the novel and their interaction with Deerslayer and the enemy camp mean that they have significant roles to play. When Hetty tries to dissuade Rivenoak from killing Deerslayer, for example, she plays an active role in the action. This is also evident when she tried to stop her father and Hurry coming to harm. Wah-ta! Wah is significant as Chingachgook meets Deerslayer as they plan to bring her back to the Delawares. Of the three, Judith plays the greatest part in the aspect of the novel that veers towards romance.
However, although these women are necessary in terms of the plot, it is also fair to say that they are often sidelined in the narrative. This comes, for example, at the end of the novel when it is 15 years after the main narrative has finished. Only Chingachgook and Deerslayer remain of the original characters, and they are left to survey what remains.
5. In your opinion, does this novel confirm or undermine stereotypes of Native Americans?
It is possible to argue that this novel manages to both confirm and undermine stereotypes of Native Americans and this is mainly because the focus is mostly kept on the white characters.
Attempts are made to demonstrate an understanding of traditions that are not associated with white Europeans, as when the issue of scalping is discussed, but overall the narrative thread continues to pull the readers back to the castle and the ark, and the white characters.
At times, it also appears that the novel does not have the courage of its convictions, in that it does not offer characterizations of Native Americans beyond the stereotype.