October 06, 2011

The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper

This was a very tedious read. While I normally like older books, something about Cooper's writing style just didn't grab me.

The Deerslayer is mainly a story about a man named Nathaniel Bumppus, or as he is better known by in this novel, Deerslayer. He is headed with a friend commonly referred to as "Hurry" to a lake where he will later meet another friend of his, a Delaware Indian he calls the "Sarpent" to rescue the Sarpent's betrothed from a group of Hurons. When they reach their destination they meet a man and his two daughters who live on an island in the lake.

The older daughter Judith, is quite taken with the Deerslayer and the younger, who is described as feeble-minded is as sweet a person as could be met. Their father is a bit rougher than them and after the death of his wife has been raising them himself.

When Hurry and Thomas Hutter (the father) decide to go scalping Indians for fun and profit, Deerslayer doesn't go. Then when they are kidnapped, it is up to Deerslayer and the girls to ransom them and bring them home safely. Unfortunately, as soon as the men are returned home, Deerslayer is captured in the rescue of the Sarpent's betrothed. The rest of the novel deals with his capture.

The characters in this story were hard for me to like. Hurry is a racist, which during the times, a little could be expected, but he regards anyone of skin other than white as no more than animals. Judith, while the author tries to paint her as vain, never appears that way in the novel to me, in fact, she seems very down to earth. The younger daughter, Hetty, is said to be feeble minded but I also didn't get that impression from the book. She seemed to be more just naive. Lastly, our main character, the Deerslayer, while he is supposed to be a wonderful man, not boastful, but not handsome either, is annoying. He continually goes on about "white-man's gifts" and "red-man's gifts" and repeats himself. He also is self described to go on long soliloquies which it seems as if he just likes to hear himself talk and somewhat pretentiously at that.

The writing style is very tedious. There is a lot of conversation, which normally wouldn't be so bad, but Cooper seems to have them have different variations of the same conversation over and over. There is always mentions of red-man's ways and white-man's ways and the beauty of Judith in almost every conversation. I just wasn't as impressed with this as much as I am with some of the classics. While I know the book is very popular and has been around a long time, I guess I just don't think that's enough to make it outstanding to me. I probably won't pursue the rest of the books of "the Leatherstocking Tales" that this novel begins.

The language is very authentic for the time and I do give Cooper credit for that. It was easy to imagine these characers talking with the dialect they were written in. Drawn out vowels and backwoods names for things are tastefully used for some of the characters and other characters to show a difference in upbringing and education have a more refined speech. It was well done.

It was a nice tale, but just stretched out far too much with Cooper's stylistic writing.

The Deerslayer
Copyright 1841
548 pages

There is also a bunch of prefaces that accompany the novel as well.

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