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Carl Van Doren (1885–1950).  The American Novel.  1921.


Page 43

Lake Ontario which calls for a seamanship quite different from that learned on salt water. A romancer less realistic than Cooper might have shown Pathfinder behaving on shipboard with the masterful competence he had on land; but Cooper did not. A romancer more sentimental than Cooper, too, would hardly have dared to let Pathfinder love the heroine in vain; but Cooper did. Even though it is with a somewhat grandiose gesture that Pathfinder is made to surrender the young girl to a more suitable lover of her own choice, much more than a gesture was in Cooper’s mind. He was drawing a sharp, true line around Pathfinder’s character. Marriage would have domesticated the scout, whereas this sacrifice restores him to the forest solitude in which he essentially belongs.
  For the final book of the series, The Deerslayer, Cooper could do nothing less than to undertake the hard task of representing the scout in the fresh morning of his youth. Love appears in this story also, but Deerslayer, unable to love a girl who has been corrupted by the settlements, even though Judith Hutter seems the most real and desirable of all Cooper’s heroines, turns to the forest with his best devotion. He is naïve, friendly, virtuous with the engaging awkwardness of twenty, bound with a boy’s affection to his companion and brother-in-arms, the young Chingachgook. The book is the tale of Natty’s coming of age. Already a hunter, he here kills his first man and thus enters the long career which lies before him. That career, however, had already been traced by Cooper, and the distress with which Deerslayer realizes that he has human blood on his hands, becomes, in the light of his future, immensely eloquent. It gives the figure of the man



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