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  • Written by James Fenimore Cooper
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or, The First War-Path

Written by James Fenimore CooperAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by James Fenimore Cooper
Introduction by Leslie FiedlerAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Leslie Fiedler

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On Sale: July 29, 2008
Pages: | ISBN: 978-0-553-90536-6
Published by : Bantam Classics Bantam Dell
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ABOUT THE BOOK ABOUT THE BOOK
ABOUT THE AUTHOR ABOUT THE AUTHOR
PRAISE PRAISE
READER'S GUIDE READER'S GUIDE
Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

The deadly crack of a long rifle and the piercing cries of Indians on the warpath shatter the serenity of beautiful Lake Glimmerglass. Danger has invaded the vast forests of upper New York State as Deerslayer and his loyal Mohican friend Chingachgook attempt the daring rescue of an Indian maiden imprisoned in a Huron camp. Soon they are caught in the cross fire between a cunning enemy and two white bounty hunters who mercilessly kill for profit.

The last of the Leatherstocking Tales to be written, though first in the chronology of the hero’s life, The Deerslayer is James Fenimore Cooper’s masterpiece. A fine combination of romance, adventure, and morality, this classic novel of the frontier is an eloquent beginning for Cooper’s great wildernes saga—and an unforgettable introduction to the famous character who has been said to embody the conscience of America: the noble woodsman Deerslayer.

Excerpt

From the Introduction by Leslie A. Fiedler

In 1789, the year James Fenimore Cooper was born, the thirteen North Americancade he enjoyed a leisured existence as a gentleman farmer on inherited lands in both Cooperstown and Westchester County. Popular legend holds that Cooper turned to writing when his wife jokingly suggested that he attempt a novel, but it is now known thatme a gentleman farmer and householder. The one thing he still needed was a proper wife, which he was lucky enough to find in Susan DeLancey. She, as he already knew, came from a family richer and more securely upper class than his own and, as he learned, was also an affable, intelligent woman who was fond of reading. Cooper was content with this, yet at first he did not join her when she was busy with her books but indulged in the male pastimes of hunting and hiking in the nearby hills.

After Susan had given birth to four daughters, to whom she at first read and then taught to read to each other, Cooper would stay close enough to wherever they were reading to hear them. Surely some of the erotic and sentimental passages read in the voices of those he loved must have moved him deeply. But there is no record of any positive responses on his part. A single negative one, however, is recorded in almost everything that has ever been written about him.

One time, those accounts tell us, annoyed by the ineptitude of the text being read, he cried out, “Why do you waste time and money reading trash that anybody who can spell his own name could write better. Even me!” To this Susan is said to have answered–jokingly, according to some–“Why don’t you give it a try? I’d love to see you try.” Cooper responded that he would and, surprisingly enough, did, finally producing a full-length imitation of Jane Austen. When it was in print he would tell anyone who would listen that he was now a professional writer who would write fifty more books–and sell them. This almost no one believed he would do, and many wished he would not even try.

Though Cooper was aware that neither the critics nor the general reader were interested in any more Jane Austen clones, he felt he had to keep on writing because the family inheritance on which he had been living had begun to shrink, and at the same time it had become much more expensive to feed, clothe, and educate his growing daughters. What he really wanted to write was another book that saw the world through female eyes and talked about it in a female voice. In fact, he continued for a little while to experiment with transvestite fiction, even publishing two such short stories under the female pseudonym of Jane Morgan.
James Fenimore Cooper

About James Fenimore Cooper

James Fenimore Cooper - The Deerslayer
James Fenimore Cooper was the great professional American author. He was born on Septenber 15, 1789, in Burlington, New Jersey, and grew up in the frontier village of Cooperstown, New Yorrk, in the heart of the wilderness he was to immortalize in his frontier novels. A high-spirited youth, he was expelled from Yale because of a prank and was finally signed by the navy by his strong-willed father. In 1819 a trfling incident repordatly led to the writing of his first book. Reading aloud to his wife from a populr English novel, he exclaimed, “I could write you a better book myself!” The result was Precausion (1820), which followed in 1821 by his first real success, The Spy.

Cooper became a prolific writer, creating two unique genres that were to become staples in American literature–the sea romance and the frontier adventure story. The first of the famous Leatherstocking tales, The Pioneers, appeared in 1823 and introduced the wilderness scout Natty Bumppo. This detailed portrait of frontier life has been called the first truly American novel. In The Last of the Mohicans (1826) Natty Bumppo becomes the well-loved Hawkeye befriended by the noble Indian Chingachgook; the novel remains a favorite American classic. Other Leatherstocking tales were The Prairie (1827), The Pathfinder (1840) influenced both Herman Melville and Joseph Conrad and led to the use of the sea novel as vehicle for spiritual and moral explorations. Cooper also wrote political satire, romance, and the meticulously researched History of the Navy of the United States of America (1839). By the time of his death on September 14, 1851, he was considered America’s “national novelist.”

Praise

Praise

“James Fenimore Cooper was the first great American novelist.”—A. B. Guthrie
Discussion Questions

Discussion Guides

1. Though The Deerslayer is the last of the Leatherstocking Tales to be published, its events actually occur first chronologically. How, if at all, does this inform the tone of the novel?

2. Discuss the role of the landscape and the role of women in The Deerslayer. Fiedler discusses their threat to the exalted male camaraderie, particularly in the relationship of Natty and Chingachgook throughout the Leatherstocking Tales; how does Judith’s fate speak to this?

3. In his Introduction, Leslie A. Fiedler likens Cooper to a sort of American Sir Walter Scott. Does The Deerslayer strike you as a similar kind of heroic romance? Why or why not?

4. At publication, many critics disagreed with Cooper’s treatment of Judith in the novel. Discuss.

5. How does The Deerslayer establish Natty’s developing moral consciousness? What parallels or distinctions does Cooper draw between Natty and Henry March? According to Cooper, what characteristics are essential for survival on the frontier? How does he convey this?

6. Fiedler discusses Cooper’s critical maligning in the literature canon. Do you agree with Mark Twain’s assessment, mentioned in the Introduction? Why or why not? What is it about Cooper and the Leatherstocking Tales that has made them endure, in your opinion?

7. What is Cooper’s assessment of the parity between the white man and the Indian, as reflected in The Deerslayer? Is the relationship between Natty and Chingachgook an aberration or an ideal? Is The Deerslayer ultimately an optimistic work or not?


  • The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper
  • July 09, 2002
  • Fiction - Classics
  • Modern Library
  • $12.95
  • 9780375760877

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