The DeerSlayer: Chapters 20-21

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Summary – Chapters Twenty and Twenty One
While Hurry is almost strangling a man, two of the enemy tie his arms and legs. Chingachgook raises the sail on the ark and struggles with the oars, and this brings it nearer to the castle. As it gets closer, Wah-ta! –Wah tells Hurry to roll into the ark. He tries to do this, but misses and falls into the water. She throws him a rope and he holds on to it with his hands and teeth and is pulled along by the ark. This all happens as Chingachgook tries to draw the enemy fire.
 
They manage to get clear of the enemy eventually and pull Hurry aboard after Chingachgook cuts the rope that has bound him. Three of the enemy take a canoe, but keep their distance from the ark as they have no cover. They get closer to Judith and Hetty (who are still in their canoe), but under Judith’s direction they move away from them. The men give up the chase when one of their paddles breaks and return to the castle and then go back to the shore.
 
Hetty and Judith then go to the castle and Hetty goes in first on Judith’s request. She returns and tells Judith their father is in there asleep. Both go into his room and see him on a seat. Judith removes the cap from his head and this reveals he has been scalped while still alive.
 
In Chapter Twenty One, it is explained that Hutter was stabbed by the oldest warrior who had hidden all the other arms. Hutter was scalped when the men returned to the castle just before they returned to land. It was the stabbing that proved to be lethal and Hutter was left to die slowly. Both Hetty and Judith think this is a form of retributive justice for what he had attempted to do earlier.
 
In the present, Hutter asks for water and he is given it. Judith says, ‘father, can we do anything for you?’ and he says he is no father and says it is all there in the chest.
 
Judith feels an impulse of joy at this news and had suspected this before. Hetty has loved him, though, if not as much as her mother and feels a double grief at his impending death and because of the words he has spoken. She asks to read the Bible to him and chooses her mother’s favorite, the Book of Job.
 
Hutter keeps asking for water and also asks if there is something in the Bible ‘about cooking the tongue of a man who was burning in hell-fire?’ They do not know what to say when he asks what it will be like in the hereafter.
 
The ark returns and Hurry is shocked when he sees Hutter. Judith explains he has been scalped (as they have bound his head) and she reproaches him and Hutter for how they had wanted to do the same. She also tells him she is not Hutter’s daughter when he reprimands her for talking this way in front of her father.
 
Hutter dies shortly after and when they make arrangements for his body, Hetty says she wants him to lie beside her mother in the lake. They all attend the ceremony and Hurry rows the ark out to the spot that Hetty shows him. When Hurry prepares to lower the body, Judith asks him to not do this so near to their mother and a compromise is reached.
 
Hurry attempts to console Judith crudely with the idea of marriage. She asks to speak to him alone, and he asks her to marry him (which she seemed impatient to hear). She responds by saying she cannot marry him as she will never love him well enough. She says she needs no time to think this over as she made her mind up a long time ago and has just been waiting for him to speak ‘plainly’ to her. He is surprised at her conviction and says that the lake has no great call for him now. She tells him he is free to leave and she will not accuse him of being forgetful or ‘unmanly’. He agrees to go to the nearest garrison to bring a party. She is embarrassed but continues and asks if he could see if Captain Warley could be kept back from leading the men (which Hurry is doubtful about as he has no say in this).
 
Analysis – Chapters Twenty and Twenty One
The horrific death of Hutter is a central event in these chapters and is unlikely to draw sympathy from many readers. It is also of note that Hetty reads her mother’s favorite part of the Bible, the Book of Job, to comfort him. The idea that this is the section her mother kept returning to further indicates the suffering she would have endured while living with Hutter.
 
Hurry’s proposal of marriage to Judith is also of interest here as the novel began with his professed interest in her. At this point, this theme is returned to and some closure is given to this sub-plot as she refuses him outright.
 
 
 

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