The DeerSlayer Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


The DeerSlayer: Chapters 28-29

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Summary – Chapters Twenty Eight and Twenty Nine
He hears a sound and sees leaves over his head. Deerslayer gets up and sees Rivenoak who tells him with quiet authority to ‘come’. Deerslayer follows him passively and Rivenoak speaks again of Deerslayer being the husband to the widow, and Deerslayer declines again.
Everyone has gone from the beach and Deerslayer pretends to be indifferent. He comes to see that he is a prisoner on the shore and can only escape by swimming. He then comes across Hetty and she asks why he killed the Panther and if he knows his commandments. He says she must remember that ‘many things are lawful in war’. She then tells him the Hurons are up in the woods and are keeping a watch on them.
When the enemy return, they encircle Deerslayer. Sumach (the widow) resents his rejection of her more than the death of her husband and brother and it is unlikely she will pardon him now. He can smell a fire burning and knows this is a preparation for burning brands. Rivenoak speaks and says how they are preparing to return home (to Canada) shortly.
Deerslayer’s arms and legs are tied to hurt him as little as possible, and there is still the hope he will take Sumach as his wife. He is then taken to a tree and bound to this. Sumach advances to him to make an appeal for justice from Deerslayer and takes her children with her. He continues to say no to her claim on him and ends up giving an outright refusal. She explodes in ‘fury, rage’ and ‘mortified pride’ and seizes him by the hair.
It is a point of honor now that they begin the torture even though Sumach is regarded as acidic as the berry she is named after. Riveonak is compelled ‘to give the signal for the infernal work to proceed’.
It is explained in Chapter Twenty Nine that many warriors have been known to bring an end to their torture by taunting their tormentors. Deerslayer, however, sees it as his duty as a white man ‘to endure everything, in preference to disgracing his color’.
Young men first throw tomahawks and the object is for them to throw them as close to him (and at the tree) as possible without hitting him. After the first youth throws his missile, people approve of Deerslayer not flinching. His head has been left free to see if the prisoner is shamed into moving in fear. He does not even close his eyes.
Others also throw knives and Deerslayer is grazed. Rivenoak says he has proved himself to be a man. He wants him in his tribe for his hunting prowess and wants to know if anyone wishes for it to continue. Only one person wants to proceed. Rivenoak calls forward four or five best marksmen. Before this begins, Hetty intervenes and tells them they are tormenting a friend. They listen, but she is argued against and the torment continues with the desire to see him quail. He does not do so, though. Rivenoak, who wants him to stay alive, stops Deerslayer making taunts and calms the anger of the group and says they should loosen his ties so they can see him flinch more easily. This gives the angered men time to cool down. The women then taunt him, but he maintains his indifference. Preparations are then made for his physical torture, but this is interrupted by an announcement from one of the look-outs.
Analysis – Chapters Twenty Eight and Twenty Nine
The re-capture of Deerslayer means that he is necessarily in graver danger and this is particularly so as he also continues to reject Sumach the widow. We are told that he does not want to disgrace his ‘color’ and this means that he does not want to flinch when he is being tormented. Once more, the concept or race is brought in as a reason for Deerslayer behaving with honor, and yet again the readers should be aware of the racist implications of such sentiments.


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