Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Mabel Dunham and Charles Cap, her seaman uncle, are on their way to the home of her father, Sergeant Thomas Dunham. They are accompanied by Arrowhead, a Tuscarora Indian, and his wife, Dew of June. When they reach the Oswego River, they are met by Jasper Western and Natty Bumppo, the wilderness scout known as Pathfinder among the English and as Hawkeye among the Mohicans. Pathfinder leads the party down the Oswego on the first step of the journey under his guidance.
Chingachgook, Pathfinder’s Mohican friend, warns the party of the presence of hostile Indians in the neighborhood. They hide but are discovered and have a narrow escape. Arrowhead and Dew of June disappear, and Pathfinder’s group fears they had been taken captive or else have betrayed the group. On the lookout for more hostile war parties, they continue their journey to the fort, which they reach thanks especially to Jasper’s navigational skills on the river, and Mabel is joyfully welcomed by her father.
The sergeant tries to promote a romantic attachment between Mabel and Pathfinder, the sergeant’s real purpose in having brought Mabel to the frontier. Actually, Mabel has already fallen in love with Jasper. When the commander of the post, Major Duncan, proposes Lieutenant Davy Muir as a possible mate for Mabel, at the lieutenant’s request, the sergeant informs the major that Mabel is already betrothed to Pathfinder. Muir learns that he has been refused, but he apparently does not give up hope.
A contest of arms is proposed to test the shooting ability of the men at the post. Jasper scores a bull’s-eye. Muir shoots from a strange position, and it is believed by all that he has missed, but he says he has hit Jasper’s bullet, embedded in the target. Pathfinder uses Jasper’s rifle and also strikes the bullet in the bull’s-eye. The next test of marksmanship is to drive a nail into a tree with a bullet. Lieutenant Muir’s shot barely touches the nail, Jasper almost drives the nail completely into the tree, and Pathfinder’s shot completes the embedding of the nail. In the next test, shooting at a potato tossed into the air, Muir fails, but Jasper hits the potato in the center. A silken calash is one of the prizes, and Jasper desires it greatly as a present for Mabel. He mentions this to Pathfinder, who thereupon does no more than cut the skin of the potato. After he has lost the match, Pathfinder cannot resist killing two gulls with one bullet, which allows Mabel to understand how Jasper won the calash. In appreciation, she gives Pathfinder a silver brooch.
An expedition is planned to one of the Thousand Islands, to relieve the garrison there. The party is to leave in the Scud, a boat operated by Jasper. Before the party departs, however, Major Duncan receives a letter that causes him to suspect Jasper of being a...
(The entire section is 1161 words.)
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Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
The Pathfinder, the fourth of the Leatherstocking Tales published (the third in Deerslayer’s chronology), is an often-overlooked part of the quintet; its protagonist seems to act more like a Sir Walter Scott hero than the famed frontiersman.
Deerslayer, now called Pathfinder, is two years older than in The Last of the Mohicans and, with Chingachgook, has moved westward to Lake Ontario. This novel also has a historical backdrop, taking place during the French and Indian War. The focus of the novel, however, is not on the usual pursuit, capture, and escape plot, the westward migration, or even the simplistic moral view (good Indian against bad Indian, Deerslayer against bad white men), but on Deerslayer himself as a vulnerable human being.
With his interest in the person of Deerslayer, Cooper is content to reuse many elements from The Last of the Mohicans. Once again the author disregards fact and has the Iroquois (Mingoes, to Deerslayer) historically allied with the British, as the villains. Mabel Dunham, like the Munro sisters, is a woman traveling through the wilderness to visit her British military father at a fort. The Indian guide—Arrowhead, in this case—is, like Magua, a treacherous Iroquois leading the group into an ambush. Also like Magua, he falls for a white woman. This party also runs into Deerslayer and Chingachgook, who again save them, Instead of Uncas, a red paragon of natural virtue and strength,...
(The entire section is 536 words.)