Hawkeye is portrayed as the ideal American frontiersman. He is brave, skillful, and rugged, but he is also civilized. He makes a point throughout the book of reminding everyone that he is not an Indian by blood, demonstrating a racial consciousness that would have been typical of his time, and certainly of James Fenimore Cooper's nineteenth century. His role throughout the book is that of a guide, but he also protects the Munro sisters. He is very close to Chingachgook, who considers him essentially as family. Cooper describes his physical characteristics in Hawkey's first appearance in the book:
The frame of the white man...was like that of one who had known hardships and exertion from his earliest youth. The eye of the hunter, or scout...was small, quick, keen, and restless, roving while he spoke...his countenance was not only without guile, but...charged with an expression of sturdy honesty.