Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Glimmerglass Lake

Glimmerglass Lake. Imaginary lake closely modeled on the real Lake Otsego, near Cooperstown in upstate New York. Glimmerglass plays a complex role in The Deerslayer. On a basic level, it displays rare and unspoiled beauty. Its shimmering waters, dazzling sunlit and starry skies, and lush overhanging trees provide solace, solitude, and beauty for humans weary of the world or hoping to escape detection. The lake offers a wilderness unspoiled by humans, an environmental paradise.

As the name “Glimmerglass” suggests, the lake is a mirror of the universe. It reflects not only the Milky Way, but also the spiritual and moral aspects of God. For Deerslayer, the frontiersman who is a man of “white blood and white gifts,” the air is God’s “breath, and the light of the sun is little more than a glance of His eye.” God is not only the creator, but is an immanent presence. Similarly for his Native American friend Chingachgook, with his red gifts, the Great Spirit is everywhere: in the lake, in the forest, in the clouds. The lake is a temple of God’s creation but also an embodiment of God himself.

As an embodiment of God, the lake provides instruction, especially in a moral sense. If this book of nature is read correctly, it nurtures religion, morality, love, and education. Deerslayer and Chingachgook both believe this, as does Chingachgook’s love, the Indian maiden Wah-ta-Wah. In an eloquent passage she refuses to leave Chingachgook and her own people, comparing a woman to the honeysuckle, the robin, and the willow, all of which thrive only in their natural environments. Nature is thus emblematic of the way people ought to live their lives. For Deerslayer, nature is his most loving and faithful companion. When Judith coyly asks him where his sweetheart is, he replies...

(The entire section is 753 words.)

Historical Context

(Novels for Students)

French and Indian Wars
The historical background of The Deerslayer is the periodic conflict between English and...

(The entire section is 591 words.)

Literary Style

(Novels for Students)

The most prominent aspect of the setting is the lake, which has a symbolic as well as literal function in the...

(The entire section is 660 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The Deerslayer is an adventure novel, and action and suspense dominate the plot. There are a number of climaxes, each with a cliff...

(The entire section is 361 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

While Cooper had great initial success with his frontier romances, his polemic and political novels quickly changed critical reaction from...

(The entire section is 495 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

All of James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking novels center on the contrast between the primitive but usually noble world of the...

(The entire section is 607 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Novels for Students)

  • 1740s: Lake Otsego and its environs are visited only by a few hunters. Indians also visit the area, but no one...

(The entire section is 466 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Novels for Students)

Research and make a class presentation on the history of the Lenape tribe (referred to in the novel as the Delawares). What happened to the...

(The entire section is 286 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales have often been called the first examples of the Western, although their historic and...

(The entire section is 257 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

All five Leatherstocking novels, The Pioneers (1823), The Last of the Mohicans (1826), The Prairie (1827), The...

(The entire section is 55 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The Deerslayer was adapted as a made-for-television motion picture that aired in 1978. It was directed by Dick Friedenberg. Its cast...

(The entire section is 231 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Novels for Students)

There have been several movie versions of The Deerslayer.

The Deerslayer and Chingachgook (1920), starring Emil...

(The entire section is 76 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Novels for Students)

The Last of the Mohicans, first published in 1826, is the most famous of Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales. Set in 1757, it describes...

(The entire section is 245 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Barnett, Louise K. “Speech in the Wilderness: The Ideal Discourse of The Deerslayer.” In Desert, Garden, Margin, Range: Literature of the American Frontier, edited by Eric Heyne. New York: Twayne, 1992. A well-balanced essay that deals with the differing levels of diction in the characters’ voices in The Deerslayer and how such speech patterns work in the evolution of the frontier mythos.

Person, Leland S., Jr. “Cooper’s Queen of the Woods: Judith Hutter in The Deerslayer.” Studies in the Novel 21, no. 3 (Fall, 1989): 253-267. An intriguing study of Judith Hutter and her place in the...

(The entire section is 241 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Novels for Students)

Abrams, M. H., A Glossary of Literary Terms, 4th ed., Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1981, p. 120.


(The entire section is 288 words.)