This essay was written by one of our students in the American Literature class, Ethan Jackson. In this descriptive essay, note particularly the word pictures that he creates in the reader's mind. I especially like the comparison of the light and the darkness. Compare the painting to Ethan's essay and let us know what you think by commenting below.
~ Scott Rowe
~ Scott Rowe
Indian Survival in a Peaceful Habitat: Uncas Slays a Deer
As morning sunlight wakes up a peaceful forest, relaxed is the emotion that covers up the horrendous scene of a silent murder, involving so innocent a deer, performed by a skilled Indian warrior. This very detailed description is captured in the form of a painting by N. C. Wyeth. His inspiration for this master piece comes from a particular scene in a book written by James Fenimore Cooper entitled “The Last of the Mohicans” which contains a clip of professional hunting demonstration. N. C. Wyeth’s painting, “Uncas Slays a Deer”, is nothing short of pure and rich detail.
Just as golden rays from the sun illuminate a mid-western plain, those same rays creep into this painting causing the vast expanse of the forest to awake from its sleepy state. The glowing meadow in the foreground is blanketed by the warm sunlight and effectively surrounded by nothing but deep woods on all sides. Although not clear in the painting, it can be assumed that the meadow is encircled by forest, but there is a possibility that the little field in the painting is actually the very edge of a larger ground. Notwithstanding the crisp meadow, two figures, one an Indian and the other a white hunter, draw the transition of focus into the lush background. Because night was previously ruling, a hazy blue mist still remains in the atmosphere throughout the distant, never ending woodland. James Fenimore Cooper accurately describes the scenery saying “The vast canopy of woods spread itself…and shadowing its dark current with a deeper hue.” Indeed, that very canopy of shadowing darkness possess a rich depiction of the sheltering tree tops, just as all its darkness halts before the meadow. However relaxing the scene may be, the space under the canopy does emit a power and sense of alert stillness. Adding to this effect are the trunks of aged trees as they help to echo every little sound that may arise. “Still that breathing silence…pervaded the secluded spot, interrupted, only, by the low voices of the men…or a swelling on the ear…”
Aside from the background, two main figures steal the focal point of the entire painting. The first focal point’s front half beams in natural glory from the sun’s rays. The object, a deer, retains “a pair of the biggest antlers [Uncas had] seen [that] season…” The deer is muscular and wears a full twelve-point rack. Frozen in mid-leap, the creature holds still a position that can be compared to that of an agile beast as it rises toward the skies. All but the front half of the deer is wrapped in darkness as if to be concealed from the light of day. To fulfill the mission of its instincts, the animal is unnoticeably struggling as it tries to hold a collected and focused attention toward its escape.
The second focal point, a strong Indian warrior, stands ahead of the deer. The Indian is strong with bulging muscles. Not a patch of skin is left uncovered; dark hair, yet not thick in all areas, creeps all over the figure. As can be seen, clothes, to the Indian, are not a necessary part of life. The Indian wears pants which have been torn so much by daily use in the woods that they almost began to look like chaps that can be found on a cowboy. In order to protect his most valued parts, he has, tied around his waist, a blue cloth which also shows signs of wear. Just as in the deer, a firm sense of struggle accompanied by adrenaline rush throughout his entire body. As mentioned, the Indian stands in the deer’s path with his dagger drawn ready for action. The stance of the Indian is that of one who is a skilled fighter with a crouched position that cannot be shaken. While remaining in this posture, the book reveals the order of events, stating that, next “…Uncas darted to his side…” With the position at its peak, the Indian’s hand enabled the dagger to breeze effortlessly through the deer’s throat.
“’Twas done with Indian skill…” The scene in this particular painting was followed by an incredible sense of unawareness, both by that of the deer and the two people on the edge line. The side with which the deer was then punctured is not made visible. Continuing, however, past the scene of the painting, blood then pumps throughout the whole of the deer’s body and begins to blur the animal’s vision. After the climax of the event draws to a hastening close, the meadow and woodland, in all its glory, return once again to the everlasting dead silence.