The Last of the Mohicans: A Narrative of 1757 is a historical novel written by James Fenimore Cooper in 1826. The setting of the novel is during the colonization of America (Hacht, 24; Cooper & Cooper; 8). The plot of the story revolves around a journey by the daughters of Lieutenant Colonel Munro’s who was the commander of the British Forces during Britain’s occupation of America.
Munro’s daughters Cora and Alice Munro and their reinforcements Major Heyward, David Gamut- a singing teacher and an Indian named Magua are headed from Fort Edward to Fort William Henry (Cooper, 12). Magua who is a Huron leads the team into an ambush where they are rescued by Natty Bumppo (Hawkeye) and two of his Mohican friends (Chingachgook and his son Uncas). Magua’s allies attack the group and escape with Munro’s daughters, Heyward and Gamut (Chapter III). The Mohicans escape and later rescue their group. Magua manages to escape. The group reaches Fort William Henry after some days. In the unfolding events Magua’s forces engage with Lieutenant Munro’s men and captures Munro’s daughters and Gamut. A struggle ensues as Munro’s men try to free the captives. Cora and Uncas die while Gamut and Alice are rescued (Chapter XXXIII). Uncas is considered as the last warrior from the noble race of the Mohicans and hence the name of the novel, The last of the Mohicans.
The novel has several outstanding characters. Hawkeye is the hero of the novel. He is a hunter, woodsman and a scout who with the help of his two Mohican friends rescues Munro’s daughters. Magua is the villain in the novel. He is a cunning traitorous man. He seeks revenge against the humiliating punishment he received. Major Heyward is a noble and courageous American colonialist who accompanied Munro’s daughters. He is not knowledgeable on Indian relations and the forest frontiers and this causes his team to fall into Magua’s traps. Chingachgook is one of the last two surviving Mohicans who together with his son Uncas uses his intelligence and knowledge of the Hurons to overcome them. Cora Munro is a dark-skinned eldest daughter of Colonel Munro. She was born to a “negro” woman and was attracted to Uncas. Alice Munro was borne to Colonel Munro and his Scottish white wife. She is Cora’s half sister, vey girlish and falls in love with Heyward. Colonel Munro is the commander of the British forces whose daughters are the subject of racial and military struggles between his forces and the Huron Indians.
There are several outstanding themes in the novel “The last of the Mohicans”. The first is interracial love and friendship. The author exemplifies the long-term friendship between Hawkeye (a white man) and Chingachgook (a Mohican Indian). The two managed to rescue Munro’s daughters because they had deep friendship and trusted each other. According to Peck, the author seems to disapprove of interracial attractions between Uncas (a black warrior) and Cora (a dark-skinned girl) by making their affair to end in tragedy (31). The nature of war and battle in a tough terrain comprising of forests and unforgiving landscapes has also taken a significant theme in the novel. In addition the author presents the role and relevance of religion in the wilderness through the character of Davit Gamut- a Christian musician (Hatch, 37). The changing role of the family unit and its members is presented through familial interactions by Munro’s daughters, Chingachgook and his son among other characters such as Hawkeye who in some instance acts as Uncas’s father.
There are also several literary devices and styles used in the novel. Symbolism is rife in the novel. Hawkeye is a symbol of harmony between European and Indian cultures. He symbolizes the heroism of the mythical woodsman through his shooting skills. The title “The last of the Mohicans” is also symbolic of the extinction of Indian culture in the face of the rising European civilization (Peck, 27). The tough terrain in which Munro’s daughters and their entourage trekked is symbolic of the struggles that foreign civilization would face before it got fully established in the area (Stanley & Ira, 45). There is also plenty of hybridization in the novel. The author presents Hawkeye as a white man who is fully adept with Indian culture. Cora is also a half-cast with similar qualities. This is quite significant as it predicted and symbolizes the imminent intermarriages and intertwining of cultures.
‘The Last of the Mohicans” is a classic novel that details racial and supremacy battles between the Hurons- Indians and the British army led by Colonel Munro. Events around Munro’s daughters, Cora (dark girl of Indian descent) and Alice (white girl of Scottish descent). Hawkeye- is a white man who is very knowledgeable on Indian culture and he leads several other characters as victims of attacks by Magua and the Hurons. The novel presents themes such as interracial love and friendships, religion in war as well as the nature of war in an unforgiving terrain. Symbolism such as the presentation of Hawkeye as a symbol of harmonious existence of Indian and European cultures is also rife in the novel.
Cooper, James Fenimore, and Susan Fenimore Cooper. The last of the Mohicans; or, A narrative of 1757. (Riverside ed. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 1896. Print.
Cooper, James Paul Gutjahr, ed. The Last of the Mohicans. Peterborough: Broadview Press. 2009. Print
Hacht, Anne Marie. Literary themes for students: examining diverse literature to understand and compare universal themes. Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2006. Print.
Peck, H. Daniel. New essays on The last of the Mohicans. Cambridge [England: Cambridge University Press, 1992. Print.
Stanley, Deborah A., and Ira Mark Milne. Novels for students presenting analysis, context, and criticism on commonly studied novels. Detroit, Mich.: Gale, 2000. Print.