James Fenimore Cooper Essay

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James Fenimore Cooper

The Last of the Mohicans

James Fenimore Cooper's novel the Last of the Mohicans is certainly one of the most renowned writings relating to North American historic fiction literature in the eighteenth century. The book depicts events having happened during the Seven Years War, at the time when the French and the English fought for territory on the American continent. While the historical happenings are a source of plot and characters for the book, Fenimore involves some of his own characters and events in the novel. History is responsible for creating a place, a time, and individuals that give shape to Fenimore's imagination.

The author has chosen an intense episode happening during the French-English war, having lasted from 1754 and until 1763. The William Henry Fort is held by the English, with Colonel Munro holding power over it. The French, under the command of general Montcalm, and, with the assistance of the Huron and Iroquois Native American tribes, are planning to take over the British position.

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A party consisting out of Colonel Munro's two daughters, Alice and Cora, under escort by Duncan Heyward and with an Indian named Magua as their guide, is travelling from Fort Edward to Fort Henry. The group comes across the musician David, and, despite the reluctance that they have at first about letting him join them, they eventually decide to welcome him. They later encounter another group, consisting of Chingachgook, Uncas, and Hawkeye, who discover that Magua has attempted to lead his travel companions off course. Matters change as the Huron Indian is chased away and the three strangers agree to provide the English party with their guidance.

In spite of some difficulties concerning the Huron Magua attempting to kill them, the travelers, with consistent help from the foresters, succeed and finally reach the fort. Consequently to his conversation with Montecalm, Munro becomes aware that submission is his only hope and acts accordingly. Angry that matters did not go down as they hoped, the Huron tribe begins a massacre, murdering a large number of people as they attempt to leave their fort.

TOPIC: Essay on James Fenimore Cooper the Last of the Assignment

Alice and Cora are kidnapped by the raging Indians, with their former escorts of Munro's daughters starting a rescue mission as a result. The men manage to fool the Hurons into letting them enter their village, take Alice, and seek refuge in a neighboring Delaware tribe. Discovering the fraud, Magua goes to the Delawares, lobbying for them to hand over the outsiders. When all seems lost, the Delaware tribe observes that Uncas is a Mohican, and, eventually, Cora is the only person which Magua manages to seize. Uncas, Cora, and Magua are all killed in what was to be Cora's rescue attempt. The Delaware leader, Tamenund, seems astonished at seeing Chingachgook, noticing that he is the last remaining member of the Mohican tribe.

The novel's main character is Hawkeye, who, in spite of his white skin, manages to adapt to the world of Native American tribes with great ease. In fact, adaptability is one of his strong points, with him being able of overcoming situations involving great difficulty.

A bright man, Hawkeye was able to asses his own strengths and weaknesses very well and he knew when his abilities were overcome by the circumstances. "These Indians know the nature of the woods, as it might be by instinct!" returned the scout, dropping his rifle, and turning away like a man who was convinced of his error." (James Fenimore Cooper, pp. 43) Hawkeye's nature can be defined through his mixture of theories relating the white society to the Indian one, which is responsible for the existence of his two best friends, Chingachgook and his son Uncas.

Hawkeye is a man that likes to consider himself unprejudiced and clear-minded in most situations. However, he has a tendency to make a point out of the fact that he has white blood. While Hawkeye has a fruitful relationship with the Indians, readers cannot ignore his predisposition towards expressing racist beliefs. Even if he does not necessarily attempt to claim that the color of his skin makes him any superior to his companions, he is still swollen with pride regarding his background. Moreover, it seems that because it had been normal for people of mixed races to co-exist, Hawkeye had got the feeling that the "purity" of his skin had been contested by some.

Regardless of the fact that he admired, "with secret satisfaction, the faded color of his bony and sinewy hand" (James Fenimore Cooper, 37) Hawkeye feels confined when regarding his capacity to appreciate the methods employed by the white society.

Critics are more likely to believe that Magua, in contrast to Uncas and Chingachgook, is the typical Indian savage people from the nineteenth century had been accustomed to. "Whether they attribute this savage characterization to Cooper's failure to portray effective literary characters or to racism against American Indians, these critics fail to evaluate Magua within the context of cultural collision in Cooper's text, a context which places him squarely at the crossroads of various tribal and colonial alliances during a time of war." (Lindsey Claire Smith) Magua is aware of his condition and does not hesitate to motivate his actions through the teachings that he had been taking from white people. He had been chased away from his lands and the "palefaces" had "taught him to drink the firewater" (James Fenimore Cooper, pp. 129). People in the nineteenth century's did not think much of Native Americans, regarding their customs and traditions to be almost prehistoric. Magua's savageness is partially diminished towards the end of the novel, when it becomes visible that he is careful not to harm Cora, even when he is in difficulty.

Duncan Heyward is the perfect example of white people wanting to bring the order of civilization into the savage world in Northern America. He has good principles, but his intelligence and his education actually prevent him from coping with his problems. Heyward feels intimidated by the American wilderness, as it is obvious that he misses an all-white society that would most certainly provide him with his most-needed confidence. "Far from making Heyward the object of the reader's admiration -- or turning the two men into morally equivalent hypocrites -- this shows Munro as a person of decent and natural feelings, and reveals his subordinate again as someone cowardly, unforthright, and indeed "sneaking." (Ian Dennis) Heyward is attracted to both Cora and Alice, and, as a result, he cannot appreciate them not seeming to be fond of him.

While Heyward does not succeed in understanding the Native Americans, he proves to have a great power of promoting his moral values. All across the novel, he manages to keep his spirits up and does not show any signs of panic. However, because of his discriminatory nature, he "judges the Huron village inferior to the beaver "village" that he anticipates meeting beings inferior to beaver, as the beaver had been inferior to humans, hence "unearthly beings" who sink into the ground." (Edward W. Pitcher) Most probably, the reason for which Cooper does not want to introduce Heyward as an immature and insensible white man coming to the new continent with the thought of robbing and chasing the natives away is because the author wants to accentuate the romantic side of this character, giving the book a touch of sentimentalism.

There is little romance present in Cora's life, albeit the fact that Uncas and Magua are attracted to her. Whereas her sister radiates with femininity, Cora is different, appearing more inclined to express her natural side. She is mainly responsible for adding adventure and humanity to the novel, with the rescue missions started for her and the two Indians being sexually fascinated about her.

Uncas's youth influenced his tendency to change his attitude several times over the course of the novel. He does not think much of Hawkeye's principles involving interracial relationships and falls in love with Cora. Once again, it is demonstrated that Cooper has had some inhibitions when concerning his opinion on the subject of discrimination, making it clear in the novel that a relationship between a white woman (even if Cora had been half black) and a Native American would never have chances to succeed.

James Fenimore Cooper's the Last of the Mohicans is generally perceived as a novel that deals with endings. The author made it possible for his readers to understand how old American civilizations have slowly yielded in the face of the more technological advanced individuals coming to their lands. "In a popular sense, the novel has come to be viewed as an adventure story of our country's beginnings"(Lindsey Claire Smith). Americans needed to learn more about their history, and had simply devoured Fenimore's book at the time of its publication.

The five "Leatherstocking Tales" written by Fenimore have brought an important amount of information related the American background. Their fictional character has only worked in favor of them becoming even more famous.

Hawkeye, or Natty… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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