The Last Of The Mohicans
(James F. Cooper)
The Last of the Mohicans
By James F. Cooper
James Fennimore Cooper, after Washington Irving, assumed an almost giant stature in the early part of the 19th Century. He used his novels to interpret romantic and realistic life on the frontiers and in the sea, and his attitude towards the development of democracy and the meaning of America. He wrote passionately and with a clear purpose and mission. He wrote his convictions concerning his era and the new instruments of culture in pamphlet, history and novel. His genius left about thirty novels, several enduring volumes of social criticism and a few immortal characters like Natty Bumppo and Uncas.
The ?Last of the Mohicans? written in 1826 is one of the five Leatherstocking tales. The other novels in this group are: ?The Pioneers? (1823), ?The Prairie? (1827), The Pathfinder? (1840), and ?The Deerslayer? (1841). Cooper proclaimed that ?these romances would outlive himself?. Not only have they outlived him but they have, in general, become the focus of the American myth of progress and development in its early stages of development.
The narrative is about Natty Bumppo, the ?Hawk-eye?, the scout, the Kill-deer; and the culmination of his abundant love for Uncas ? the last Mohican. It signifies, above all, the moral wisdom and 19th Century values of compassion and fellow feeling.
The novel describes a journey of two groups of people. Structurally, the novel gains intensity in two parts ? from the beginning to the middle of the journey is the first part; the second part of the journey consists of all the vital and dramatic events, after the reunion of Hawk-eye and his two accomplices, Alice and Cora with Hawk-eye and Chigachgook and his lovable son, Uncas. The second part reaches its height in the massacre at Fort Williams, ending on a note of sobriety and calmness. The novel ends on a note of pregnant quietness.
The first part of the journey begins with the description of the union of two parties in the journey, both separated racially and in their attitudes to life ? a group of Whites, consisting of Hayward, Alice and Cora and a group of Indians, consisting of Chingachnook and Uncas and also Hawk-eye in Chapter III.
David, the singer, provides gracious moments of joy through his song all along the journey, in particular after the massacre at Fort Williams. The two groups of characters drawn against the vast landscape try to know each other in suspicion, innocence, fear and wonder. Landscape shapes their moods and attitudes. Nature implicitly ?instructs? them. The journey of these two groups continues unmixed till the French camp, under the leadership of Moteclam, sieges Fort William in Chapter fourteen. In the second part, narrative action moves quickly, interspersed with acts of savagery and moments of insecurity till the climax occurs with the massacre at Fort Williams. This is followed by dramatic loss and recovery of Alice, the death of Cora ? the mulatto girl, and the heroic death of Uncas in trying to save her. With the death of Uncas, the last Mohican, his race is decimated. Finally, with Magua?s (the Heron) death the narrative action ends. However, the grand union of minds across race and prejudices is an extraordinary and highly romanticized narrative moment. The complete reading of the novel leaves us not with visions of endemic savagery but with feelings of compassion, fraternity, and democracy of ideas. Finally, love triumphs over savagery.
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- The Last Of The Mohicans
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