The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimoore Cooper is one of the most acclaimed and best-selling books about the American Frontier to be ever written. It is and was hailed as a masterpiece due to its more human characterizations of the Native American warriors and tribesman for that time period. The Last of the Mohicans is viewed as the first popular book that portrayed Native Americans in a more positive manner rather than as crude savages who were resolutely determined on killing ‘the white man’ and then proceeding to cutting of their scalp. Yet, are all of the descriptions in The Last of the Mohicans of Native Americans correct?
Or were they blurred and magnified to fit within the basis of this romantic novel of the French and Indian War? The Last of the Mohicans is set in 1757 near Lake George of upstate New York during the French and Indian War. The premise of this book is about the fall of Fort William Henry and how they affected a few of the people related to the Massacre of William Henry. The five main tribes of Native Americans that are portrayed in this book are the Delaware Indians, the Mohicans, the Mohawk, and the Iroquois. The former two groups and the latter two groups are shown in a stark contrast.
The Delaware and the Mohicans are portrayed as peaceful, calm, and kind Native Americans. While the Mohawks, Iroquois, and Huron Native Americans along with being deceitful, are shown as bloodthirsty, and vengeful human beings. While many people praise Cooper for inserting humanizing aspects of Native Americans in his narrative, many people forget to cite him for reducing the Mohawks, Iroquois, and Huron to a little more than cannibalistic fiends. Cooper writes “More than 2,000 raving savages broke from the forest at the signal, and threw themselves across the fatal plain with instinctive alacrity.
We shall not dwell on the revolting horrors that succeeded. Death was everywhere, and in his most terrific and disgusting aspects. Resistance only served to inflame the murderers, who inflicted their furious blows long after their victims were beyond the power of their resentment. The flow of blood might be likened to the outbreak of a torrent; and, as the natives became heated and maddened by the sight, many among them even kneeled to the earth, and drank freely, exultingly, hellishly, of the crimson tide. ” This was about the reaction of the start of the Massacre of William Henry.
This was alarmingly violent and seems to show the very opposite of what Cooper is praised for. The aforementioned tribes were cruel and very confrontational but I doubt that these people were cannibals1. This is evidence of wanton racial stereotyping, as this was commonly accepted at that period of time, this was proven by the fact that there was no problem of killing or enslaving minorities. If Cooper had written this book today, he would be barraged with lawsuits from multiple sides and would be viewed as a bigot with a worse reputation than some terrorists and sex offenders.
This is because we, in this day and age, live in a state of political correctness where anything that seems to insinuate anything negative about a race is considered narrow-mindedness. Another characterization that I found interestingly perplexing was that of Chingachook and Uncas. In this novel they are portrayed as perfect human beings without any vices or reservations. This strikes me the most greatly during Chapter 9 where Magua and his allies surround Chingachook, Uncas, and the rest of the group, and Hawkeye turns to Chingachook and says “It may be a minute, or it may … and they will change to women. I felt this discourse unnatural, because I understand that someone would want to help defend two defenseless young women’s lives but I would also anticipate that Chingachook would have some hesitation of decision due to the fact that his son is near his side and he is choosing to defend two women that he barely knew and met in the most unlikeliest of circumstances instead of saving his son. Even after Cora convinces Chingachook and Hawkeye to depart, Uncas decides to state ‘Uncas will stay, “the young Mohican … and dropped into the troubled stream.
I find this frustratingly bogus, no one would do that, only to be polite but at some point he could have stopped showing the Mohicans as perfect people. The Mahicans, who are the real life counterparts of the Mohicans, they were not were not nomadic and they depended on agriculture rather than meat for nourishment and food, Cooper was not historically accurate with his rendition of the Mahicans and therefore has a another quandary in his historical novel. This book also alters history in order to fit the purpose of this story.
Chingachgook and Uncas are part of the Mohican tribes, who are scouts and warriors who serve the British in the book. For the purposes of The Last of the Mohicans historical allegiances have been changed through for character relationships, the Delaware (and the Mohican for the purposes of the discussion) Indians sided with the French in the French and Indian war. The parts of the Delaware/Mohicans and the Mohawk/Iroquois/Huron should have been switched due to the fact that the Iroquois were valuable allies to the English during the French and Indian War.
The interaction between Uncas and Chingachook and the other non-Native Americans is vastly different than the contact of Magua and the non-Native Americans. Besides Magua’s interaction with Duncan in the beginning of the book, after Magua betrays Heyward, Cora, and Alice, Magua is hated and distrusted by everyone that is not of his own tribe or a French soldier. On the other hand, everyone nearly immediately trusts Uncas and Chingachook, for what reason that is unknown.
I find this very baffling, because they had just a bad experience with a Native American, if I was Cooper I would suggest some tones of distrust between the groups. Granted Uncas and Chingachook were accompanied by Hawkeye, but even hen I would feel some distrust in the Native Americans, especially due to the prejudices present in that day. Magua was proven as a liar and was therefore distrusted, especially after he kidnapped Cora and Alice. The hate was intensified. This is another example of Cooper using unnatural discourse to further his story along.
The Last of the Mohicans is a great book and has its revolutionary aspects but in essence this book is similar to most of the historical books of that time period, not correctly researched. The characters are used purely for the author’s purpose with no certain reason to pinpoint why these were the characters chosen.