The Last of the Mohicans
James Fenimore Cooper’s the Last of the Mohicans is a gripping novel that
depicts the travel of 7 people through the dangerous woods of western New York
in the late 18th century. The story takes place during the French and Indian war at
the height of conflict. Major Duncan Heyward is accompanying singer David
Gamut and the two daughters of the English colonel Munro from Fort Edward to
Fort William Henry. Along the way, the four travelers discover that their Indian
guide Magua has purposely lead them in the wrong direction. Their only chance of
making it to Fort William Henry now rests in the hands of Hawk Eye (a man who
knows the way of the Indians but continuously asserts that he has no Indian
blood) and Uncas and Chingachgook (the only two living members of the once
great tribe known as Mohican). Together, the group sneaks through the woods
avoiding the French troops as well as the dangerous Huron’s who have formed an
alliance with the French.
The book is full of adventure. Earlier in the book, the travelers stop to
spend the night in a cave near a waterfall, but they are attacked by Magua’s allies
the Huron’s. Hawkeye and the Mohicans managed to escape down the river but
Heyward, Gamut, and the Munro sisters are all taken as prisoners by the Huron’s.
Magua then tells the group that he seeks revenge on colonel Munro. But before he
had the chance to act, Hawkeye and the Mohicans attacked the Huron’s and killed
all but Magua who managed to escape.
Although the book had a fictitious spin, a little research shows me that the
events and certain characters are more or less historically accurate. One occasion
was the Massacre of William Henry. Once the travelers arrived at their destination,
they learned that the fort was receiving no more troops and would be forced the
surrender to General Montcalm and the French. Montcalm told Fort William
Henry that he would allow them to leave with all their belongings, without a fight.
However, once the party left the fort, they were surrounded and almost everyone
was killed. The Munro sisters and David were once again captured by Magua.
The book also discusses the alliances between Europeans and Indians. The
French and English were quick to make friends with the Indians because they
knew they would need their help. The Indians knew the woods and how to live off
the land, so they were more or less exploited by their European settlers.
The climax of the book wouldn’t let me put it down. Magua had recaptured
the travelers and Hawkeye, the Mohicans, and Heyward were on their trail. They
found David in the woods who informed them that the sisters were being held at
two different posts. One, a post of the Huron’s, the other of the Delaware. Using
different disguises and deception the group rescues Alice from the Huron’s. At the
camp of the Delaware where Magua was holding Cora, Magua convinced the
others that Hawkeye and the Mohicans were the enemy. Hawkeye then proves that
he is a chief to the sage Tamenund. At this point they had rescued all but Cora
who Magua managed to flee with. After a chase and a fight, Magua and his
Huron’s were defeated but one Huron killed Cora. Uncas then killed that Huron
because at that point, he had fallen deeply in love with Cora. Magua then killed
Uncas by stabbing him in the back. Magua was then chased until he was forced to
jump over a cliff and died.
While James Cooper doesn’t express his personal opinion on the history of
our nation, he speaks through his characters and discusses how the Europeans
introduced alcohol to the Indians. And had them drink until they thought they were
enlightened and lost their land. Throughout the story it becomes more and more
apparent that Indians were used and abused by the French and the English. The
book makes me think that our history is full of ruthless deception. From the
beginning when the travelers were first taken the wrong way by their two faced
guide, to the Massacre of William Henry, the book was full of lies that lead to
I learnt allot from reading this book. I did not know anything about the
history of the Indians. I had no idea they had such strong alliances with the French
and the English. The fact that the Indians could look at the print of a moccasin and
know what tribe the owner of the print belonged to amazes me. The navigational
skills of the Indians seamed unreal. If the book is accurate, they seem to have
known every inch of woods as if they had been there many times before. They
always seemed very aware of their surroundings and never ever panicked.
Some of the things I learnt from the book were rather gruesome or
depressing. For example, at the start of the Massacre of William Henry, one of the
Huron’s took a baby from one of the English mothers and smashed its head open
on a rock. The Indian then took his tomahawk to the head of the mother and killed
her too. I was also disappointed to learn that scalping was a very common practice
among the natives. I always knew it happened but I had no idea it was such a
regular occurrence. Also the fact that the Europeans came to America and got the
Indians drunk and then exploited them is a sad thing.
Looking back on the book, I think it was very good. The story was excellent
and their little encounters along the way were exciting. Their were something’s
about the book that I didn’t really care for. James Cooper tends to write very long,
descriptive sentences with many comas. So many comas that by the end of the
sentence your not really sure what you just read. Once you get used to that the
book becomes easier to read and is more enjoyable. The other thing I didn’t care
for about the book were the parts that were in French and the author offered no
translation. The author also calls the Indians by several different names and that
gets to be confusing.
All that aside, the book was fun to read. The ending was excellent. Cora
and Uncas are buried the following day and Tamenund sadly announces that he
has lived to see the last warrior of the noble race of the Mohicans.
I’m not sure if I would recommend this book. Even though it is an exciting
story, the lengthy sentences, the passages in French, and the unfamiliar words
make this book hard to read. I read entire paragraphs and after I had finished I had
no idea what I had just read. I actually had to read the first hundred pages twice
because I wasn’t sure I understood what was going on. I would recommend this
book to someone who would like to learn something about Indians but doesn’t
want to read a textbook.
I learned a few things about the Indians and enjoyed the story. My favorite
part aside from the climax was when the Mohicans and Hawkeye appeared out of
nowhere and rescued Heyward, David, Cora and Alice. I was sure someone would
die because they were all tied up and defenseless.
I thought it was interesting that when they had to do some deep thinking
they packed their bowls together, smoked, and talked. I was impressed by how
aware they were of their surroundings. They knew which spots would be a good
place to stop and rest based on how ready they would be to defend themselves and
how well they would be able to see their enimie’s. They also were very careful not
to leave tracks. They used the river whenever possible so their footprints could not
be followed. The Indians could even tell when someone had tried to cover their
tracks by the way branches had been broken and other things like that. I found the
way Indians communicate to be very interesting. The Mohicans spoke about how
the Indians have one word for everything and they change how they want to
express that word with the pitch of there voice. The Mohicans stressed how much
the tone of voice mattered to them.
This book has enticed me to learn more about the Indians and their customs.
They seemed to kill animals for no reason but after they were questioned by the
Europeans they gave good answers. At one point in the book they killed a deer and
then told Cora and Alice that the deer would have given them away and by killing
the young deer it wouldn’t face any hardship that might have come its way. I also
found their shouts of war interesting and I would like to learn more about them.
The story itself is what really kept me reading though. It was suspenseful and
exciting. In closing, I’m glad I read this book.