Last of the Mohicans vs.Twain
According to Mark Twain, Fenimore Cooper broke eighteen of the nineteen rules governing literary art in the domain of romantic fiction when he wrote Deerslayer. This accusation does not seem to apply to The Last of the Mohicans. The scene describing Duncan, David, Alice, and Cora s evening spent with Hawk-eye and the Mohicans in the deserted block-house is a prime example which proves Twain wrong.
Mark Twain claims that the episodes of Cooper s tale do not help develop the story. On the contrary, this scene is rather important to the story. The night at the blockhouse marks the end of the first day the Europeans spend with their native saviors. Within this sequence we also learn the meaning of the title. Hawk-eye speaks of his companion, Chingachgook, and you see before you, all that are left of his race. (Cooper 144) , hence The Last of the Mohicans.
Rule number seven that Cooper broke, according to Twain, says
when a personage talks like and illustrated, gilt edged, tree-calf, hand tooled, seven dollar Friendship s Offering in the beginning of a paragraph, he shall not talk like a negro minstrel in the end of it. (Twain 633).
However the dialogue in The Last of the Mohicans seems rather consistent in all characters. Take this quote from Alice,
Nay, Duncan, deny it not, , I know you to be a heedless one, when self is the object of your care, and but too vigilant in favour of others. Can we not tarry here a little longer while you find the rest your need. (Cooper 147).
Twain says that rule number seven is persistently violated in the Deerslayer tale. (Twain 633). But clearly Alice maintains her innocent eloquence throughout the dialogue, and so do the other characters in the book.
The characters in The Last of the Mohicans are well developed. Each one of them has traits different from their companions. Although Mark Twain would say Cooper s conduct and conversation of characters does not justify the author s description of the characters. But in fact all of the characters live up to their descriptions. The Mohicans maintain a somewhat dark and mysterious persona, though Uncas begins to soften near the end of the tale. Hawk-eye never strays from his all-knowing, man without a cross attitude. He definately is portrayed as the group s leader. Duncan sticks to his guns as an officer of he British army and never falters in his devotion to the sisters. Alice, the weak of heart, faints at almost every moment of interest. She provides strong proof of her delicate nature. Cora, the older sister, is always strong willed and protective of Alice. David continues to be peaceful in nature till the very end. Thus Fenimore Cooper justifies the descriptions of every character through their dialogue and actions.
Rule number ten, according to Twain, states,
the author shall make the reader feel a deep interest in the personages of his tale and their fate; and that he shall make the reader love the good people in the tale and hate the bad ones. (Twain 633).
The accusation that Cooper broke this rule seems the most far-fetched of all. When the travelers are hiding in the blockhouse, some non-friendly Indians come in close vicinity of the shelter. As Cooper plays out the nearly silent scene, one can t help but feel for the small nearly defenseless group. And what villain could be more despised than Magua, who kidnaps the sisters on more than one occasion and leads the natives to massacre the English, amongst other scandalous actions. By the end of the book the reader can t help feeling the emotion of characters dead and alive, and also feeling that for Magua, justice had been served. Cooper keeps the story interesting by using suspense, action, emotion, and many a plot twist. Thus a reader must wonder what will happen next to the small band of travelers.
Mark Twain believed that the characters, both dead and alive, did not exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there. The Last of the Mohicans was based around a small group of main characters and very rarely was anyone else of name involved. Duncan, David, and the sisters were trying to reach the fort and the tale could not be told without their presence. Because Hawk-eye, Uncas, and Chingachgook serve the purpose of escorting the Europeans to the fort. Magua the villainous vartlet is the seemingly immortal enemy (until the end). Without Magua the story would consist of seven people walking through the woods. Though nameless Indians could be incorporated, the reader indentifies better with a main villain. So it is hard to prove that characters are ever present without good reason.
Mark Twain s critique of Fenimore Cooper seems bitter in nature. Most of Twain s accusations do not apply to The Last of the Mohicans. In fact some of them are hard to even consider. It seems an author of Mark Twain s stature could be more creative and factual in criticizing the work of a fellow writer. Though The Last of the Mohicans is by no means perfect, Twain could have found much better and more mature judgments to make. It is also unclear as to the nature of these rules that Twain is stating, they seem to have no factual basis much like Twain s entire critique. Mark Twain should have rather used constructive criticism to analyze the mistake made by Cooper in The Last of the Mohicans and presented them in a more professional manner.