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Historical Theme

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The Last of the Mohicans:
Summary and Historical Themes

Section 1: Summary of The Last of the Mohicans
It was the third year of the French and Indian War. The French army was attacking Fort William Henry. Duncan Heyward had to escort Munro’s daughters Alice and Cora from Fort Edward through the dangerous forest to visit their father, Colonel Munro the commander of the Fort. Indian runner named Magua was their guided. Soon they were joined by David Gamut, a singing master and religious follower. In their traveling the group encountered the white scout, by the name Hawkeye, and his two Indian companions, Chingachgook and Uncas, Uncas, the only surviving members of the great Mohican tribe. Hawkeye says that Magua, the Huron, has betrayed the group by leading them in the wrong path. In an attempt to capture the Huron traitor, he escaped.
Hawkeye and the Mohicans lead the group safely in a cave, but Huron allies of Magua attacked the next morning. Hawkeye and the Mohicans escaped down the river, but Huron capture Alice, Cora, Heyward, and Gamut. The Huron said that he seeks revenge on Munro for past embarrassment and intended to free Alice if Cora will marry him.
Suddenly Hawkeye and the Mohicans surge onto the scene, rescuing the captives and killing every Huron but Magua, who escaped. The group reached Fort William Henry, the English stronghold by sneaking through the French army besieged the Fort, and, once inside, Cora and Alice rejoined with their father.
A few days later, Munro learned that he will not receive reinforcement for the Fort and will have to surrender. In the chaos of slaughter, Magua manages to recapture Cora, Alice, and Gamut and escape with them into the forest.
Few days later, Heyward, Hawkeye, Munro, and the Mohicans discover Magua’s trail and begin to pursue the Magua. Gamut reappears and explains that Magua has separated his captives, restrained Alice to a Huron camp and sending Cora to a Delaware camp. By deception, the group manages to rescue Alice from the Huron’s. At the Delaware village, Magua convinces the tribe that Hawkeye and his companions were their enemies. Uncas revealed his exalted heritage to the Delaware Tamenund and then demanded the release of all his friends but Magua departed with Cora. A brutal battle fought, Magua and his Huron’s suffer painful defeat, but a Huron kills Cora. In Uncas attack to the Huron who killed Cora, Magua stabbed Uncas in the back. Hawkeye shoots Magua and he fell dead.
Cora and Uncas received proper burials the next morning, Chingachgook mourned for the loss of his son, while Tamenund sorrowfully declares that he had lived to see the last warrior of the Mohicans.

Section 2: The Last of the Mohicans Historical Theme “The Last of the Mohicans” was written by James Fenimore Cooper in 1826. The book characterized and symbolized the fall of Fort William Henry in 1757 which was the most significant event in the novel. (Butler, pp.117-139)
It is a French victory in the French & Indian war 1757. The British and Colonists eventually won. The British fought, according to Cooper, “for the possession of a country that was not destined to retain”. (Cooper, p. 9) In Cooper view, this war in the wilderness of the North American continent was a complete interruption of the Native American tribes, who had dwelt on that continent for centuries, and confusing their loyalties and tribal affirmation. “Cooper claims in his introduction the disposed and inevitable fate of all these people who disappear before it advances is represented already befallen”. (Cooper p.5)
As many reviewers had argued or illustrated that The Last of the Mohicans is an ineffective drama, Cooper has the French commander, “Montcalm muse upon the fact that great foreign powers have set in motion an engine which exceeded human power to control”. (Cooper p 206)
In Cooper introduction Robert Spiller illustrated that because of cooper detail observation and knowledge of the Native tribes, he describes the Indians as transfigure white men slightly different expression of white culture, acknowledging that Indians and whites have common humanity. (Cooper viii)
Cooper appeal to the reader, rather than narrates, the popular imaginary tradition of the North America. “While on one level it depicts the chaotic violence of an apparently meaningless struggle, on the other, it demonstrates the well ordered process of historical change.” In all, the story portrays the theory of human progress. (Butler, pp.117-139)
In Cooper's work, Gamut is an intrusive figure of chaos, his presence “specifically revealed the intrinsic deceptiveness of American Puritanism's arrogant suppressions and redefinitions of Nature”. In all, his inability to the control his surroundings and himself differed in various ways of all characters in the novel. (Butler, pp.117-139)
Cooper also portray Hawkeye the Scottish American character as a figured of the English background who had developed the culture of the wilderness to the Natives and their ways. (Cooper p 233)
Cooper also followed the historical process in which a “physical, masculine, and red culture personified in the futureless bachelorhood of Uncas, Magua, and Chingachgook”. These gave way to a more spiritual and more feminine white culture symbolizing the union of Alice and Duncan. Further, the novel portrayed the collapse of “European power in America and through the progress of Uncas and Duncan, depicted the displacement of one native culture by another”. (Butler, pp.117-139)
The central event of the book, of course, is “Montcalm's successful attack on Fort William Henry, 1757”. The outlines of the story clearly coincide with history, “Where the Fort was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Munro, Montcalm did besiege it for several days before it surrendered”. (French, pp. 28-38)
Further, Cooper's precise knowledge of detail extemporaneously, mentioned the masses of the English, to the amount, in the whole of three thousand moving out of the fort (p. 224). “In fact, according to one set of records, Munro's superior, General Webb, had placed 2100 men under William Henry in early August and later added an inadequate 800 more, thus making a total almost exactly like Cooper's”. (French, pp. 28-38)
Finally in the novel, “Munro eventually agreed to confer partly because of a speech in which Duncan Heyward emphasized the discontent of the soldiers and the useless state of the burst and broken ordinance.” In a petition by Munro's officers alluded to those whose gripes led to the historical decision to surrender. (French, pp. 28-38)
Whiles on the other hand, his account shifts from historical perspective. On the other “One of the most dramatic moments in the novel, for instance, occurred when Montcalm takes General Webb's letter from the captured figured”. (French, pp. 28-38)
Cooper uniqueness in emphasizing the presence of the Natives and emotional state of mourning and lamenting at Uncas funeral ceremony shows the feeling toward people who are disappearing. (Cooper, 429)
In conclusion, Reading the introduction, Cooper insisted that his writing was original and unique, because of this background, growing up on the frontier and what he had observed, as tribal Native American world. Historical events which he narrated in his novel the Fort William Henry massacre in the French and Indian war 1757. In my opinion, he is accurate in terms of the historical war the Fort William Henry, but in another perspective he did exaggerate for the reader to enjoy.


Butler, Michael. “Narrative Structure and Historical Process in The Last of the Mohicans” American Literature, Vol. 48, No. 2 (1976), pp. 117-139
French, David. “French James Fenimore Cooper and Fort William Henry” American Literature, Vol. 32, No. 1 (1960), pp. 28-38
Cooper, James. “The Last of The Mohicans” 1826

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