Last of the Mohicans
Last of The Mohicans – English Literature Dissertations
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Gender relations and miscegenation in the novels
- 3 Conclusion
- 4 Bibliography
Racial issues occupy the principal place in American Literature due to the prolonged racial relations between Native Americans and European colonizers. The aim of this dissertation is to compare and contrast the issue of miscegenation through the principal characters of James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans and Catharine Maria Sedgwick’s Hope Leslie. The word ‘miscegenation’, which consists of two parts ‘miscere’ and ‘genus’ and means a sexual racial mixture, appeared only at the end of the nineteenth century; however, this word is usually utilised in the analysis of earlier literary works..
Applying to a profound and realistic portrayal of gender and racial relations between Native Americans and white people in the period of Indian and French Wars, Cooper and Sedgwick introduce their own vision of Indians, implicitly maintaining the idea that miscegenation should be prohibited. In this regard, these writers reflect the existing political and social issues that shaped the attitude of white people towards Native Americans. In particular, at the end of the seventeenth century some American states passed specific laws that were aimed at forbidding miscegenation and depriving people of different races, except white population, of their political rights, violating the principles of equality.
On the one hand, miscegenation might decrease the differences between two races, but, on the other hand, it was thought to aggravate these dissimilarities by removing people from their usual background and by preventing them to integrate into the new environment. According to Robert Clark (1984), America’s “vision of itself was in large measure the projection of an ideal and about-to-be-realized condition, rather than an appropriation of the past in the name of reason” (p.46). As a result, America became involved in complex racial tensions and conflicts that were especially negative for Native Americans.
This was the main reason for Cooper’s and Sedgwick’s rejection of miscegenation. But in the process of colonization Europeans continued to interact with Native Americans, and these interactions usually resulted in race mixtures that were further reflected in American literature. Some people made attempts to support miscegenation by pointing at the fact that such interracial relations could provide both races with necessary freedom and would allow white females to reveal their sexual desires towards males of different races.
However, the existing racial prejudices and social stereotypes against miscegenation not only prevented the spread of such vision among the majority of American population, but also greatly influenced the representation of Native Americans in the nineteenth-century fiction. Being closely connected with political and social ideologies, this fiction was divided into two parts: some novels tried to maintain the status quo, as is just the case with the narrations of Sedgwick and Cooper, while other literary works pointed at the necessity of social changes.
Gender relations and miscegenation in the novels
America is the country that has united people of different races since the period of colonization. However, in the process of interaction colonizers made constant attempts to destroy cultural and religious beliefs of Native Americans. According to Arthur M. Schlesinger (1992), “when people of different ethnic origins, speaking different languages and professing different religions, settle in the same geographic locality… tribal hostilities will drive them apart” (p.10). The indigenous population of the country wanted to preserve their cultural identity and opposed to the ideals of white people.
Such refusal resulted in many racial conflicts and had a great impact on the attitude of White Americans towards the issue of miscegenation. In patriarchal America any relations between a white woman and a Native American were strongly prohibited, and, as Martin Barker (1993) states, “it is this running concern about ‘miscegenation’ with its connected fears about interracial sexual attraction that leads to death” (p.27).
In those times it was thought that if a person was engaged in sexual relations with a person of a different race, then both people should be killed in order to prevent the spread of miscegenation. Such complex racial relations and rejection of miscegenation are especially reflected in the novels of James Fenimore Cooper The Last of the Mohicans and Catharine Maria Sedgwick Hope Leslie. As Stephanie Wardrop (1997) puts it, Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans “presents a world in which the mixing of races is morally repugnant and anathema to the American project of nation building” (p.61).
Throughout the narration Fenimore Cooper contrasts people with mixed and unmixed blood, as if wishing to reveal the differences between the characters of various races. Despite the fact that Hawkeye is culturally connected with both white people and Indians, he is presented as a person “without a cross” (Cooper, 1984 p.4).
The same regards Alice Munro who is “surprisingly fair” (Cooper, 1984 p.378) and Chingachgook who is an unmixed Mohican. Contrary to these characters, Cora, the elder sister of Alice, is of mixed race, and it is she who protects her sister at the cost of her life. Belonging to the race of West Indians, Cora comes from “that unfortunate class who are so basely enslaved to administer to the wants of a luxurious people” (Cooper, 1984 p.310), and thus, she is prohibited to marry a person from the South.
In this regard, miscegenation was treated as blameworthy in those times, and when Magua proposes Cora to marry him, she claims that “the thought itself is worse than a thousand deaths” (Cooper, 1984 p.124). These words prove that only Uncas and Chingachgook are presented as noble people, while all other Native Americans are regarded as cruel savages. That’s why miscegenation between a white person and an Indian was widely restricted.
Although Catharine Sedgwick’s Hope Leslie also reveals this restriction, she points at the possibility of miscegenation between some secondary characters. Contrary to Cooper, the writer provides a rather humane vision of Native Americans. Faith, the sister of Leslie Hope, manages to marry Oneco, the brother of a Pequoud princess Magawisca. According to Leland Person (1985), Sedgwick belongs to those American female authors who in their novels reflect how an “Indian male, reverential and loving rather than possessive and authoritarian, offers a romantic contrast to the arbitrary authority of Puritan society” (p.683).
This can be also true in regard to Cooper’s narration, where the writer introduces such Indian character as Uncas with noble features and attractiveness. However, similar to Magawisca who is not able to become a wife of Everell and instead she has to regard him “as her brother” (Sedgwick, 1987 p.30), Uncas is also prohibited to marry Cora. Due to serious racial prejudices, Magawisca is an inappropriate match to Everell, while Hope Leslie suits for the position of Everell’s wife. By the end of the narration the writer shows that any marriage should be based on love, as Magawisca claims, “Ye need not the lesson, ye will each be to the other a full stream of happiness. May it be fed from the fountain of love, and grow broader and deeper through all the passage of life” (Sedgwick, 1987 p.333).
Thus, the writer proves that some Native Americans possess wisdom and nobility; however, they are not able to unite with European Americans. Magawisca is rejected by both societies, as Wardrop (1997) claims, “from the white for her association by blood with ‘savages’ and from the Pequod for her association with the whites that leads her to rescue Everell” (p.64). Magawisca saves the person she loves at the cost of her own rejection and isolation, but she is not able to marry him. Similar to Sedgwick’s women, female characters of Cooper are divided into “those who can be married and those who cannot” (Baym, 1992 p.20).
In this regard, racial and cultural differences are aggravated by gender stereotypes that put women in subordinate positions and make them act in accordance with the existing social and moral norms. On the example of their female characters Sedgwick and Cooper reveal that women are prohibited any freedom and equality, especially concerning their choice of marital partners. Those women, who prefer to ignore racial prejudices and assigned roles, are either rejected by society or die.
This is especially true in regard to Magawisca and Cora who try to act, according to their moral values, but their attempts result in negative consequences for both women. But, above all, these women are appreciated for their racial characteristics. Alice’s racial purity is explained by her pure unmixed blood, while Cora, being a daughter of a Creole woman and a British soldier, is regarded as sinful. Implicitly opposing to miscegenation, Cooper prefers to kill Uncas, Cora and Magua in order to prevent an unsuitable marriage.
As Terence Martin (1992) states, Fenimore Cooper “cannot conceive of a marriage between the daughter of Major Munro, no matter her background, and an Indian, no matter how noble” (p.63). The writer eliminates these relations, thus revealing his support for pure, unmixed marriages. As a child of miscegenation, Cora is unsuitable for both white and Indian worlds. According to Wardrop (1997), “Earlier Indian romances seem to present the hero more often as half-blood, perhaps mitigating the taboo of miscegenation somewhat by presenting a hero who is at least half white” (p.73).
But it is the character with unmixed blood that becomes popular in further romantic literature. Although Maria Sedgwick points at the possibility of miscegenation, she still considers it inappropriate in the majority of cases. Similar to Cora, Sedgwick’s character Magawisca appears to be banished from both societies, but the writer presents “a more sympathetic view of both Native Americans and women… concentrate[ing] more on the domestic and interpersonal than the martial [issues]” (Wardrop, 1997 p.63).
Cora and Magawisca are powerful and unusual women with many virtues; however, they suffer as a result of their parents’ miscegenation. According to John McWilliams (1995), “Cora is one of those characters who show us both the limitations of society’s racial and gender boundaries and the dangers of stepping over them” (p.74). Cooper considers that Cora’s marriage to Uncas would be a threat to the existence of both societies, therefore the writer “appears to have believed in the purity of the races” (Barker & Sabin, 1995, p.21).
Their deaths are presented by Cooper as the only possible outcome, because it is better for them to die than to be rejected by their own societies. As Barker (1993) reveals, in this novel “the twin deaths of Uncas and Cora prevent the reality of interracial sex with the ‘disappearance’ of the Mohicans” (p.27).
Applying to these characters, Cooper points at the fact that miscegenation between White Americans and Native Americans is impossible, until the indigenous population adheres to the cultural and social norms of the colonizers and destroys their culture.
On the other hand, the writer suggests that Cora and Uncas will be connected with each other after death, while Hawkeye opposes to this view by claiming that “the spirit of the paleface has no need of food or raiment – their gifts being according to the heaven of their colour” (Cooper, 1984 p.346). Contrary to some other characters, Hawkeye rises against miscegenation and considers that there is “no ideal bond of union” (Cooper, 1984 p.348) that would result in mutual cooperation between different races.
The marriage of Alice and Duncan, persons with pure blood, symbolises the subsequent spread of unmixed marriages, while the death of Uncas, the last of the Mohicans, reveals the gradual disappearance of Native Americans and the power of ‘civilised’ society. As sagamore Tamenund claims at the end of the narration, “The pale-faces are masters of the earth, and the time of the red-men has not yet come again” (Cooper, 1984 p.350).
The inability of Cora and Uncas to marry because of racial prejudices points at moral disintegration of American population. Their deaths reveal that miscegenation is considered wrong by both white people and Indians, resulting in the impossibility to achieve peace and mutual support. However, love between Uncas and Cora shows that racial prejudices are able to separate people, but they are unable to eliminate powerful feelings. The same regards Everell and Magawisca who experience certain attraction to each other, but who realise that their desires should be eliminated because of cultural and racial differences.
Therefore, Sedgwick reveals that cultures control people’s lives, depriving them of the possibility to follow their own paths, because culture is connected with both private and public spheres. As a result, both Cooper and Sedgwick discuss miscegenation through political and social contexts, pointing at the fact that the relations between two races are considerably complicated by the occurred events and the established standards.
As a result, such character as Hawkeye opposes to both races, claiming that “to me every native, who speaks a foreign tongue, is accounted an enemy, though he may pretend to serve the king!” (Cooper, 1984 p.50). He doesn’t belong to either society and he doesn’t believe in the possibility of miscegenation.
To some extent, such viewpoint can be explained by the fact that when a person of one race integrates with a person of another race, he/she takes part in either assimilation or acculturation. However, in many cases miscegenation is mainly based on sexual mixture between people of different races, but not on cultural mixture. As a result, people are rejected by their own society and are not accepted by another society. This is just the case with Cora and Magawisca who are not allowed to be engaged in sexual relations with males of different races, because their cultures prevent them from the mixture with each other.
Both Sedgwick and Cooper demonstrate that the existing stereotypes reflect the ideas of cultural purity that are closely connected with racial purity. Such vision is rather paradoxical, because even the ‘purest’ race is certainly a mixture race, but White Americans prefer to ignore this particular fact, making constant attempts to achieve dominance over Native Americans. In this regard, it is easier to understand Sedgwick’s and Cooper’s attitude towards miscegenation.
Cora, as a child of two races, is considered less pure in comparison with Alice, because Cora is an embodiment of two bloods and two cultures, and it is this particular mixture that White Americans tried to prevent. They did not want to be assimilated with another culture, because in that case they would lose their dominant position over the indigenous population. In addition, such attitude was considerable shaped by political ideologies of those times; opposing to miscegenation, American rulers tried to prohibit any social changes within the country and simultaneously they utilized racial tensions and conflicts for their own benefits.
It is obvious that miscegenation was a threat to the existence of white supremacy, because it eliminated specifically inspired differences between two races. The attitude towards miscegenation was also aggravated by the fact that it provided people of mixing blood with those features that were prohibited by American society. Cora greatly differs from her half-sister Alice; Cora is more powerful and independent than Alice. The same concerns Magawisca, a rather strong and wise female who takes her own decisions, which are consistent with her moral values.
In this regard, women began to occupy an equal position with men or were even superior to them, and such changes couldn’t be easily accepted in the patriarchal world. Miscegenation allowed women to reveal their sexual desires towards males of another race and become more independent; however, natural instincts were a norm only for men, while women were not considered to experience powerful sexual desires. It was thought unnatural for a white woman to feel compassion or love towards an Indian or a black person, and vice versa.
Despite the fact that Cora is a half-Indian, she is brought up among people of white culture, thus she is prohibited to marry an Indian Uncas. Magawisca is also deprived of the opportunity to marry Everell, as Sedgwick points out that love relations between Magawisca and Everall are impossible and unnatural because of their cultural and racial differences, while the relations between Hope Leslie and Everall are natural. Miscegenation reflects the mixture of two races, of two cultures, one of which is the culture of the colonizer and another is the culture of the indigene.
Thus, miscegenation was especially connected with female sexuality that was widely controlled by the state to prevent undesirable inheritance. However, women who couldn’t achieve equal positions with men in political and social spheres began to readily support miscegenation. But in their novels Cooper and Sedgwick reveal that their attempts are vain; almost all female characters that interact with people of different races lose at the end. Many females understood people of other races, because their positions were similar; women, like Indians and black people, were regarded as inferior to men and they usually experienced suppression and humiliation.
For women, miscegenation was the way to destroy subjugation and overcome social stereotypes. Although Magawisca is prohibited to marry Everall, her attraction towards him helps Magawisca to understand many important things and save this character at the cost of her own reputation. Cora prefers to die rather than marry a person whom she abhors. But despite such courage and independence, these female characters continue to experience social and cultural pressure that deprives them of the opportunity to choose their own path. However, the situation is different in regard to Alice, who not only survives at the end of the narration, but she is also going to marry Duncan and create another family with pure blood. The same regards Everall and Hope Leslie who finally unite with each other.
Although initially Hope finds it difficult to accept a marriage of her sister Faith with a person of a different race, because she doesn’t believe that Faith loves Oneco, she soon realises her mistake and agrees with her sister’s choice of a marriage partner. In fact, Hope Leslie is a female character who rejects the existing social, cultural and religious norms and who is constantly blamed for her lack of “passiveness, that, next to godliness, is a woman’s best virtue” (Sedgwick, 1987 p.153). People with whom Hope Leslie interacts are not able to understand her independence, including Everell.
As one female character tells Hope, “you do allow yourself too much liberty of thought and word: you certainly know that we owe implicit deference to our elders and superiors; – we ought to be guided by their advice, and governed by their authority” (Sedgwick, 1987 p.180). However, Hope proves to be the best Christian who is able to follow her heart, even if she has to reject some religious principles to save her family and friends. Destroying certain social norms, Magawisca and Hope simultaneously ignore oversimplified assumptions in regard to people of different race.
As McWilliams (1995) puts it, white culture was regarded as civilized in those times, while the culture of Native Americans was considered as savage (52-53). Thus, according to this particular viewpoint, two cultures could hardly successfully interact with each other. However, Sedgwick rises against this stereotypic vision. Close relations between Magawisca and Hope, women of different races and cultures, point at the possibility of one culture to exist with another culture. Despite the fact that Magawisca’s race and religious faith differ from her own beliefs and culture, Hope is unaffected by the existing stereotypes of the seventeenth century and is able to overcome them, if she has to do so for the sake of her family. But the writer reveals that Hope still finds it difficult to interact with other Indians.
The situation is different with Hope’s sister Faith who is captured by indigenous people and is brought up with them. As a result, she marries an Indian Oneco and becomes greatly involved in the Indian culture. In this regard, miscegenation of these secondary characters is rather successful, because Faith changes her white culture and Christian religion into Indian culture and Catholic religion. She rejects her people and decides to live with Indians. However, other characters of the novel refuse to accept another culture and strongly oppose to miscegenation.
Mrs. Grafton represents a stereotypic female who acts precisely, according to the established social norms, and who avoids any interactions with different races. For her, miscegenation is unnatural and wrong. Esther Downing is obsessed with her religion and is very subordinate to males, but she rightfully considers that “marriage is not essential to the contentment, the dignity, or the happiness of a woman” (Sedgwick, 1987 p.371). Similar to Mrs. Grafton, Esther avoids any contacts with people of different races and she meets Magawisca only when she attempts to convert this Indian female into Christianity.
Esther opposes to any race mixture and doesn’t believe that two different cultures can exist together. Opposite to these docile female characters, Magawisca is presented as a woman that rises against any cultural and racial prejudices of the seventeenth century. She possesses many virtues and tries to achieve equal position with males. Although Magawisca realises that miscegenation and racial relations are rejected by white people, she reveals devotion to some members of white culture. Nelema is another female character who, despite her anger towards the Puritans, provides help to Cradock at the cost of her life. Unlike other characters, Everell manages to maintain good relations with both Indians and his own people, but he is especially devoted to Magawisca.
Though they belong to different cultures, they are very close to each other, because they ignore their racial differences. Unfortunately, miscegenation between these characters is still impossible because of the social pressure and the existing stereotypes that prevail in their societies. In Sedgwick’s Hope Leslie miscegenation appears to be a powerful obstacle for the characters. Throughout the narration Everell interacts with three women – Hope Leslie, Magawisca and Esther. Two of them are white, and the third woman is an Indian princess.
Although Hope and Magawisca are similar in their views and values, although Magawisca saves Everell and is admired by this white male, Everell chooses Hope Leslie as his wife, being unable to perceive Magawisca as an appropriate marriage partner. Everell’s nature rejects her; despite admiration and desires, he is not able to establish close relations with a woman of a different race. As he claims, “I might have loved her – might have forgotten that nature had put barriers between us” (Sedgwick, 1987 p.214). However, Everell is not able to overcome his own prejudices towards a person of another culture; these prejudices are too powerful and they continue to implicitly create barriers between Everell and Magawisca.
Thus, racial mixture in Sedgwick’s narration greatly depends on the possibility or impossibility of people to destroy the natural barriers. According to Person (1985), for a person who is brought up in a civilized society, it is rather difficult, even impossible, to get accustomed to the uncivilized culture of Indians, and vice versa (pp.680-682). In this regard, biological differences are not as important as cultural differences. Although Cora is half-Indian and Uncas is Indian, they are brought in different cultural environments and they are not able to marry because of these differences.
Despite the fact that Hope and Faith are sisters and belong to one race, they appear to be separated by various conditions of their upbringing. The same concerns Magawisca and Everell who understand that their marriage is impossible. The marriage between Everell and Hope or Alice and Duncan is considered normal, because in these relations the characters are equal to each other. However, there is a great difference between the relations of these two pairs of white people.
In the case of Alice and Duncan, the characters adhere to the traditional representation of a family, where a wife is inferior to her husband, while in the case of Hope and Everell, their union is based on the principles of equality and freedom. On the other hand, both pairs are culturally identical to each other, while miscegenation was considered as a sexual mixture of two people with different cultures. It was thought that it was impossible to create a strong family only on sexual relations; in those times cultural and religious similarities were regarded more crucial for a normal family than sex.
As Calloway (1987) claims, any mixed relations were exposed to the threat of becoming “degenerated” (p.117). And children who appeared as a result of such relations couldn’t live in the world of white people. However, if a person of different race agreed to convert to Christianity, a marriage between a white person and an Indian could be accepted by American society. Under these complex conditions, such characters as Magawisca and Everell, Cora and Uncas understand that their relations with each other will fail as soon as they interact with the rest of the world.
Analysing the issue of miscegenation through the characters of James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans and Catharine Maria Sedgwick’s Hope Leslie, the dissertation compares and contrasts the representation of racial relations between Native Americans and European Americans. Although both writers oppose to miscegenation in their novels and maintain the idea of racial purity, Sedgwick mentions the possibility of relations between white people and Indians on the example of her secondary characters.
Such rejection of miscegenation responds to the existing social and cultural standards that inspired inequality between the indigenous population and European colonizers, depriving both races of freedom. Dividing their characters on mixed and unmixed people, Cooper and Sedgwick reveal that persons with pure blood were more easily accepted by American society, and thus had more possibilities to survive. However, persons with mixed blood couldn’t find their places either in the world of white people or in the world of Native Americans.
Such attitude can be explained by the wish of White Americans to control people of other races and prevent any social changes, while miscegenation erased any differences between two races, taking away their power and superiority. As racial relations were closely connected with gender issues in those times, miscegenation could provide females with freedom that they were deprived of. As White Americans wanted the indigenous population to conform to their own culture and religion, they were not allowed white females to be involved in sexual relations with the Native Americans, applying to different measures to prevent miscegenation.
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Clark, R. (1984) History and Myth in American Fiction, 1823-52. New York, St. Martin’s Press.
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Person, L. S. (1985) The American Eve: Miscegenation and a Feminist Frontier Fiction. American Quarterly 37.5, Winter, 668-685.
Schlesinger, A. M. (1992) The Disuniting of America. New York, Norton.
Sedgwick, C. M. (1987) Hope Leslie, or Early Times in the Massachusetts Colony. 1827. New Brunswick, NJ, Rutgers University Press.
Wardrop, S. (1997) Last of the Red Hot Mohicans: Miscegenation in the Popular American Romance. MELUS 22.2 Popular Literature and Film, Summer, 61-74.
About The Last of the Mohicans
“The Last of the Mohicans” is set in the 1757, while the French and Indian war was happening. It uses recognizable American tradition by forming a model created in the image of the initial voyagers. Cooper’s frontiersman, Hawk-eye, expresses the model American romantic hero.
He is a rebel who discards civilization, embraces the environment, cohabits with Native Americans. Hawk-eye assists as a leader into the American land for both the European characters in the story and the reader. Cooper novel offers more than a Eurocentric viewpoint by offering a voice to the Native American characters. He generates a discussion among both sides and demonstrates that a passive coexistence can be achieved. It is in hindsight that Cooper is proficient in creating characters. In a touching dialogue, Hawk-eye and his confidant, Chingachgook, the last of the Mohican tribe, converses the origin of the battle between their two races.
“Your fathers came from the setting sun, crossed the big river, fought the people of the country, and took the land; and mine came from the red sky of the morning, over the salt lake, and did their work much after the fashion that had been set them by yours; then let God judge the matter between us, and friends spare their words!” “My fathers fought with the naked red man!” returned the Indian, sternly, in the same language. “Is there no difference, Hawk-eye, between the stone-headed arrow of the warrior, and the leaden bullet with which you kill?” (Cooper 30)
When Cooper published his novel, the United States was plunged in the conflict generated by colonization. As America prolonged to enlarge to the west, imprisonment and direct encounter with Native America continued to be an important issue. At the center of “The Last of the Mohicans” is the imprisonment and loss theme. In the novel, Hawk-eye and his two Indian confidants, Chingachgook and Uncas, lead a soldier, psalmist and the other fellow heroines, Cora and Alice, across the wasteland through a war involving the English, French and Indians while being chased by the Indian opponent, Magua. At the culmination of the novel, following two rounds of hunt, imprisonment and liberation, Uncas, Cora and Magua end up deceased.
Cooper is proficient to discover history and the hereditary experiences of Columbus, Smith and Rowlandson which are imbedded in the American mindfulness allowin him to generate an American classic. The time of romance in American literature uses America’s exclusivity with the American wilderness as its scenery and its history as the background. “The Last of the Mohicans,” searches protuberant images in the American mindfulness – imprisonment and Indian attacks, the disappearing “noble savage” and the trailblazer as a romantic idol who travels the enormous and stunning yet unforgiving land of the American frontier. The Romantic Movement was favorable to the expression of the truth confronted in the everyday lives of nineteenth century Americans. It is through the investigation of the autobiographical stories of Columbus, Smith and Rowlandson that we are able to comprehend these views of Romanticism as they congregate in Cooper’s historical fiction, “The Last of the Mohicans,” as it has arisen as a normative American romance. Cooper’s novel arouses the idea of the beautiful landscape that Columbus discovered, Smith as a passionate hero, Rowlandson as an incarcerated. As established in the literature of Columbus, Smith and Rowlandson, America’s groundwork was bursting with conflict. The novel mirrors Cooper’s inspection of those battles and the subsequent loss for both the colonizers and the Native Americans
Analysis Of The Last of the Mohicans
In the late 1750s, three European trappers look after two daughters, Cora and Alice Munro, of a British Lieutenant Colonel Munro during the time of the French and Indian War. The last two members of a dying Native American tribe, the Mohicans, these two individuals, Uncas, his father Chingachgook, and additionally their adopted half-white brother, Hawkeye. They lead a the daughters and their bodyguard to see their father, but are mislead by Chief Magua of the a Huron tribe.
Then Hawkeye accuses Magua of betraying the group by leading them the wrong way. The Mohicans attempt to capture the traitor, but he escapes.
Hawkeye and his friends continue to lead the group to safety, but allies of the Huron attack them the next morning. The group escapes down the river, but the Hurons manage to kidnap the sisters, Alice and Cora, and their bodyguards. Heyward attempts to convert Magua to the white ways, he reveals that he seeks vengeance against the Colonel Munro for demeaning him and tries to make a deal saying that he’ll free Alice, only if Cora will marry him. However Cora had already developed romantic feelings for Uncas and refuses to be with Magua. Then Hawkeye and the Mohicans come to rescue the group and killing every Huron, Magua escapes. After a challenging journey that has been disturbed by Indian attacks, the group finally reaches Fort William Henry.
The Europeans declare truce, which is when Munro learns that he isn’t going receive reinforcements which makes him surrender. He exposes that Cora’s mother was part african which explains her physical features to Heyward. Munro then implies that Heyward is racist because he prefers to marry a blonde, Alice, over Cora, but Heyward denies this. During the withdrawal of the English troops from Fort William Henry, the Native American allies of the French allow themselves to prey upon the retreating soldiers. In the midst of the battle, Magua manages to kidnap Cora, Alice, and Gamut and runs away into the forest.
Heyward, Hawkeye, Munro, and the Mohicans came upon Magua’s trail and begin to try and catch the villain. Gamut reappears and explains that Magua has divided his prisoners, imprisoning Alice to a Huron camp and sending Cora to a Delaware camp. Using a variety of disguises, the group manages to rescue Alice, this is when Heyward confesses his interest in her. At the Delaware village, Magua lies and says that Heyward and the crew are their racist enemies. Uncas reveals his high-ranking heritage to the Delaware and demands they release of all his friends. Magua and his Hurons suffer a painful conquer, but a Huron kills Cora. Uncas attacks the Huron who killed Cora, but Magua stabs Uncas in the back. Magua tries to leap across a big ditch, but he falls short and holds onto a plant. Hawkeye shoots him, and Magua finally dies. Cora and Uncas are buried the next day, Chingachgook mourns the loss of his son, while Tamenund sadly expresses that he has lived to see the last warrior of the noble race of the Mohican tribe.
A Cursory Look at the Fort William Henry Massacre
A major highlight of the war between Great Britain and France in their respective bid to dominate North American territory originally occupied by the Native Indians is the massacre at Fort William Henry. Although some of the characters and events used by Cooper in his novel the Last of the Mohicans” were fictitious, he gave account of the unfortunate massacre in the battle for domination of the Native American territory between Great Britain and France at Fort William Henry in 1757. The author brilliantly succeeded in highlighting the intrigues and betrayals that characterized the battle.
The events that led to the unfortunate massacre and the roles played by some actual characters from both the British and French side as narrated in the Cooper’s novel will be briefly discussed in this essay.
A fierce but inconclusive battle at the southern end of Lake George prompted the British to build a fort at that end; called Fort William Henry(Eggington). The name of the fort was symbolic since it was named after a British King to symbolize her authority over the area. Colonel Munro oversaw command of the Fort. Munro was described as a father with two daughters namely Alice and Cora who played important fictional roles in the novel.
Under the command of Colonel Munro, Fort William Henry was made up of two thousand soldiers while General Webb had three thousand soldiers under his command at Fort Edward. (Eggington). The occupation of the southern end of Lake George by Great Britain angered the French who viewed it as humiliating since they have for over a hundred years considered the lake as their heritage and therefore were determined to engage Great Britain in a confrontation to regain possession of Lake George. Below is an image of Lake George as shown in Fig.1
The French in a bid to regain possession of Lake George, began a fort at the north end of the lake which they named Fort Carillon but later renamed it Fort Ticonderoga. Under the command of Major General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, the French comprising of seven thousand troops with the support of Native Indians fought and besieged the British force at Fort William Henry. General Montcalm will be historically remembered mostly for his success at the Fort William Henry(Eggington). The author elaborated the French bombardment of the British forces at Fort William Henry using the support of the Huron tribe led by a fictional character Magua; whose qualities and attributes in the novel could qualify him to be described as the Prince of Darkness. The French struck damaging blows to the British Forces with the support of Magua through deception and intrigues which Magua showed by betraying the trust placed on him to lead the Munro daughters to safety, rather he led them to ambush and held them captive. Overwhelmed by the presence of French troops which outnumbered the British force in Fort William Henry, Colonel Munro in a desperate bid to survive the imminent attack, sent a message to Fort Edward begging for support and reinforcement which was intercepted by the French troops led by Montcalm(Eggington). Cooper in his novel captured the event by narrating how Munro sent Hawkeye, (a scout who fought alongside the British against the French and her Huron allies) to Fort Edward with a message begging for reinforcement but was intercepted by the French troops who sent him back to Fort William Henry without the letter. Below in Fig.2 is a portrait of the Commander of the French troops, Louis-Joseph de Montcalm
The inability of the garrison headed by Colonel Munro at Fort William Henry to receive reinforcement from Fort Edward weakened the troops. The French and their Indian allies laid siege at Fort William Henry for three days. Montcalm succeeded in deceiving General Webb in charge of British forces at Fort Edward through a French deserter to erroneously believe that French army led by General Montcalm were made up of eleven thousand strong men. This deception led to the refusal of General Webb to send reinforcement to Fort William Henry and ultimately resulted to the unfortunate massacre of the British forces in fort William Henry. General Webb will be historically remembered for this action which was viewed by Colonel Munro as a monumental betrayal(Eggington). Although, he was not a major character in The Last of the Mohicans by James Fennimore Cooper, the author highlighted the inability of General Webb to send support to Fort William Henry when it was most needed as one of the hallmarks of British defeat and massacre at Fort William Henry. General Montcalm capitalized on the weakness of the British forces in Fort William Henry and the support of his Indian allies to negotiate British surrender. General Montcalm in an attempt to convince Colonel Munro on the need to surrender to avoid further loss of lives, showed him refusal letter for the requested reinforcement by General Webb and demanded the surrender by the British forces with the terms that the British soldiers together with their wounded soldiers, women and children to be escorted back to Fort Edward with the condition that British forces withdraw from the war for eighteen months.
Unfortunately the acceptance to surrender by Munro who expected the French to keep to their own side of the surrender terms led to the exposure of the troop to the attack by almost 2000 Native Indians which led to the massacre of the British troop including women and children. Cooper described the betrayal of the surrender terms in his novel where Montcalm despite the terms of agreement which includes to safely lead the British back to Fort Edward couldn’t restrain her Huron allies led by Magua to attack the British in order to satisfy them on their revenge mission against the British. Magua in the novel the Last of the Mohicans was determined to seek revenge against Colonel Munro for turning him into an alcoholic which made him to initially lose leadership of the Hurons. Alice and Cora with others were taken captive by Magua (Cooper, the Last of the Mohicans). Cooper by so doing exposed the ulterior motive of the Native Indians during the Fort William Henry battle which was to regain their lost spiritual power. The Native Indians believed they lost their spirituality due to the influence of the British. Diversity in the Indian camp made it difficult for the French troop to effect restrain on the part of the Indians, The Native Indians sabotaged the agreement so as to seek revenge and benefit from the spoils of war.Munro will be historically remembered for his inability to defend the troops under his command which led to the massacre. Below in Fig.3 is symbolic image of the massacre at Fort William Henry.
In conclusion, the massacre of the British Troops at Fort William Henry was significant in exposing the different war strategies adopted by both Great Britain and France in the battle. Great Britain’s neglect of the Native Indian forces resulted in the disgrace and defeat of Britain in the battle. However, France capitalized on her trading partnership with the Native Indians, and sometimes offer of inducements to win their loyalty and support to fight and defeat of Britain in the battle.
- Cooper, James, Fennimore, The Last of the Mohicans-a Narrative of 1757
- Eggington, Richard. The true story behind The Last of the Mohicans.History In An Hour,24 August 2017,https://www.historyinanhour.com/2017/08/24/true-story-behind-last-mohicans/ Accessed 11 July 2018
- www.southwilliamstown.org/2010/06/the-fort-williamhenry-massacre-the-last-mohicans. Accessed 11 July 2018
- _Mohicans#Historical_background. Accessed 11 July 2018
- . Accessed 11 July 2018
- https://www.gutenberg.org/files/940/940-h/940-h.htm. Accessed 11 July 2018
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_George_(New_York). Accessed 11 July 2018
- www.warfarehistorynetwork.com/daily/military-history/massacre-of-misunderstanding-fort-william-henry-1757. Accessed 11 July 2018
The Role of Family in Wieland and The Last of the Mohicans
The Roles of Family in Wieland and The Last of the Mohicans”There is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one’s own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels with someone, for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes.”Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of BeingTo be a master of the art of fiction is to be a master of the art of manipulation. I am referring not only to the manipulation of the mind of the reader, but also to the manipulation of characters, setting, plot, and perhaps most important, the manipulation of language. In order to successfully engage his or her audience, an author must establish an air of familiarity. When a reader is confronted with characters, situations, or places that they understand on a personal level, the purpose of the author’s words becomes increasingly more evident. One of the most effective manifestations of this idea of “familiarity” between the novelist and the reader is the element of family. First, it must be stated that the two novels addressed in this essay are remarkably dissimilar. Though both novels are set in the mid-to-late 18th-century Northeastern United States, they differ drastically in style and form. Charles Brockden Brown is often described as the grandfather of American Gothic literature, and is credited with influencing the likes of Mary Shelley and Truman Capote. The works of James Fenimore Cooper, however (and specifically the five installments of his “Leatherstocking Tales”), are widely thought of as the foundations for later “frontier novels” and modern-day Western films. Though radically different in almost every other way, both authors utilize the effects of family in a similar fashion. In the opening of Wieland, we receive a brief summary of the life and death of the father of Theodore and Clara Wieland (the novel’s narrator). While it may seem that this summary might serve as a tool to better the reader’s understanding of the Wielands, it in fact reveals very little about our characters. What is revealed in the summary, however, is a deep sense of isolation in the lives of Clara and Theodore Wieland resulting from the early loss of their parents. It soon becomes evident that the isolation experienced by the orphans gave birth to an ignorance that would plague their thinking for the rest of their lives. This is especially evident in the language used by Clara as she describes the years following the death of her parents: The years that succeeded were tranquil and happy. Our lives were molested by few of those cares that are incident to childhood. By accident more than design, the indulgence and yielding temper of our aunt was mingled with resolution and steadfastness. She seldom deviated into either extreme of rigor or lenity. Our social pleasures were subject to no unreasonable restraints. We were instructed in most branches of useful knowledge, and were saved from the corruption and tyranny of colleges and boarding schools. (22) The second biological family that we are introduced to in Wieland is the Pleyels, Catharine and Henry. The family dynamic of the novel is made all the more intricate by the fact that Theodore Wieland weds Catharine Pleyel. This detail combines both of these families into a small, isolated group of friends. Interestingly, with the introduction of Henry Pleyel on page 27, Clara begins referring to their group as a “society”. One would hardly consider a group of four individuals a society, yet Clara, ignorant of the depth of friendships in the outside world, considers “society” to be an apt title for the relationship between them. It is with the appearance of Carwin, or rather the appearance of Carwin’s voice, that Clara’s “society” begins to fall apart. When Theodore swears that his wife’s voice resonates where she is not present, the four friends begin to lose trust in each other. Soon, Theodore begins to slowly but visibly lose his mind in a fashion that mirrors the prophetic fate of his father. Soon, Catharine is found dead and the friends are torn further apart. All of these events cause extreme emotions to arise in the heart of the reader. This point recalls both the opening quote of this paper, and the aforementioned idea of “familiarity” in literature. If it were not for the extreme detail with which the characters are profiled, the identification of these characters as members of families, and the fact that the characters are painted in such a way that affects the reader to view them as “someone”, there would be little or no emotion created by the circumstances surrounding the characters’ fates. In other words, once the reader acknowledges a character as someone who is loved, someone with emotions, or someone who is a member of a family, the plight of said character evokes feelings that are comparable to the sentiment that would arise if the same fate was beset upon a living person. This effect, which I will call “compassionate catharsis”, occurs multiple times in The Last of the Mohicans, even though the structure of family differs wildly from that of Wieland. This statement should not be deemed contradictory to my previous assertion that both Brown and Cooper utilize the effects of family in similar ways. We have seen that in Wieland, there are two biological families that create a small, isolated community. The irony of these two families is that they seem to have very little idea of what family really means. In The Last of the Mohicans, however, the two main families (the Munros and the Mohicans) are extremely close-knit. Not only do they know the meaning of the word “family”, but they also go to great lengths to keep their families intact. Regardless of the differences in the structure and idea of family from novel to novel, the same compassionate catharsis is achieved when a member of a family meets their doom. However, I believe that the numerous occurrences of compassionate catharsis in The Last of the Mohicans are intensified by the tremendous love that the characters show for each other throughout the novel. The most powerful example of compassionate catharsis comes in the 32nd chapter of The Last of the Mohicans, with the murder of Cora Munro. When Uncas jumps down from the trees to rescue his lover, he frightens her captor (one of Magua’s men) and causes him to plunge his knife into Cora’s chest. Magua then stabs Uncas in the back; Uncas, however, recovers from the attack and succeeds in avenging Cora’s death just before he is stabbed three more times by the blade of Magua, who is then killed by Hawkeye. The following day, Cora and Uncas are buried side-by-side in a scene that remains one of the most beautiful ever put to paper. In these two novels, the family serves as an emotional tie between reader and character. How these feelings manifest themselves depends on the psyche of the reader, but there is one thing that we can be sure of: a great novel holds remarkable power over humanity, allowing humans to feel emotions that transcend the reality of their present situation.
Cora Munro’s Sexual and Maternal Instincts in The Last of the Mohicans
Cora Munro’s relationship with her younger, fairer sister Alice demonstrates a distinct mother-daughter pattern that manifests itself in every interaction between the two women. Throughout James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans, the character of Cora continuously hides her sister’s face in her bosom as an indication of undying protection from the ravages of the American frontier. Alice depends on Cora as her champion and defender but, most unmistakably as a mother figure. Cora maintains a immutable position of motherly nurture with her sister, however, when interacting with other frontier characters, Cora shifts her style of human interaction towards a conscious understanding of her gender capacity. Though not overtly sexual, Cora does demonstrate a cognizance of female sexuality and feminine influence on various male characters. Cora does not often demonstrate motherly instinct while practicing the powers of her sex; rather, her authority particular to each sphere manifests itself during situations of great conflict and tension concerning Alice or, separately, the other surrounding male characters.The narrator refers to Cora’s motherly intuition in many instances, but most especially when Alice demonstrates a case of need or dependence. When Alice shows doubt and fear, Cora immediately rushes to protect and soothe her. Cooper writes, “For many moments the elder sister looked upon the younger, with a countenance that wavered with powerful and contending emotions. At length she spoke, though her tones had lost heir rich and calm fulness, in an expression of tenderness, that seemed maternal” (109). Cooper writes clearly of the strong bond that exists between the sisters while illustrating a power relationship that has Cora playing the role of shepherd and Alice as that of a small, helpless lamb. Moreover, Cooper repeatedly shows the character of Alice grasping onto the arm of Duncan Heywardan obvious physical need for refuge and shieldwhile Cora remains free of an explicit male bond and receives the admiration of the remaining men from afar. Alice, the weaker of the two, appeals to her sister for attention while Cora remains aloof and confident. Cooper, at many instances, describes Cora with almost beatific characteristics which heighten her esteem and power as a female character. Her motherly feelings towards Alice verge on the saintly; Cora often rises above common human sensibility and takes on the role of a martyr in the manner that a mother would for her child.Cora’s motherly instincts, however, are contrasted with her femininity and sexual command. Hawk-Eye, Uncas, Duncan and many other men look upon her as a powerful and alluring female figurea female to contend with rather than protect. When Uncas speaks to her about accompanying her during her plight, Cora says, “Go, generous young man,'” and Cooper then describes, “Cora continued, lowering her eyes under the gaze of the Mohican, and, perhaps, with an intuitive consciousness of her power” (79). Though he does not overtly indicate a knowledge of sexual power, Cooper does imply that Cora’s awareness of her sexuality and interaction with males. At another point, when Cora implores Chief Tamenund to free the captives, Coopers writes of his reaction, “Cora had cast herself to her knees, and with hands clenched in each other, and pressed upon her bosom, she remained like a beauteous and breathing model of her sex, looking up in his faded, but majestic countenance, with a species of holy reverence. Gradually, the expression of Tamenund’s features changed, and losing their vacancy in admiration, they lighted with a portion of that intelligence, which, a century before, had been wont to communicate his youthful fire to the extensive bands of the Delawares” (303). Both of Cooper’s descriptions show Cora’s usage and understanding of sex as a powerful medium of change. Her attitude during these particular interactions differ considerably from the chaste, motherly interchanges with Alice and indicate a complex character development and a dueling concept of purity and motherhood, eroticsm and sexuality.