Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML: The Last of the Mohicans is the second book in Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales pentalogy, and remains his best-known work. It is a historical novel set in the French and Indian war in New York, and centers around the massacre of surrendered Anglo-American troops. The two daughters of the British commander are kidnapped, but rescued by the last two Mohicans. The title comes from a quote by Tamanend: "I have lived to see the last warrior of the wise race of the Mohicans"..
1) His never-ending description of every
2) Native American dialogue is limited to the occasional exclamation of "Hugh." Not Hugh as in Hefner, but something more like "huh." They're a quiet people, apparently. I'm shocked they don't greet each other by saying, "How."
2 1/2) While we're on the subject, they're all stereotypes of either the noble savage variety or the "me big chief Ugh-a-Mug gotta have 'em squaw" variety. The whole thing is a racist piece of crap. And don't tell me that Cooper was reflecting the beliefs of the time because, while that may explain the racism, it doesn't explain away the crap bit.
3) Practically every speech by Hawk-eye will contain some bit of dialogue such as, "Even though white blood runs through my veins." Lest we forget he's white since he's been hobnobbing with the natives for so long.
4) Those damn women just keep getting kidnapped.
5) For an action story, it's mind-numbingly boring. To illustrate, I give you a riveting, action packed scene in which Duncan, the British officer, tries to distract le Renard Subtil (also known as Magua, also known as Wes Studi in the film) with a discussion of French etymology. Dash cunning of him, don't you think? It sure would have sucked if he had just attacked him with a knife, a gun, or even a rapier wit. Apparently Duncan's plan was to wear down his enemy with sheer boredom:
'Here is some confusion in names between us, le Renard,' said Duncan, hoping to provoke a discussion. 'Daim is the French for deer, and cerf for stag; elan is the true term, when one would speak of an elk.'
6) Everyone is known by about three or four different names, because anything less would have been confusing. Right, Coop?
7) Did I mention that it's just frickin' boring? I would rather slam my head in a car door than ever read this book again.
The best part about the book was that there were entire sections in French. For once, lack of knowledge about a foreign language has paid off! I was practically giddy with excitement when I encountered entire pages of French dialogue as it meant, mon Dieu!, I got to skip the entire page.
Mark Twain has his own opinions which I will be wise to leave to him. They can be read here, in his subtly titled Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses. If you have the time, I suggest reading it, if only because any amount of time can be spent in worse ways than reading Twain. His essay is more concerned with the rather peculiar physics that dominate the Cooperian landscape. I, slogging through the book in front of a campfire reading by lantern light, disregarded these literary conceits in self-defense, preferring to focus the greater part of my mental energies on remembering where one of the characters has been for the last fifty pages or so.
Last of the Mohicans is, by and large, an excellent story, when described to you by someone who has already read the book (or, sadly, seen the movie). Yes, the bad guy slips from the heroes fingers often enough that you assume he has a twirly mustache. Sure, it has a boat chase with canoes and the heroine gets kidnapped no less than three times. But the story’s there, and it’s interesting. It’s just a pity that Cooper has to be the one to tell it, in the sense that Cooper wrote American fiction the way that Charlotte Bronte would write a Western. Oh, the dialogue:
Hawkeye, on noticing a sniper in the trees:
"This must be looked to!" said the scout, glancing about him with an anxious eye. "Uncas, call up your father; we have need of all our we’pons to bring the cunning varment from his roost."
Duncan, in the same battle:
"That bullet was better aimed than common!" exclaimed Duncan, involuntarily shrinking from a shot which struck the rock at his side with a smart rebound.
People did not talk like this in 1757, nor did they in 1831, nor will they ever. This is because Cooper’s characters are not actually humans at all, but wound-up automatons whose sole function is to carry the story through its various settings and plot twists. Even then, the greatest potential that these twists present are wasted: the relationships between Alice and Duncan, Uncas and Cora, are glazed over, as though Cooper wasn’t interested in anything that didn’t include gunpowder. Romantic subplots have instead been persistently stuffed into the work by zealous critics, likely in attempt to give high school English teachers new ways to torture their students with subtext.
James Fenimore Cooper
This proved to more difficult of a read than I remember from high school when I read it. Maybe it is because I’ve read so many more contemporary versions and watched movies. There are several scenes were the dialogue is only in French. Sorry, I know about three words in that language. Also, so much description was placed that I’d forget what was happening in the scene.
Now, I have to admit how movies ruined Cooper’s book for me. The movie with Daniel Daye Lewis was great. I loved it. When I just reread the book, I was so disappointed because the storyline is so different. The book has Alice and Duncan in love. The move has Hawkeye and Cora. There are many other differences, but I would be spoiling the reading experience.
If you have not read the book yet, try not to see any movies on it first. It will make the experience so much more enjoyable.
Note: This book was free as a public domain piece of literature.
I'm sure other reviewers have covered the racism angle of this story more thoroughly than I wish to. I'll just say, it's there but it's not unmitigated. Chingachgook and Uncas are certainly portrayed as heroes, and the rich figurative speeches Cooper puts in the mouths of all the Indian characters is simply beautiful. Not all the white characters are good, either; Montcalm comes in for some well-deserved reproach. But overall, if you want to enjoy this you have to overlook a lot.
And it's not just the racist undertones that you have to overlook. The improbable disguises that our heroes assume, dashing in and out of hostile villages without being recognized, stretch credulity just a bit far and render the story awkward. The heroines are, of course, astonishingly beautiful and delicate females whose small feet are noted several times as a sign of pure breeding. Cora has some backbone, but she seems a little unreal.
The movie is almost unrecognizable from its source. The love interests are thoroughly mixed up, people die who survived and survive who died, and by raising Hawk-eye to such prominence over his Delaware companions, the filmmakers caused the name of the film to no longer make much sense. And what a pity there was no room for the humor of David Gamut's character! In comparing the book to the film, there's some irony to be found in Cooper's preface, in which he says, "...it is a very unsafe experiment either for a writer or a projector to trust to the inventive powers of anyone but himself." How many other authors whose works have been adapted into films could say the same? At least it has a lovely soundtrack.
I see why this tale is still read and enjoyed, and I wouldn't say no to reading more of Cooper's stories. But it's flawed.
I really enjoyed this one, and it’s the first classic I’ve dipped into for a couple of months. It’s easy to lose yourself in the 18th century American wilderness, and the characters are well fleshed out. I’ll say this for Cooper: he can write battle scenes brilliantly. Every assault by Indians, or attempt to hold a position by the heroes, was captured in a manner which got my heart pounding from paragraph to paragraph, and put the images in my head as clearly as if I were standing in the middle of that forest.
Having said that, I thought the writing style as a whole was over-descriptive. I’m more of a fan of a more minimalist style, probably as a result of reading a lot of contemporary works. When writing gets too wordy, it can become difficult to get through and less enjoyable for me. That’s probably why this book was a bit of a slog each day.
Nevertheless, I’m glad I persevered. I tried to read this book years ago, when I was about 18 or something, and gave up after about 20 pages because it just didn’t grab me. It’s been sat on my shelf since, and it was definitely worth picking up again.
The story is centred around two sisters, Cora and Alice who are the daughters of a British General. They are travelling back to meet up with their Father at one of the British trading posts when they are betrayed by an Indian guide (antagonist) who is supposed to show them they way through the wilderness. Long story short, the girls are caught and then freed and then caught again (this happens multiple times) and during this whole time, the Mohicans and their friend, the Scout (I am assuming he is British as well) who are the protagonist of the story are in constant pursuit to rescue these two damsels from the perils of their captors - the savages.
As with so many other classics that I've read in the past, the first couple of chapters are always the most laborious to read as it takes me some time to catch onto the idioms and the language that these books usually take. I often find that I am reading the same paragraphs multiple times in order to wrap my mind around what the author is trying to convey. Overall The Last of the Mohicans was a pleasant enough read. There were certain portions of the book that keep me going while other parts rather dragged (after the second rescue and capture, it got rather annoying), and my mind would start wandering. With a little dash of adventure and a smidgeon of romance, the story passed relatively quickly for the most part. If you are a lover of Classics then I would definitely give this book a chance, but otherwise, for most readers, I think time could be better spent elsewhere.
This book is so descriptive and tedious in its setting because the merciless and rugged wilderness of N. American before colonisation and
I'd recommend this book to those interested in the history of colonisation of N. American and certainly anyone interested in Native American culture and the clash between it and the white settlers. A beautiful piece of work.
The characters are well developed, believable in that larger-than-life way. There is a proper hero, a fallen woman, an epic grace to the way the story flows. War and adventure is at the forefront, and a there is a hint of travel, journey, experience. To anyone who understands why historic literature is the way it is, I recommend this four star book.
It is 1828, and Last of the Mohicans has just been published. James Fenimore Cooper scored 114 offences against literary art out of a possible 115. Up until that point no one had gotten such a terrible rating. Even though the book was “considered” to be bad, I found it to
During the 19th century the concept of family was very popular. For women it fell along the lines of, you respect your parents and you marry a rich man. Yet, this traditional concept was not an option in the book due to their location. Cora and Uncas do fall in love but the ability to change the traditional family values for either of them is simply not a possibility. In Last of the Mohicans combines the themes of family values and race and how sometimes they are not always such clear lines. What was even more interesting is the fact the family values in Europe are based upon Christianity which happened to be to a comic relief in our story.
Gamut was the identified as religious throughout novel and was constantly mocked by Hawkeye (who was a father figure for Uncas). Gamut’s concept of pre-destination was consistently put down for its ridiculousness. This shows us the religion really doesn’t have a place in the wild. The wild is its own entity and cannot be controlled by a simple faith. As our story progresses we see that things that seemed impossible, were possible with the assistance of Gamut which in turn is the reader showing us that destiny can be changed with the right assistance.
Nature also plays a big role in the development of our characters, even from the beginning to the very end. The laws of civilization and religion sometimes do not apply to the forest, and some people back them had a hard time coping with that. Nature is seen as an iron willed entity with a soul. It breaks men to its choosing a forces them to return to their natural instincts. Colonel Munro touches on how men are no longer just fighting their enemies; they are battling the terrain too. European style combat will not work in the Americas for it presents a whole new set of challenge.
So even though our author received one of the most critical ratings of his time (114/115, 115/115 being the worst), Last of the Mohicans still incorporates very important values and themes. Especially for a novel which was published in 1826.
One has to be in the proper mood to enjoy these books. A bit of romance, a bit of adventure, quite a bit of moralizing. I enjoyed them when I read them, but have no desire to read them again. I've since read enough history to realize
It's very wordy, very detailed and a story that is more about the frontier than the people. I can see how it influenced many writers but I can also see how it is disliked by many people today.
Despite my expectations, the book was pretty easy to read. There were a few times when I skimmed through, especially towards the end, but there was a lot of action and the story was interesting. It is quite different from modern books in a couple of ways. First, the dialogue. Nobody speaks like that! In fact, I doubt they ever spoke like that! Usually it was just sort of one of those things you read and don't think about, but a couple of times it actually brought me back out of the story, especially when Hawkeye would use some dialectal spelling of a word which didn't need any spelling change in the first place. So that was sometimes disconcerting.
The other major shift is the whole 'noble savage' thing. See, it starts with these two sisters who are daughters of an English - well, Scottish major, who is defending a fort from some French soldiers and Indians. They want to travel from one fort to another to meet him. They get captured, and lost, and rescued, and then arrive and a bunch more adventures ensue. They are rescued by Hawkeye and his two companions, both Mohicans. Somehow, there's all this stuff in there that translates into Bad Indian versus Good Indian. It's all pretty dated. If you ask me, none of them were all that noble! What's with all the scalping and dashing babies brains out? But Uncas and his father, the two Mohicans, were certainly more the heroic type. I just have to wonder how much of this is romanticized, and I think the answer is, most of it. It was still a good story, but I think modern readers would find it a little hard to puzzle out. I was helped a lot by sparknotes.com and their reader's guide. 3 stars because it is a good story, but it's not really told in a way that I loved.
The racial and gender views of the time are repeatedly brought forth in the narrative, and this is not just Cooper regurgitating beliefs from 100 years prior to his writing. In the preface, Cooper himself states that women should not read his book as they won't like it, it's too manly. On practically every other page, Hawkeye, while treating his two Delaware as of his own family, reminds his white companions and the reader that his blood has no cross, meaning no cross-contamination with native blood. After a dozen or so instances, it gets incredibly trying seeing it on the page again and again.
Somewhere inside is a great adventure story, but you have to get through a multitude of asides, 18th century racial philosophy that is repeatedly placed in the reader's face and a density of language beyond the usual anachronistics of early 19th century literature. It still, however, retains its place in literary history as one of the earliest examples of the American novel.