Monday, September 24, 2007
The Last of the Mohicans
James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851)
This 1826 romantic novel is way better than I thought it would be. I remember when the movie came out in 1992; I never saw the Daniel Day Lewis flick but I have a hard time imagining him as Hawkeye. The French and Indian war is the setting for LOTM. The main characters are a multicultural mix of two English men, two English sisters, two Mohicans, and one English woodsman. Once the characters get in the woods the English skills are made worthless and they are constantly saved by Native smarts. Uncas and Hawkeye are the two most interesting characters. Uncas is the last descendant of the Mohicans, a tribe of skilled warriors who's last two members have befriended Hawkeye a white man without a cross. After the English group is betrayed by Magua, a Mingo (a derogatory term describing Mag's group of Iroquois) they fall in with Chingachgook (dad), Uncas (son) and Hawkeye. The English, David (Singer) Alice, Cora (sister daughters of and English commander) and Duncan, an overachieving young officer.
They begin a hide and seek with both the enemy Indians and the enemy French. This episode repeats several times. The small group manages to narrowly escape trouble time after time before getting to the English fort just in time for a devastating battle. Cora, Alice and David are captured by Magua. The rest of the novel is the chase and rescue of these characters. Hawkeye and Uncas are captured in the chase and look like they're in big trouble. Cora makes a stand and refused to go any farther with Magua. One of Mag's buddies goes ahead and kills Cora in an emotional scene. There ensues a was between the Deleware and the Iriquois. Uncas is killed by Magua seconds before Hawkeye picks off Mags with kildeer, his trusty rifle. The book ends with a sad and unifying funeral with Cora and Uncas.
Race and gender are prime themes in LOTM. The Indians are portrayed as skillful, but far from "civilized". The whites are civilized but are really worthless when not in their element. They seem to understand that they worship the same God. Hawkeye is the man stuck in the middle. He has characteristics of both sides and seems to be the ideal man to deal with all the situations that come up. The English females are real characters who have personalities and can think. The Native American women are present but vacuous. More animal than human, Cooper pays little heed to their thoughts and actions.
Although the language of the characters is a little florid at times, the action is non-stop.
Rating 10/10: A great read, a piece of American history, and action adventure. Good Stuff.