The Last of the Mohicans

by: James Fenimore Cooper

Hawkeye

Hawkeye, the protagonist of the novel, goes by several names: Natty Bumppo, La Longue Carabine (The Long Rifle), the scout, and Hawkeye. Hawkeye stars in several of Cooper’s novels, which are known collectively as the Leatherstocking Tales. Hawkeye’s chief strength is adaptability. He adapts to the difficulties of the frontier and bridges the divide between white and Indian cultures. A hybrid, Hawkeye identifies himself by his white race and his Indian social world, in which his closest friends are the Mohicans Chingachgook and Uncas.

Hawkeye’s hybrid background breeds both productive alliances and disturbingly racist convictions. On one hand, Hawkeye cherishes individuality and makes judgments without regard to race. He cherishes Chingachgook for his value as an individual, not for a superficial multiculturalism fashionably ahead of its time. On the other hand, Hawkeye demonstrates an almost obsessive investment in his own “genuine” whiteness. Also, while Hawkeye supports interracial friendship between men, he objects to interracial sexual desire between men and women. Because of his contradictory opinions, the protagonist of The Last of the Mohicans embodies nineteenth-century America’s ambivalence about race and nature. Hawkeye’s most racist views predict the cultural warfare around the issue of race that continues to haunt the United States.