There is reason in an Indian, though nature has made him with a red skin!
The narrator shifts the focus of attention from Magua and his party to another group of people in another part of the forest, a few miles west by the river. We meet the remaining primary characters: Hawkeye, a white hunter, and Chingachgook, his Mohican ally. Though both men are hunters, they dress differently. Hawkeye wears a hunting shirt, a skin cap, and buckskin leggings; he carries a knife, a pouch, and a horn. Chingachgook is almost naked and covered in war-paint. Both men carry weapons. Hawkeye carries a long rifle, and Chingachgook carries a short rifle and a tomahawk. They discuss the historical developments that have caused them to both inhabit the same forest. Hawkeye proclaims his inheritance of a genuine and enduring whiteness, and Chingachgook laments the demise of his tribe of Mohicans. Of the Mohican tribe, only Chingachgook and his son remain. At this mention of the diminishing tribe, Chingachgook’s son Uncas appears and reports that he has been trailing the Maquas, the Iroquois enemies of the Mohicans. When the antlers of a deer appear in the distance, Hawkeye wants to shoot the animal, but then realizes that the noise of the rifle will draw the attention of the enemy. In the place of the long rifle, Uncas uses an arrow to kill the deer. Shortly thereafter, Chingachgook detects the sound of horses approaching.
[T]he worst enemy I have on earth, and he is an Iroquois, daren’t deny that I am genuine white.
Heyward and his party encounter Hawkeye. When Hawkeye questions the group, Heyward and Gamut explain that their guide, Magua, has led them away from their desired destination. Hawkeye finds this explanation suspicious, because he does not believe that an Indian could be lost in the forest that is his home. He thinks his suspicions are justified when he learns that Magua is a Huron. Hawkeye describes the Huron tribe as untrustworthy, unlike the Mohican or Delaware tribes. After learning that Heyward is the major of the 60th regiment of the king at Fort William Henry, Hawkeye considers punishing Magua for treachery. Though Hawkeye considers shooting Magua on the spot, so that the traitor will not accompany the party to Fort William Henry, Heyward opposes that violence. Instead of shooting Magua, Heyward approaches him while Chingachgook and Uncas surround him. So that Magua will not suspect the plot to capture him, Heyward engages Magua in conversation. As they talk, Magua discloses the name he prefers: Le Renard Subtil (The Subtle Fox). Magua feels suspicious of Heyward, but eventually he warms to him and agrees to sit and eat. Sounds in the forest make Magua agitated, and Heyward dismounts and makes a move to capture the guide. Magua cries out and darts away from Heyward just as Chingachgook and Uncas emerge from the thickets and give chase. Hawkeye, meanwhile, fires his rife toward the escaping Huron.
A Mingo is a Mingo, and God having made him so, neither the Mohawks nor any other tribe can alter him.
Whereas Cooper uses epigraphs from Shakespearean plays to frame his first two chapters, he uses an American epigraph to begin Chapter III, quoting from William Cullen Bryant’s poem “An Indian at the Burial-Place of His Fathers.” Cooper uses Shakespearean quotations to justify The Last of the Mohicans as a literary project of high culture, and he uses the Bryant poem to ground his novel in the contemporary concerns of the young American republic. Cooper’s nineteenth-century readers would have interpreted Bryant’s poem as a reflection on the tensions between an expanding national culture and a diminishing Native American population. Writing in the 1820s, Cooper captures the nation’s divided sentiments about President Andrew Jackson’s “removal policies,” which sought to move Indian groups westward and resulted in widespread genocide. The Last of the Mohicans speaks of the growing strength of the American spirit. However, the novel does not just cheer America; its title sparks associations with Jackson’s genocidal policies. Cooper also uses the French and Indian War as a metaphor for the contemporary warfare that some feel the United States wages against Native American cultures.
Chapter III introduces the interracial friendship of Hawkeye and Chingachgook and shows how their racial histories differ. Hawkeye insists on the thorough whiteness he has inherited, and Chingachgook and his son represent the end of the Mohican line. Despite their difference in race, however, Hawkeye and Chingachgook are friends. In fact, theirs is the novel’s first and strongest friendship, and with it Cooper suggests that whites and Indians are not necessarily natural enemies. According to literary critic Leslie Fiedler, the interracial friendship of Hawkeye and Chingachgook establishes a pattern of interracial male bonding that recurs throughout nineteenth-century American literature. Other interracial friendships include that of Huck Finn and Jim in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and that of Ishmael and Queequeg in Moby-Dick. Hawkeye and Chingachgook challenge the separation of white and Indian cultures that was politically and socially enforced at the time Cooper’s novel was published.
The conflict between Magua, the Huron, and his Mohican enemies in Chapter IV shows that The Last of the Mohicans does not characterize all Indians as identical in personality, as did many contemporary stereotypes. The Indians’ personas vary greatly, and the history of tension between Hurons and Mohicans suggests the complexity and variety of Native American cultures. At the same time, though, Cooper’s portrayal of Magua accords with popular, phobic beliefs of his time. The Last of the Mohicans thus both satisfies popular beliefs and seeks to challenge them. If Cooper falls back on broad stereotypes in depicting some Indian characters, it is perhaps not racism that is at stake here, but style, for Cooper creates similarly stereotypical white characters as well.
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