Cooper is not interested in producing simple oppositions between Indians and whites, or in drawing stereotypes. Although he classifies people by race, he also classifies them by those who respect the land and those who believe they can dominate the land. Hawkeye is a hybrid white figure who has an Indian’s sympathy for nature and a white man’s desire to introduce his own culture. Heyward does not have great knowledge of the forest, but he does have good instincts for it. Although he does not realize that the wolf’s retreating cries signify the presence of Indians, he does correctly guess that wolves have caused the screams of the horses. Heyward has a knowledge of horses, but his white man’s knowledge is ultimately irrelevant to the survival of the group. Only a figure sensitive to the rhythms of the forest, like Uncas, can keep the group safe.
Cora also defies stereotypes with her cunning and resolve. She is not the stereotypical sentimental figure of a doomed white beloved that often appeared in nineteenth-century novels. Rather, among all the group members, including the men, only Cora refuses to admit defeat. Clever and strategic, she concocts a plan that involves putting herself at risk. She likely realizes that turning herself over to the Indians, according to the rhetoric of the day, means risking rape and death, but she insists on the plan despite its dangers. However, Cooper shows the limits of women’s freedoms. Although Cora constructs the plan, which gives her control, the outlines of the plan force her to relinquish control. By turning herself over to the Iroquois, Cora leaves the control of her original protectors only to put herself under the control of a new set of men.
In his exchanges with both Heyward and Cora, Magua reveals that revenge for an offense, not arbitrary malice, motivates him. Whereas in the opening chapters Cooper presents a positive picture of interracial romance, here he depicts the kind of stereotypically evil interracial romance feared by nineteenth-century American men. While Uncas desires a loving bond with Cora, Magua wants to punish Cora, and through her punish Cora’s father. Magua also seems to understand the racism of the whites; his behavior may be seen as stemming in part from his anger at that racism. He understands that for a man like Munro, the thought of his daughter having sex with an Indian man would be an unthinkable horror. Both Hawkeye and Magua understand both Indians and whites, but while Hawkeye turns his knowledge to mutual advantage, Magua turns his to angry revenge and a provocation of more racial hatred.