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Cooper makes Alice’s behavior in the cavern conform to the stereotype of the weak, emotional woman. Alice’s fragility inspires Heyward to declare his feelings for her, which suggests that in sentimental novels at least, men find feminine weakness sexually attractive. In sentimental novels, characters frequently demonstrate their love by performing a rescue. Heyward conforms to the sentimental model when he rescues Alice. Heyward and Alice typify the romantic pairing of sentimental novels: the brave, manly hero and his weak, lovely lady. While Cooper includes a stereotypical couple, he also breaks with the all-white world of sentimentality. He invites the reader to enjoy the adventures of Heyward and Alice but to develop greater admiration for their counterparts, Uncas and Cora. Despite their kindness and good intentions, Heyward and Alice are disempowered by their unfamiliar surroundings. In contrast, Uncas and Cora are brave, complicated, and dignified characters.
Although Hawkeye drops out of the plot for chapters at a time, he always reemerges at pivotal moments to affirm his position as hero of the novel. He occasionally pops into view like a cartoon superhero, whipping off his bear head to reveal himself or demonstrating outrageous shooting skills in a contest. Hawkeye looks even more impressive in the shooting contest in contrast to the well-meaning Heyward, who cannot quite find his footing in this strange and unfamiliar forest.
Cooper emphasizes the differences between Hawkeye, the hero, and Magua, the villain. Hawkeye proves his heroism through action, but Magua uses language to effect his villainy. Despite their differences, however, Hawkeye and Magua share some traits. Just as Hawkeye bursts onto the scene after disappearances, Magua slinks back, reappearing even after he is thought dead. One of his surprise entrances occurs in Chapter XXV, when at the pivotal moment he announces his presence with a sinister chuckle.
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