The Last of the Mohicans
The pale-faces are masters of the earth, and the time of the red-men has not yet come again. My day has been too long.
Summary: Chapter XXX
Uncas appears before Tamenund. Uncas is serene, confident in his identity as a Delaware descendant. However, when Uncas insults Magua by calling him a liar, Tamenund reacts angrily, instructing the warriors to torture Uncas by fire. One of the warriors tears off Uncas’s hunting shirt, and the assembled Indians stare with amazement at a small blue tortoise tattooed on Uncas’s chest. The old man Tamenund seems to think the tattoo shows that Uncas is a reincarnation of Tamenund’s grandfather, a legendary Indian also named Uncas, who was famed for his valor during Tamenund’s youth. Tamenund releases Uncas immediately, and Uncas in turn frees Hawkeye. Uncas uses his newfound power to convince the Delawares that Magua has maliciously deceived them. In response, Magua insists that he deserves to retain his prisoners. Tamenund asks Uncas for his opinion, and Uncas reluctantly admits that although Magua should release most of his prisoners, Cora is his rightful prisoner. Magua flees with Cora, refusing Hawkeye’s offer to die in her place even when Hawkeye offers to throw Killdeer, his rifle, into the bargain. The others, now unable to stop the villainous Huron because of Tamenund’s ruling, vow to pursue him as soon as an appropriate time has passed.
Summary: Chapter XXXI
Uncas stares longingly after Cora as Magua drags her away. After retreating to his lodge to consider an appropriate plan of action, Uncas emerges to initiate a war ritual dedicated to the god Manitou, or Great Spirit. This dance and war song center around a young pine tree, stripped of its bark and painted with red stripes. Uncas and the Delawares ferociously attack the tree, which represents the enemy. Meanwhile, Hawkeye sends a young boy to find his hidden rifles. Hurons shoot at and wound the boy on his return to the camp, revealing their proximity to the Delawares. Uncas and Hawkeye plan retribution against the Hurons, assuming the command of twenty warriors apiece. As Uncas and Hawkeye hold a whispering council in the forest, Gamut reappears, still dressed in his Indian disguise. The startled Hawkeye mistakes him yet again for a Huron and nearly shoots him. Gamut tells the men that Magua has stashed Cora in a cave near the Huron camp. Hawkeye announces a plan: he will lead his men to rendezvous with Chingachgook and Colonel Munro at the beaver pond, and then they will defeat the Huron warriors and rescue Cora. The men decide how to carry out the plan using signals and specific duties in the forest.
Summary: Chapter XXXII
As the group approaches the stream near the peaceful beaver pond, the sound of gunfire erupts, and a mortally wounded Delaware drops to the ground. The Hurons have tracked the forces led by Hawkeye and Uncas. A battle ensues, and Hawkeye and Uncas’s men manage to defeat the Hurons. As the fighting winds down, Magua retreats to the Huron village. He and two Huron companions slip into the cave where Magua has hidden Cora. Hawkeye, Uncas, Gamut, and Heyward pursue them closely.
The Hurons drag Cora along a passage leading up the mountainside. Uncas and Hawkeye drop their heavy rifles in order to move more quickly. The Hurons reach a precipice, and Cora refuses to continue. Magua threatens to kill her with his knife, but he does not know whether he wants to kill her or marry her. Just as Uncas succeeds in leaping from a ledge and landing at Cora’s side, one of the Hurons loses his patience and stabs Cora in the heart. Enraged, Magua leaps at his ally but reaches Uncas first and stabs him in the back. Wounded yet defiant, Uncas kills the Huron who stabbed Cora. Magua slashes Uncas three more times and kills him at last.
Gamut strikes Magua’s other companion with a rock from his sling. Magua attempts to escape by leaping from the precipice across a wide fissure, but he falls short. He just manages to grab a shrub, which keeps him from plunging to his death. As Magua pulls himself back onto the mountainside, Hawkeye shoots him. Magua stares furiously at his enemies before plummeting to his death at the bottom of the ravine.
Summary: Chapter XXXIII
The next morning, the Delawares mourn their dead. Munro holds Cora’s body, and Chingachgook stares sorrowfully at his dead son. Tamenund gives a wise speech, and a ritualistic chanting honors the dead. The Delaware maidens chant that Uncas and Cora will be together in the Happy Hunting Ground, and Chingachgook offers the song of a father for his fallen son. After the group buries Cora, Munro asks Hawkeye, who speaks the Delaware language, to convey to the Indians two hopes: that God will not forget the Delawares’ kindness and that they will one day be together in a place where race and skin color are irrelevant. Hawkeye, however, proclaims that these sentiments are inappropriate and simply thanks the Delawares for their bravery. The white characters depart without Hawkeye, and Uncas undergoes a proper burial according to Delaware custom. Chingachgook laments that he is now alone, but Hawkeye argues that Uncas has merely left him for a time. Tamenund says he has lived to see the last warrior of the race of the Mohicans.
Uncas emerges as a hero in Chapter XXX, counteracting Magua’s false claims to leadership in earlier chapters. Hawkeye acts as a father figure for Uncas in several chapters, and here it seems that Hawkeye has passed on to his surrogate son his qualities of leadership and charisma. Cooper suggests that the natural landscape spawns familial bonds that move beyond the constraints of genetic relationship. Also, Hawkeye and Uncas’s father-son bond works in a crudely practical way, since Chingachgook disappears from the plot during the preceding chapters, effectively leaving Uncas without a father figure. Hawkeye is a useful father figure for Uncas, since Hawkeye moves easily between Indian and white cultures. It is Hawkeye, the hybrid white and Indian, who orchestrates the plan for reuniting Cora, the white, and Uncas, the Indian. Cora is not just a blank stereotype who must be saved according to the conventions of sentimental heroism; for Hawkeye, she is his surrogate son’s beloved. The search for Cora becomes personal and familial because of Hawkeye’s bond with Uncas.
Uncas demonstrates a willingness to play on other Indians’ belief in the supernatural. For example, Uncas exploits Tamenund’s belief that Uncas is a reincarnation of his grandfather. Even though Uncas uses mysticism to his tactical advantage, Cooper suggests that the mystical beliefs of Tamenund have some truth. Only after Tamenund identifies Uncas as a leader does Uncas initiate the war ritual and begin to command troops of Indians. Uncas becomes a true leader, but Magua cannot lead despite his continual attempts to gain control. While Magua attempts to win over the Delawares through oratory and racist taunting, his words do not sway the Delawares for long. He has neither the physical prowess of Hawkeye nor the spiritual blessing of Tamenund. Magua tries too hard, and he loses to men who fall gracefully, almost accidentally, into their leadership roles.
The conclusion of The Last of the Mohicans ties together the strands of the sentimental novel and the frontier adventure. In a satisfying conclusion to the adventure narrative, the forces of good defeat the evil Magua. In a sad but artistically satisfying ending, the stars of the sentimental novel die. Cora and Uncas meet an unsurprising fate, in some ways. Readers of sentimental novels depended on dramatic, tear-jerking endings. Cora and Uncas suffer the tragic fate of doomed love, while Alice and Heyward, the conventional white lovers, will live happily ever after. Perhaps Cooper gives greater narrative dignity to Cora and Uncas by dooming them to death; perhaps he implies that they must die because their backward society cannot accept their love; or perhaps he suggests that they die because different races should not mix.
Cooper’s own position on interracial romance is ambiguous, for he offers little editorial commentary on the subject. However, Cooper’s hero Hawkeye opposes interracial marriage, and as hero he might serve as a mouthpiece for the author’s own views. When the Delawares optimistically chant that Cora and Uncas will be together in the afterlife, Hawkeye demonstrates his obsession with racial purity by “[shaking] his head like one who knew the error of their simple creed.”
The novel ends with compassionate pessimism about race relations. Munro wants to express a hope that white and Indians will one day meet in a place where skin color no longer matters, but Hawkeye says that to suggest racial equality to the Delawares is to contradict nature. It is like telling them that the sun does not shine in the daytime. His words are ambiguous. They might be the assertion of a racist man who does not believe in equality, or they might be the defeated words of a realist who knows that these Delawares will never know racial equality in their lifetime.
Tamenund meditates on the decline of the Mohican tribe, reminding us of the title’s significance. In his death, Uncas brings together the sentimental novel and the frontier adventure. The sentimental novel requires tragic love, and Uncas was predetermined to die for his passion. At the same time, in the frontier adventure Uncas plays the symbolic role of vanishing native. With him, Cooper explores genocidal white power and its capability to wipe out Indian populations. The murder of Uncas, the last member of his tribe, foreshadows the destruction of Indian culture by the advances of European civilization across North America.
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