Please wait while we process your payment
If you don't see it, please check your spam folder. Sometimes it can end up there.
Don’t have an account?
Create Your Account
Sign up for your FREE 7-day trial
Already have an account? Log in
Choose Your Plan
$4.99/month + tax
$24.99/year + tax
Save over 50% with a SparkNotes PLUS Annual Plan!
for a group?
Get Annual Plans at a discount when you buy 2 or more!
$18.74 /subscription + tax
Subtotal $37.48 + tax
on 2-49 accounts
on 50-99 accounts
Want 100 or more?
for a customized plan.
You'll be billed after your free trial ends.
7-Day Free Trial
Renews December 14, 2023
December 7, 2023
Discounts (applied to next billing)
This is not a valid promo code.
(one code per order)
Annual Plan - Group Discount
SparkNotes Plus subscription is $4.99/month or $24.99/year as selected above. The free trial period is the first 7 days of your subscription. TO CANCEL YOUR SUBSCRIPTION AND AVOID BEING CHARGED, YOU MUST CANCEL BEFORE THE END OF THE FREE TRIAL PERIOD. You may cancel your subscription on your Subscription and Billing page or contact Customer Support at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your subscription will continue automatically once the free trial period is over. Free trial is available to new customers only.
For the next 7 days, you'll have access to awesome PLUS stuff like AP English test prep, No Fear Shakespeare translations and audio, a note-taking tool, personalized dashboard, & much more!
You’ve successfully purchased a group discount. Your group members can use the joining link below to redeem their group membership. You'll also receive an email with the link.
Members will be prompted to log in or create an account to redeem their group membership.
Thanks for creating a SparkNotes account! Continue to start your free trial.
Your PLUS subscription has expired
The novel takes place during the third year of the French
and Indian War. The narrator explains that the land itself, populated
by hostile Indian tribes, is as dangerous as the war. The armies
do not want to battle, and the unpredictability of the terrain unnerves
them. The French general Montcalm has allied himself with several
of the Indian tribes native to America and is moving a large army
south in an attempt to take Fort William Henry from the British.
Magua, an Indian scout, intercepts the information about the impending
attack on the fort and relays it to the British General Webb, to
whom he is loyal. Webb decides to send reinforcements to Fort William
Henry to help Colonel Munro, who commands the fort. Shortly after
the reinforcements leave for Fort William Henry, Webb dispatches
the young Major Heyward to accompany Alice and Cora Munro, the colonel’s
daughters, who insist upon visiting their father. As they leave,
an Indian runner dashes by them. Alice watches him with mixed admiration
The Indian runner, whose name is Magua, agrees to guide
Heyward and the young women to Fort William Henry by means of a
shortcut known only to the Indians. Soon after they leave Fort Edward,
they meet a stranger. We later learn his name is David Gamut. Gamut
is a psalmodist, a man who worships by singing Old Testament psalms.
The mincing and dainty Gamut is out of place in the menacing forest.
He left Fort Edward and lost his way. He announces his intention
to join the group. Annoyed at Gamut’s presumption, Heyward nevertheless
shows interest in Gamut’s claim to be an instructor, and asks Gamut
if he is a mathematician or a scientist. Gamut replies humbly that
he knows only the limited insights of psalmody, the then-popular
practice of setting biblical teachings to music.
Cora is amused by the stranger. Gamut joins their party
and sings a religious song native to New England. He behaves seriously
and venerably, as though delivering a sermon, and accompanies his psalmody
with dramatic hand gestures. Magua eventually interrupts this performance,
muttering a few words to Heyward, who translates his words to the
others: they must be silent since hostile Indian tribes fill the
Major Heyward quickly and confidently scans the forest, pleased
that he sees no sign of Indians. His unfamiliarity with the forest
makes him unable to see what the trees hide, and he does not notice
a wild-eyed Indian peering out at them through the branches.
The opening two chapters of The Last of the Mohicans establish war,
both historical and imagined, as the novel’s foundation. Cooper
uses historical facts, rooting his narrative in actual, lived events in
the colonial history of the United States. However, he also roots his
narrative in his own imagined war. Cooper wants to emphasize the
tensions between mankind and the land, between natives and colonists,
and between nature and culture. He does this by using history as
a frame and filling that frame with fictional events.
Cooper’s characters illustrate the various ways that national
cultures interact. The chronology of the first two chapters foreshadows the
eventual colonial domination over the Indian frontier. In Chapter
I, friendly and hostile Indian tribes rule the terrain that so daunts the
whites. In Chapter II, Gamut gives a sophisticated biblical performance,
ignoring the Indians as he sings. Although Cooper gestures at the
eventual dominance of the whites, he also makes the white Gamut
a figure of fun. Gamut behaves prissily in the menacing forest and
then puts the lives of his companions at risk. Even Gamut’s biblical
knowledge does not dignify him; he is identified as a New England
religious psalmodist only because Magua, the Indian informant, is
familiar with psalmody. Heyward, although less foolish than Gamut,
also acquits himself badly. He has a greatly inflated sense of his
own skill and wrongly determines that no danger exists after taking
a cursory glance around the woods.
Cooper’s characters embody some of the broad stereotypes
held during the colonization of America. Racial tensions underlie The Last
of the Mohicans. At this point in the novel, Magua represents the
nineteenth-century stock figure called the noble savage, an Indian
for whom the white population feels both sympathy and horror. Whites
may celebrate Magua for his willingness to help them, but they also
fear his cultural differences and his familiarity with a terrain
they find fearsome. Cora embodies the typical white reaction to
Indians—terror and fascination. Cooper also suggests that Cora feels
a sexual attraction to Magua. Attractions like Cora’s, or even the
imagined possibility of such attractions, terrified white males, who
feared intermarriage and interracial sexual contact between Indian
men and white women. This fear of interracial contact partially
motivated the widespread removal of Native Americans during the
nineteenth century. Cooper complicates the stereotype of the white
woman attracted to the Indian man by making Cora dark, her hair
black like a raven. Cora transgresses society’s rules when she looks
at Magua with desire, but in some ways, Cooper suggests, her desire
for him seems natural.
These two chapters both begin with epigraphs from Shakespeare’s
plays—one from Richard II and the other from The
Merchant of Venice. By invoking the lofty language of Shakespeare, Cooper
announces his intention to write serious literary fiction. In the
early nineteenth century, when Cooper was writing, the American
novel was a fairly new form and its respectability uncertain. Cooper
aims to give the American novel credence by quoting Shakespeare. Richard
II chronicles the fall of a king, an appropriate subject
for The Last of the Mohicans, which depicts a society
that will one day shake off kingly rule and become democratic. The
Merchant of Venice is famous for its treatment of anti-Semitism
in the Jewish figure of Shylock; quoting from that play suggests
that the novel will explore racism.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Last of the Mohicans!