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A fight breaks out as Hawkeye and the Mohicans attack
the Hurons, whose rifles have been set aside. In the battle, Uncas
saves Cora and Chingachgook becomes locked in hand-to-hand combat with
Magua, who escapes only by feigning his own death. Hawkeye and the
Mohicans soundly defeat the remaining Hurons and free the prisoners.
Chingachgook scalps the dead victims, while Heyward and Uncas ensure
the well-being of Cora and Alice. After Hawkeye releases Gamut,
they argue about the efficacy of prayer-song. Hawkeye cites the
pragmatic necessities of battle to urge the psalmodist to abandon
the useless weapon of the pitch pipe. Resisting Hawkeye’s logic,
Gamut responds by citing the religious doctrine of predetermination
and singing another song. Ignoring the performance, Hawkeye reloads
his rifle, and the group begins to travel northward toward Fort
William Henry. Hawkeye explains that with the brilliant aid of Uncas
he and Chingachgook succeeded in tracking the Hurons for twenty
The party travels to a ruined blockhouse where Chingachgook
and Hawkeye won a battle many years before. The memorial site spurs Hawkeye
to describe the Mohicans as the last of their tribe. The group,
with the exception of Chingachgook, sleeps until nightfall, when
sounds of nearby enemies cause alarm. The sounds they hear are made
by the Hurons, who have lost their way. Two Indians approach, but
their respect for the memorial site keeps them away. After the Hurons
depart, the group continues toward the fort.
The group treads barefoot through a stream in order to
hide its tracks. They pass a pond, and Hawkeye tells
the group it is filled with corpses of slain French soldiers. As
they near the besieged Fort William Henry, they encounter a French
sentinel. Heyward talks to him in French, distracting him while
Chingachgook sneaks up to the sentinel, kills him, and scalps him.
Firing breaks out between English troops protecting the fort and
French forces, and the crossfire puts the party in danger. Thick
fog conceals them, however, and they attempt to find their way to
the fort through the sounds of battle. The French forces pursue
them, but they arrive at the fort safely. As they enter the fort,
Colonel Munro weeps and embraces his daughters.
Five days into the siege of Fort William Henry, Heyward
discovers that the French have captured Hawkeye. Inside the fort,
Heyward sees Alice, who teases him for not seeing her and her sister
enough, and Cora, who seems distressed. Though the French forces
eventually release Hawkeye, the French leader Montcalm keeps the
letter that Hawkeye carried from General Webb. Montcalm requests
a meeting with Munro, but Munro sends Heyward in his place. The French
general urges Major Heyward to surrender, reminding him that France’s
bloodthirsty Indian allies are difficult to hold in check.
Heyward goes to find Munro, planning to report Montcalm’s
message that the English should surrender. He finds Munro idling
with his daughters. To Heyward’s surprise, Munro seems uninterested
in Montcalm’s proposal. He accuses Heyward of racism for preferring Alice
to Cora. Munro reveals that Cora and Alice have different mothers.
Cora’s mother, Munro’s first wife, was from the West Indies and
was part “Negro.” When Munro’s first wife died, he returned to Scotland
and married his childhood sweetheart. Heyward heartily denies that
he thinks less of Cora because of her mixed race, but silently he
admits his racism. Munro and Heyward return to the French encampment
to meet with Montcalm, who hands over Webb’s letter advising Munro
to surrender the fort to the French. Montcalm tells Munro that if
the English surrender, they will get to keep their arms, baggage,
and colors, and the French will ensure that the Indians do not attack
them. Munro accepts the offer and leaves Heyward to finalize the
After dawn, the English slowly file out of the fort, surrounded
by columns of solemn French soldiers and leering Indians. One of
the Indians tries to take a shawl from an Englishwoman as she passes by.
When she pulls the shawl away from him, he seizes her baby and smashes
it against the rocks. Then he sinks his tomahawk into the mother’s
skull. Magua begins yelling the frenzied Indian war whoop, and the
Indians attack the English, slaughtering them and drinking their
blood. Munro storms through the battle to find Montcalm,
ignoring even Alice’s cries for help. Magua sees Alice fainting
and hurries away with her. Cora chases after him, followed by Gamut,
who has been singing throughout the battle in order to confuse the
Indians and keep them away from the young women. As the battle abates,
the Indians begin looting the bodies of their victims.
Cooper suggests that the landscape poses real danger.
The characters have extreme difficulty traveling safely through
the frontier wilderness. Still, the group manages to meet the challenges
of nature by exploiting nature itself—they take cover under fog,
for example, and walk barefoot through the stream to hide their
tracks. The ability of the group to thwart the challenges of nature
subtly critiques Gamut’s Calvinist doctrines, which include the
belief that man’s destiny is predetermined and human action cannot
alter it. The group undermines this theory by forging its own destiny
and manufacturing improbable survivals. Calvinism is a strict form
of Protestantism derived from the teachings of French theologian
John Calvin, and it soared in popularity during the first half of
the nineteenth century. Both the masses and the literary elite followed
Calvinist teachings. Edgar Allan Poe and Herman Melville, influential writers
of the American generation following Cooper’s, embraced its fatalistic
When the party encounters the French army surrounding
the gates of Fort William Henry, the novel shifts its focus back
to the history of the French and Indian War. The siege of Fort William
Henry actually took place, and Cooper uses historical events such
as this siege to give credence to his fictional plot and its messages
about race relations.
Cooper implies that Cora’s own mixed race explains her
desire for an interracial relationship. Although Cooper opposes
racism, he makes the racist suggestion that it is more natural for
Cora to desire Uncas because of her own race, whereas it would not
be as natural for the white Alice to desire Uncas. For the most
part, however, Cooper stresses that Cora’s race ennobles her. She
straddles the divide between white and Indian culture and is far
stronger and more interesting than her sister.
Characters respond differently to the specter of interracial
love. Hawkeye, Cooper’s ideal heroic figure of the frontier, fervently opposes
racial mixing despite his own easy friendship with Indians. Munro
realizes that society condemns his marriage to a black woman, and
while he acts ashamed of his first wife by stressing the great distance
of her enslaved ancestors, he also angrily defends his wife and
his daughter. Munro accuses Heyward of racism, a charge that troubles
the latter. Although he denies his racism, Munro’s charge makes
Heyward examine himself, and he realizes that his racism goes as
deep “as if it had been ingrafted in his nature.”
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Last of the Mohicans!