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On the third day after the surprise attack, Hawkeye, the
Mohicans, Munro, and Heyward approach the besieged ramparts, which
still smoke with fire and smell of death. Cora and Alice remain
missing, and the men desperately seek for signs of life. They find
no apparent signals or codes. When they begin looking for a trail,
Uncas discovers part of Cora’s green riding veil. Other clues lead
the men to the former location of the horses, and they conclude
that the girls, accompanied by Magua and Gamut, have gone into the
wilderness. Heyward wants to pursue them immediately, but Hawkeye
insists upon careful deliberation and planning. Munro, depressed
by his daughters’ disappearance, is apathetic.
The group spends the night around a fire in the desolate
ruins of the fort. They eat bear meat for dinner. Looking out at
the lake, Heyward hears noises. Uncas explain that wolves are prowling
nearby. Hawkeye is pondering the meaning of paradise when he hears another
sound. Uncas goes to investigate, and the group hears a rifle shot.
Chingachgook follows his son, and those left behind hear a splash
of water and another rifle shot. Chingachgook and Uncas return calmly.
When Heyward asks what happened, Uncas shows him the scalp of an
Oneida. After discussing the plan for the next day, the group falls
Hawkeye convinces the others to head north across a lake.
As they travel across the lake in a light canoe, they are spotted
and soon tailed by Huron canoes. The group’s superior
paddling tactics enable them to outpace their enemies, and Hawkeye
manages to wound one pursuer with Killdeer, his long-range rifle.
Upon reaching the northern shore, the men move eastward in an attempt
to deceive the enemy. Carrying the canoe on their shoulders, they
leave an obvious trail through the woods and end up at a large rock.
Then they retrace their steps, stepping in their own footprints
until they reach the brook and paddle to safety on the western shore.
They hide the canoe and rest for the pursuit that will continue
the next day.
Uncas finds a trail, and the men follow it, hoping it
will lead them to the women. The trail peters out and the party
nearly gives up hope, but Uncas manages to divert the course of
a small stream, revealing a hidden footprint in the sand bed. According
to Hawkeye, the footprint indicates that Magua abandoned the horses
upon reaching Huron territory. The men reluctantly enter
the enemy territory and travel past a beaver pond, whose dams Heyward
mistakes for Indian wigwams. An Indian appears in the forest. Ready
for battle, Hawkeye nearly kills the Indian but soon recognizes
the stranger as Gamut, painted as an Indian with only a scalping
tuft of hair on his head.
As Hawkeye laughs at Gamut’s Indian paint and shaved head,
the psalmodist tells the men that Magua recently separated Alice
and Cora. Magua has sent Alice to a Huron camp and Cora to a Delaware
settlement; he has released Gamut only because the Indians thought
he was insane after they heard his religious singing. Gamut and
Heyward decide to secretly inform the women that they will soon
be rescued. Chingachgook disguises Heyward as a clown, since Heyward’s
knowledge of French can help him to pass as a juggler from Ticonderoga.
Heyward and Gamut proceed to the camp of the Hurons, while Uncas
and Hawkeye travel to find Cora in the Delaware camp. At the Huron
camp, Gamut and Heyward see strange forms rising from the grass.
When they approach the tents, they realize the strange forms are
just children at play.
The village usually has no guards, but the whooping of
the children draws the attention of the warriors. Heyward pretends
to be a French doctor and attempts to pacify the Hurons, who believe
the French forces abandoned them. A group of Hurons returns with
a prisoner and several human scalps. The Huron elders force the
prisoner to run a race against the tribe’s warriors in order to
escape. Though the prisoner runs speedily, the Hurons outnumber
him, and he wins only because Heyward trips one of his pursuers.
Suddenly, Heyward recognizes the breathless prisoner as Uncas. Meanwhile, in
the main lodge, the father of the man who captured Uncas condemns
his son for cowardice and stabs him in the heart.
In these chapters, Cooper ponders the moral significance
of the massacre. Cora and Alice do not appear in these chapters,
and Cooper temporarily turns away from the sentimental concerns
of love and marriage to write about the acts of physical violence
that men perpetrate against one another. Cooper condemns the interracial
violence that occurs at the fort, using the distress of the characters
to show his own distress. He absents the religious man Gamut from
the scenes, which suggests that Cooper does not oppose unprovoked violence
on religious grounds but on absolute moral grounds. No matter the
time, place, or creed, the slaughter of a woman and child is wrong.
Cooper condemns those who practice violence rashly and
praises those who remain calm and murder only because necessity
demands it. When Heyward, Munro, and Uncas desire immediate retribution,
they threaten to repeat the very brutal hastiness for which they condemn
the Hurons. The measured deliberation of Chingachgook and Hawkeye
counterbalances the dangers of rash action. Heyward acts like an
eager, bloodthirsty schoolboy when he excitedly theorizes about
the noises he hears and asks to know what happened. Cooper contrasts
his yipping with the calm and sobriety of Chingachgook and Uncas,
who display the scalps of their murder victims without pride or
excitement. They had to kill in order to save their lives and their
friends’ lives, but they did so carefully, without allowing bloodlust
or excitement to overwhelm them.
Cooper takes great liberties with historical events to
make his villains seem more villainous and his heroes more heroic.
Cooper fabricates the idiocy of the Hurons in order to make them
unappealing. In Chapter XXII, Heyward poses as a clown and successfully
impersonates a French doctor. Because the Hurons fall for this ruse,
they appear foolish. Cooper satirizes the Indians for failing to
distinguish between the science and recreation of white culture.
But Cooper’s ridicule is not malicious; it stems from his attempt
to make his narrative more riveting, to give his readers a group
against whom they can root.
The disguises that fill these chapters suggest the novel’s
debt to traditional romances. The British Romantic age began officially with
the 1798 publication of Lyrical Ballads by
William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, but the techniques
of romance—including comedy, burlesque, exaggeration, and disguise—date
back to the medieval period and the fabliaux of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury
Tales. Romantic writing of the nineteenth century emphasizes
imagination over reason. Although Cooper grounds his novel in historical
events, imagination dictates the course of the plot.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Last of the Mohicans!