The Last of the Mohicans | Study Guide

James Fenimore Cooper

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The Last of the Mohicans | Chapters 10–11 | Summary



Chapter 10

The Iroquois search the cave thoroughly. Satisfied no one else is there, they demand to know where Hawkeye and his companions are. Magua interrogates Heyward and at first refuses to believe the three men have escaped. Once he has been persuaded, Magua and his men take the prisoners by canoe to the other side of the stream. The chief rides away on Heyward's horse with most of his warriors, while Magua and five Iroquois guard the frightened captives.

Desperate, Heyward speaks to Magua privately and tries to bribe him into delivering Cora and Alice to their father in exchange for a handsome reward. Unmoved, Magua leads the group through the woods, where Cora tries to leave clues for their rescuers. She breaks a tree branch and drops a glove to mark their path, but one of the captors gives her glove back and warns her to stop. The captors and their captives then rest at the top of a hill.

Chapter 11

The captives' horses are allowed to graze. One of the Iroquois kills a fawn, and the captors eat it raw. Magua doesn't eat the deer but sits quietly deep in thought. Heyward reminds Magua of the riches he will receive in gratitude if he returns Munro's daughters. By emphasizing Munro's deep love for his children, Heyward unwittingly gives Magua an idea of how best to punish Munro.

Magua asks to speak to Cora, and Heyward brings her to him. Cora tells Heyward to comfort her sister. Left alone with Cora, Magua explains to her why he was driven from his tribe and what happened after he turned on his own people. According to Magua, Cora's father had him whipped for drinking alcohol and going into Munro's cabin while drunk. Magua shows Cora the scars on his back from the whipping. Magua offers to let Alice return to her father if Cora will agree to marry him. Cora's refusal puts everyone's lives in jeopardy.

Magua speaks to his fellow captors, reciting the list of wrongs that have been committed against their people by their enemies. His words are intended to stir the warriors to action. Angered, they tie their captives to stakes and prepare to torture them with splinters and fire. Magua perversely asks, "What says the daughter of Munro? Her head is too good to find a pillow in the wigwam of le Renard; will she like it better when it rolls about this hill, a plaything for the wolves?"

Magua repeats his marriage proposal. Cora asks Alice whether she should accept to save her sister's life. Both Heyward and Alice are appalled by the idea, and Alice says it is better for them to die together. Enraged, Magua hurls his tomahawk at Alice, cutting off some of her hair. Heyward breaks free and attacks another Iroquois who is about to kill Alice. The Iroquois overpowers Heyward and pins him to the ground. As he is about to stab Heyward to death, he is shot dead.


The suspense grows as the plot deepens. Heyward, Gamut, Cora, and Alice are at the mercy of the villainous Magua and his fellow Hurons. Will they survive? How will they escape?

Both chapters explore the theme of shifting loyalties. In Chapter 10, Heyward attempts to bribe Magua to switch allegiances. In Chapter 11, Cora and Alice prove their bond is unbreakable when Alice refuses to let her sister sacrifice herself in order to save Alice's life. The theme of family is strong throughout the novel. The power of family bonds is used to establish a basis for the characters' motivations.

Chapter 11 introduces the reader to the motivation behind Magua's insatiable thirst for revenge. He feels he was wronged, first by the Canadians and his own tribe, and then again by Colonel Munro. The losses he has suffered, including that of a wife, help explain why he is motivated to act as he does in taking Munro's daughters captive and asking Cora to marry him.

The theme of savagery is brought into gory focus in Chapter 11. Examples of brutality include such barbarous acts as the eating of raw meat and the threat of physical torture. Such horrific imagery is played against the romantic elements of the novel to create a greater emotional punch. The cutting of a woman's hair is a religious allusion. Hair is often seen as the "crown" of women. By cutting her hair, Magua has cut her power.

Finally, Chapter 11 brings up another aspect of the theme of racial prejudice. Throughout the novel, the characters deal with the issue of miscegenation, or interracial marriage. The idea of people from different races marrying was unacceptable to European settlers in 1826, which is why Magua's proposal elicits such disgust from Cora, Alice, and Heyward.

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