The Last of the Mohicans | Study Guide

James Fenimore Cooper

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The Last of the Mohicans | Chapters 14–15 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 14

The group travels through the woods in the moonlight. Hawkeye, Heyward, and Gamut wade in a stream to cover their tracks so they won't be detected by their enemies. When they pass a "bloody pond," Hawkeye recalls battles he fought against French soldiers and explains the bodies of the dead were thrown into the pond.

As the group proceeds, they meet a French lookout. Heyward and Cora speak to the soldier in French, telling him they are taking prisoners to Montcalm. Shortly afterward, they hear a groan and the sound of a body falling into the water. They realize Chingachcook has killed the lookout and disposed of his body in the pond.

Hawkeye reports the French have surrounded Fort William Henry, so the group must take a more difficult route to reach the fort. The travelers climb to the top of a mountain from which they can see Fort William Henry and an enemy camp of ten thousand men. Fighting between the French and English has already started.

As they descend the mountain, Hawkeye lays out a plan for them to avoid danger and find their way in the thick fog rising around Lake George. When they attempt to cross enemy lines, they will follow the path a cannon ball made in the ground. At the end of the chapter, Alice hears her father's voice barking orders through the haze of gun smoke and fog. She cries out, the gates of the fort open, and the exhausted travelers are saved. At last, Cora and Alice are reunited with their father.

Chapter 15

This chapter takes place on the fifth day of the siege of Fort William Henry. A temporary truce has been called. Heyward sees a French officer returning Hawkeye to the fort, and he realizes the frontiersman had been captured while he was acting as a messenger for the British. Before Heyward reaches Hawkeye to speak to him, he encounters Cora and Alice, who thank him for all he has done to keep them safe.

Heyward meets with Munro, who reports that Webb's letter was intercepted, so he does not know what Webb plans to do. Munro has done his best to defend the fort, but food and supplies are running low, the fort's walls are damaged, and the soldiers are worried. During the temporary truce, Montcalm asks to speak with Munro, but Munro sends Heyward in his place.

When Heyward arrives in the French camp, he spots Magua. Montcalm wants to discuss the terms of surrender, but Heyward does not have the authority to accept his terms. The men play a game of cat and mouse, withholding information and exaggerating the truth. Neither gets the information he wants. Heyward returns to Fort William Henry with an invitation from Montcalm for Munro to meet with him.

Analysis

Chapter 14 gives readers additional background about Hawkeye's past. From the war stories Hawkeye tells, it is clear he is a loyal ally of the English and a brave fighter. Although the group's safe arrival at the gates is improbable, the end of the chapter does provide some welcome relief from the tension in previous chapters.

Chapter 14 also deepens the theme of savagery. The story of the "bloody pond" and Chingachgook's killing of the French lookout paint a vivid picture of war's brutality. On the other hand, Chapter 15 portrays the civility of the aristocratic Montcalm and Munro. Even in war, the two bitter foes act politely and show one another respect.

Like the temporary truce called in Chapter 15, this chapter provides the reader with a break from the suspense of intense fighting, hair-raising pursuits, and narrow escapes. As an interlude chapter, it advances the plot and develops the characters. It also shows that the two leaders, Montcalm and Munro, display as much cunning on the battlefield as Hawkeye and the Mohicans do in the forest.

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