The Last of the Mohicans | Study Guide

James Fenimore Cooper

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The Last of the Mohicans | Chapters 19–20 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 19

Hawkeye and the other men are sitting around a campfire inside the ruins of the fort. Hawkeye ponders what heaven is like. Heyward hears a suspicious noise but can't identify what caused it. Hawkeye says it is probably wolves, but then he calls on Uncas to investigate. Chingachgook and Uncas vanish, and the others hear two rifle shots. Uncas returns to the campfire after killing an Oneida warrior who has most likely mistaken them for Frenchmen. Because Oneidas are not their enemies, Hawkeye explains to Heyward the different allegiances among various tribes.

Chingachcook smokes a pipe and passes it around to the others. The men discuss what to do next. The Mohicans propose one plan, and Hawkeye proposes another. To persuade the Mohicans, Hawkeye sets out his plan using gestures rather than words to express what he thinks they should do. Afterwards, the Mohicans accept his plan, and the men fall asleep one by one.

Chapter 20

The men begin a difficult journey, taking care not to leave prints in the sand that could be tracked. The five men ride in a canoe across the lake, leaving Fort William Henry behind. After navigating through narrow channels and around many small islands, the Mohicans stop paddling because they sense danger. Heyward looks at "a lovely scene," but the Mohicans are alerted by smoke from a recent campfire. The Hurons give chase in two canoes, and after narrowly escaping, Hawkeye and the others land their canoe on the northern shore. Hawkeye and the Mohicans cleverly leave a noticeable trail into the woods to fool the Hurons. They then return to the lake by walking backwards, taking care not to leave footprints. The men paddle undetected to the western shore, land, and hide the canoe before hiking on.

Analysis

These chapters help the reader understand how several characters are alike and different. In Chapter 19, Hawkeye discusses traditional tribal connections among groups of Native Americans and attempts to sort out the various ways they are similar and different. In Hawkeye's view, colonization has caused "the confusion of nations, and even of tribes" because age-old alliances have become strained.

Another similarity among characters is reflected in their family relationships. From the playful way the two Mohicans act toward one another, the reader can discern that the loving relationship between father Chingachgook and his son Uncas is similar to the relationship between Munro and his daughters.

The theme of religion reappears in Chapter 19. Hawkeye shares his thoughts about "paradise," which he believes are similar to Native American beliefs about the afterlife. Hawkeye says, "I believe that paradise is ordained for happiness; and that men will be indulged in it according to their disposition and gifts." This is Hawkeye's way of saying a man who strives to lead a good and honest life before death will be rewarded commensurately in the afterlife.

Chapter 20 presents several thrilling chases. Hawkeye and the others pursue Magua, who has captured Cora, Alice, and Gamut. Meanwhile, the Hurons pursue Hawkeye's band across Lake George. This chapter demonstrates the superior skills that the Mohicans have in tracking, traveling in the wilderness, and piloting canoes.

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