The Last of the Mohicans | Study Guide

James Fenimore Cooper

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The Last of the Mohicans | Chapters 2–3 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 2

Several main characters are introduced by name. Alice Munro talks to Major Duncan Heyward about Magua, the Native American scout who is guiding her and her sister, Cora, to Fort William Henry so they can visit their father. Alice dislikes Magua, but Heyward offers assurances that he can be trusted.

As the travelers proceed, an odd-looking stranger joins them. The man, a teacher of religious songs, asks if he may accompany them to the fort. Heyward agrees, and the stranger entertains them with a song. After Magua speaks to Heyward, the officer cautions the stranger to remain quiet so he will not alert their enemies. Unbeknownst to Heyward and the Munro sisters, they are being watched as they make their way through the forest.

Chapter 3

The narrator describes two men talking by the banks of a stream. Hawkeye, a white man, and Chingachgook, a Mohican chief, share their backgrounds, traditions, and family stories. According to Chingachgook, the Iroquois are enemies of the Mohicans because they tried to steal from them. The chief says his people were happy until the Dutch gave them alcohol and took their land.

Chingachgook's son, Uncas, joins the two men and reports he has seen a small group of Iroquois in the woods. Chingachgook asks Hawkeye to help them fight the Iroquois. Hawkeye agrees and advises them to eat and sleep so they will be ready for battle. Hawkeye spots a deer and is about to shoot it for food when Chingachgook, like Magua in Chapter 2, cautions him not to make noise that will alert their enemy. After Uncas quietly shoots the buck with a bow and arrow, the men hear the sound of horses approaching.

Analysis

Chapter 2 introduces the reader to Alice and Cora Munro, Major Heyward, and Magua. An unnamed singing teacher is also introduced.

Through the characters' frequent references to safety and trust, Cooper creates a mood of suspense and apprehension. All of them, except perhaps Magua, are anxious about the unknown as they set out on their journey through the forest.

In the second chapter, Cooper foreshadows major conflicts in the plot. Will Munro and his daughters be reunited safely? Can Magua be trusted? This is where the reader begins to see the major themes of prejudice and racism emerge. Clear stereotypes of whites and Indians comes across, although they are not universally applied. The English have a hierarchy of trust that applies to certain tribes. Within and between the Indian tribes the reader sees prejudice as well. A foreshadowing of Magua's true character is set up by Alice's dislike and distrust.

In Chapter 3, the rest of the main characters—Hawkeye, Chingachgook, and Uncas—are introduced. The reader begins to find out what each man is like and what experiences each has had. Chingachgook explains that Uncas is "the last of the Mohicans" because he is the last full-blooded member in the Mohican tribe.

In this chapter, Cooper continues to develop the theme of culture clashes. He shows Native Americans and whites have different cultures through the conversations between Hawkeye and Chingachgook as they compare their traditions and experiences. Also, the friendship between Hawkeye and the two Mohicans represents another theme. Their close bond is an example of relationships between different races. The hierarchy of the "good" versus "bad" Indians also begins to become apparent to the reader. Some of the Indian tribes are characterized as engaging in "savage" immoral behavior, whereas Uncas and the Mohicans are more "noble" and therefore worthy of the English friendship.

Chapter 3 ends with the ominous sounds of a cracking stick and moving bushes. This suspenseful event foreshadows the beginning of the pursuit-capture-rescue pattern, which is central to the structure of the novel.

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