The Last of the Mohicans | Study Guide

James Fenimore Cooper

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The Last of the Mohicans | Chapters 29–30 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 29

This chapter begins with the dramatic entrance of Cora, Alice, Heyward, and Hawkeye. One of the Delaware chiefs asks which man is "la Longue Carabine." Heyward arrogantly suggests the chiefs should hold a shooting contest to find out the answer. Since both Hawkeye and Heyward claim the title, the chiefs agree to a test of marksmanship so they can be sure. After a false start, Hawkeye wins the contest by hitting a hanging gourd.

After Hawkeye's identity has been proven to the Delawares, Magua recites a powerful speech about the Great Spirit and the qualities he gave to different peoples. According to Magua, the Great Spirit especially favored the Lenni Lenape, or Delawares. Persuaded by Magua, Tamenund decides that Magua may "take thine own, and depart." Hawkeye and Heyward are tied up, and Magua begins to carry Alice away. He assumes Cora will follow him, but instead Cora begs Tamenund for mercy, calling Magua's character and motivations into question and appealing to the old man's sense of decency. Tamenund, however, remains firm in his decision, so Cora tries again to make her case for leniency and asks Tamenund to let one of his own people speak.

Chapter 30

Uncas is brought before Tamenund, who decides Uncas must be treated as a traitor because he believes Uncas deserted his tribe. A chief announces Uncas will be tortured by fire, and Cora pleads with Tamenund to spare Uncas. When one of the Delawares struggles with Uncas and tears off his shirt, he sees a blue tortoise tattoo, which establishes Uncas's true identity. Tamenund recognizes Uncas and his father are descendants of an important band of warriors. "The blood of the Turtle has been in many chiefs, but all have gone back into the earth, from whence they came, except Chingachgook and his son."

Because of his heritage, Uncas asserts his superiority. He cuts Hawkeye loose and brings him before Tamenund. Uncas asks that Tamenund free all of the prisoners. Tamenund agrees to let Hawkeye, Heyward, and Alice go but rules that Magua is entitled to take Cora as his wife. To tempt Magua to release Cora, Hawkeye offers to take her place and to give Magua his famed rifle. Magua refuses these offers and leaves the Delaware village with Cora.

Analysis

Both of these chapters provide the reader with additional insights into Native American codes of conduct, laws, and social order. In Chapter 29, for example, Tamenund makes his decisions based on certain principles and laws, explaining that "Justice is the law of the Great Manitto." In Chapter 30, Tamenund says: "The Great Manitto forbids that a Delaware should be unjust." Since Tamenund is an elder of the tribe, he is given the responsibility of making important judgments. While other characters are given the opportunity to make appeals, in the end they must abide by Tamenund's decisions.

Both of these chapters also describe Native American beliefs and traditions, which are transmitted through storytelling. In Chapter 29, the reader learns about the spiritual beliefs of the Delawares through Magua's speech about the Great Spirit. In Chapter 30, Tamenund's recollections about his own past recall the history and traditions of his people. Tamenund says, "I have lived to see the tribes of the Lenape driven from their council fires, and scattered, like broken herds of deer, among the hills of the Iroquois!" These examples emphasize the importance of the oral tradition among Native American tribes.

In Chapter 30, two characters are tested by their circumstances yet rise to the occasion. Hawkeye shows his nobility by offering to take Cora's place. His heroic offer suggests he is willing to sacrifice his own life for another. Likewise, Uncas steps out of his father's shadow to reveal his potential as a powerful, honorable leader. He stands up to Tamenund and Magua, arguing for the release of his friends, and lives up to his birthright: "My race is the grandfather of nations!" He asserts the sacredness of the Turtle clan and the influence they've had on many tribes.

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