The Last of the Mohicans | Study Guide

James Fenimore Cooper

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The Last of the Mohicans | Chapters 4–5 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 4

The group traveling to Fort William Henry encounters Hawkeye and the others. Hawkeye insists they are lost, but Heyward defends Magua and says the scout knows the best way to get to the fort. Hawkeye continues to dispute the route Magua has taken and volunteers to guide the group back to Fort William Henry, which is just an hour away.

Heyward finally confesses that he does not completely trust Magua and admits he is suspicious that Magua has deliberately led them astray. Hawkeye and Heyward talk about what to do and finally set upon a plan: Heyward will distract Magua, and Uncas and Chingachgook will capture him. Instead, however, Magua runs off into the woods followed by Chingachgook and Uncas. Chapter 4 ends with the sound of a rifle shot as the "treacherous companion" flees.

Chapter 5

A wounded Magua has escaped capture. Uneasy about being in the woods at night, Heyward worries he won't be able to protect Munro's daughters. He offers to pay Hawkeye and the two Mohicans to guide his party to Fort William Henry. Although Hawkeye refuses the money, he resolves to keep the travelers safe, under two conditions: he makes Heyward promise to be perfectly quiet and to never reveal the hiding place where they will spend the night. Heyward agrees: "I will do my utmost to see both these conditions fulfilled."

After learning about the change of plans, the rest of the travelers dismount from their horses. Hawkeye directs Uncas to kill the singer's noisy colt because it threatens their safety and to tie up the rest of their horses by the river. Heyward, Alice, Cora, and the singer ride in a canoe Hawkeye had hidden while Hawkeye pilots it to the foot of Glenn's Falls.

The passengers land on a flat rock and wait while Hawkeye returns to get the Mohicans and their venison. At the end of the chapter, Hawkeye and the two Mohicans vanish into a hidden crack in the cliffs.

Analysis

Shifting loyalties is one of the novel's themes. Chapter 4 shows how shifting allegiances in times of war make it difficult for people to trust one another. For example, Hawkeye is wary of Magua, calling him a thief and exclaiming, "I knew he was one of the cheats as soon as I laid eyes on him!" On the other hand, Magua is wary of Hawkeye and the Mohicans and bolts at the first sign of trouble.

In Chapter 5, Cooper also develops another major theme, racial prejudice. Hawkeye says, "No, give me a Delaware or a Mohican for honesty," as well as, "A Mingo is a Mingo, and God having made him so, neither the Mohawks nor any other tribe can alter him." His responses to Magua are based on racial stereotypes that equate dishonesty with an entire group of people rather than on his first-hand knowledge of Magua's character.

In Chapter 5, the reader encounters illustrations of the violence of war. The wounding of Magua and the sacrificial killing of Gamut's colt reflect the cruelty that marks times of war. In contrast, Cooper shows the humanity of Hawkeye and the Mohicans by having them agree to help the four stranded travelers out of kindness and a concern for their well-being.

In this chapter, the personalities and traits of some of the characters are more fully developed. For example, Cooper reveals Hawkeye's softer side, portraying him as sympathetic to Gamut's grief over the loss of his colt.

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