The Last of the Mohicans | Study Guide

James Fenimore Cooper

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The Last of the Mohicans | Chapters 6–7 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 6

Heyward, Cora, Alice, and the singer are escorted through dark passages into a deep limestone cavern. Hawkeye offers the travelers food and a place to sit. While Uncas serves the women venison and water, Hawkeye remains vigilant.

Hawkeye talks to the singer and finds out his name—David Gamut—and his occupation of teaching sacred songs to young people in Connecticut. Hawkeye thinks Gamut's work is impractical, saying, "'Tis a strange calling!"

Gamut, Alice, and Cora sing hymns Hawkeye remembers from his childhood. During one hymn, the singers are interrupted by an eerie cry. After Hawkeye suggests everyone get a good night's rest, Heyward and the women prepare to sleep. Again, they hear a mysterious, piercing cry.

Chapter 7

The entire group goes outside in the dark to investigate the source of the cry. According to Heyward, it is the sound a horse makes when frightened. Hawkeye and the two Mohicans guess it is likely wolves are threatening the travelers' horses. Before Uncas can scare away the wolves, the group hears a long howl. It sounds to them as if the wolves have been driven off. Hawkeye cautions the group to remain quiet, because he believes the group may be facing danger from a sneak attack. All but Hawkeye and the Mohicans sleep.

Before dawn, Hawkeye wakes Heyward and tells him it is time to leave. After Heyward wakes Cora and Alice, an "infernal din" of bloodcurdling war whoops suddenly fills the air. From across the stream, a band of Iroquois warriors fire on the travelers, wounding Gamut. Heyward rescues the unconscious Gamut and places him in the cave with the Munro sisters.

In the meantime, Hawkeye, Chingachgook, and Uncas get ready for the next assault. They spot five attackers drifting down the river. One of the Iroquois drowns in the falls. Hawkeye shoots and kills another, and Uncas kills a third. In hand-to-hand combat, Heyward and Hawkeye struggle with the remaining pair of attackers. Hawkeye kills one, and Uncas saves Heyward's life by killing the fifth man.

Analysis

The symbol of the cave in Chapter 6 represents safety and security. The womb-like cavern protects the vulnerable party from both predatory wild animals and from attacks by Iroquois warriors. In contrast, the beautiful description of the waterfall in this chapter evokes the chaos and disorder that is part of life. From Hawkeye's description, the reader understands that such randomness plays an important role in life and is part of a larger plan. "After the water has been suffered to have its will for a time, like a headstrong man, it is gathered together by the hand that made it, and a few rods below you may see it all, flowing on steadily towards the sea, as was foreordained from the first foundation of the 'arth!" Man, just like the water, may do as he pleases, but eventually must follow a predestined path.

Chapter 6 addresses the theme of religion. It contrasts the religious convictions of Gamut with those of Hawkeye, who calls himself "a man without a cross" because he is not a practicing Christian. In addition, this chapter sets up Gamut as a comic foil or opposite to Hawkeye. Gamut is portrayed as eccentric, clueless, and delicate, whereas Hawkeye is practical, knowledgeable, and rugged. It's also important to note Gamut is a Calvinist—a member of a Protestant sect that believes in the plan God has for each of us, or predestination. The manner in which Hawkeye mocks Gamut and his religion suggests Cooper did not value religion or find it fitting for the European settlers to force their religious ideas on Indian tribes. Cooper may also have been making a political statement that the New World needed to be founded on practical ideals, not religious ones.

Chapter 7 further develops the characters and their roles within the novel. For example, Cooper compares the skills of Hawkeye and the two Mohicans to Heyward's skills. Heyward is a competent and courageous person, yet he is vulnerable to forces are beyond him. Although Heyward is a trained soldier, he falls asleep while keeping watch. He also misjudges Magua's honesty and integrity. It is clear the more experienced woodsmen would never make such mistakes.

Finally, Chapter 7 advances the plot by demonstrating the perils of the journey and by heightening the suspense. From the events at the end of the chapter, it is clear the group of travelers is in a perilous situation and must contend with the constant threat of attack. Despite their victory over the Iroquois attackers, Hawkeye, Chingachcook, Uncas, and Heyward will have their hands full trying to save the rest of the group from future attacks.

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