The Last of the Mohicans | Study Guide

James Fenimore Cooper

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The Last of the Mohicans | Chapters 8–9 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 8

Iroquois on the opposite shore continue to shoot at the travelers. Hawkeye criticizes the way Uncas handles a rifle, but Heyward defends Uncas because "he saved my life in the coolest and readiest manner, and he has made a friend who never will require to be reminded of the debt he owes." The soldier and the Mohican become friends.

Uncas detects a Huron warrior in a tall oak tree, and Hawkeye shoots him. The wounded enemy dangles from the branches of the tree until he finally falls into the river below. At the time, the Mohicans were not on friendly terms with either the Iroquois or the Huron.

Running out of gunpowder and bullets, Hawkeye tells Uncas to get more from the canoe. With horror, Hawkeye realizes a Huron thief has seized the canoe with the last of their ammunition in it. The woodsmen prepare to die, but Heyward and Cora refuse to believe their predicament is hopeless. Cora urges Hawkeye and the Mohicans to float downstream and escape so they can bring word to her father about what has happened. The three woodsmen leave, telling Cora to break twigs and leave clues if she is captured. Cora, Alice, Gamut, and Heyward retreat into the cavern.

Chapter 9

A calm stillness follows the skirmish and narrow escape of Hawkeye and the Mohicans in the previous chapter. Heyward guides Gamut into the cave and then obscures the entrance with piles of brush. He tries to keep their presence secret for as long as possible.

Because of the deafening noise of the falls around them, Gamut can sing a hymn without giving them away. His singing is interrupted by a fierce yell. Heyward says, "We are not yet discovered, and there is still hope." Despite Heyward's optimism, the Iroquois find Hawkeye's abandoned rifle and search the neighboring cave. The Iroquois leave without discovering them, so Heyward and the others are deeply relieved. Their relief, however, is short-lived. Finally, Magua finds the prize he has been seeking at the other entrance, and Heyward, Cora, Alice, and Gamut are captured.

Analysis

Chapters 8 and 9 continue to develop the characters and advance the plot. In Chapter VIII, the reader becomes aware of how desperate the travelers' situation has become. Both Gamut and Heyward are wounded, and Hawkeye and the two Mohicans face difficult challenges. They are outnumbered and out of ammunition.

The events in Chapter 8 give the reader insights about the principles and morals by which some of the characters live. For example, the Mohicans and Hawkeye calmly accept their fate and prepare for a dignified death at the hands of their enemies. On the other hand, Heyward and Cora refuse to give up. The Europeans are generally shown to be moral; however, their morality makes them unfit for the realities of the frontier. The Native Americans, on the other hand, are practical and steadfast. Their characters' downside is the ease with which they kill. As the hero, Hawkeye represents the best of both worlds. Practical and moral, he is able to navigate the wild while not alienating the novel's original audience, which was most likely white. Cooper is making a statement with Hawkeye: to make frontier life work, the Europeans need to adapt to a more practical outlook on living.

When Cora devises an escape plan for Hawkeye and his companions, it reveals she is shrewd and wise and not a stereotypical female character. Her plan also reveals the attraction developing between herself and Uncas, who refuses to leave with Hawkeye and Chingachcook until Cora persuades "the most confidential of my messengers." Uncas complies with her wish that he go too.

The symbol of the river appears in Chapter 7. Here, the river represents freedom. While the characters literally depend on waterways for transportation, food, and water, the rivers, brooks, and streams in the novel represent the possibility of life.

In Chapter 8, Cooper elaborates on the theme of race. He draws distinctions between Iroquois and Mohicans and between whites and Native Americans. Hawkeye says, "As for me, who am of the whole blood of the whites, it is befitting that I should die as becomes my color, with no words of scoffing in my mouth, and without bitterness at the heart." This comment shows Hawkeye does believe races do have differences, and that even Hawkeye feels his own race may be the better one.

In Chapter 9, Cooper presents the first capture in the novel. This is the second part of the continuing pattern of pursuit-capture-escape-pursuit that makes up the structure of the novel. Also, the motif of capture is reflected in the incident in which Hawkeye's rifle is taken. This capture shows Hawkeye is a feared and respected adversary.

Chapter 9 continues to establish ways in which European and Native American cultures differ. For example, the four characters huddled in the cave are different from the woodsmen. Heyward, Gamut, Cora, and Alice are not as capable of dealing with the rigors of the wilderness as the others, and they prove to be less able to protect themselves from danger without help from Hawkeye, Chingachgook, and Uncas.

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