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The Last of the Mohicans | Study Guide

James Fenimore Cooper

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The Last of the Mohicans | Discussion Questions 41 - 50


How are Magua and Hawkeye alike and different in The Last of the Mohicans?

Magua and Hawkeye are both adept hunters and brave fighters. Both feel at home in the wilderness, and both are cultural hybrids. Their similarities end there. Hawkeye is loyal to the British and to his Mohican friends, but Magua betrays the British and becomes an ally of the French. Magua pursues and captures the Munro sisters and wants to marry Cora; on the other hand, Hawkeye protects the sisters and tries to reunite them with their father. Magua is sly and manipulative, but Hawkeye is honest and straightforward. While Hawkeye survives at the end of the novel, Magua dies after Hawkeye shoots him. This action suggests Cooper is hopeful that rightful courses of action will prevail in the future.

Compare Cora and Alice Munro in The Last of the Mohicans, and explain how Cora's racial heritage may have contributed to her fate.

Cora and Alice are both daughters of Colonel Munro, and both travel from Fort Edward to Fort William Henry. Magua captures both women. Cora, the older daughter, has raven-colored hair and is independent, brave, and strong. In contrast, Alice, the younger daughter, has blonde hair and is clingy, fearful, and timid. Although they are sisters, they have different mothers. Cora's mother was from the West Indies, while Alice's mother was English. Cora falls in love with Uncas, and Alice falls in love with Major Heyward. At the end of the novel, Cora is killed by a Huron warrior, whereas Alice is rescued and reunited with her father and her fiancé. The fact that Cora is a mixed-race woman makes her appealing to Magua as a potential wife, contributing to her fate. Although Cora is the stronger and cleverer of the sisters, she is doomed because of her racial heritage. Given the prejudices of Cooper's era, there is no way the love triangle among Cora, Magua, and Uncas can end happily.

Why is Hawkeye in The Last of the Mohicans often called the first frontier hero in American literature?

An archetype is a character representative of a typical type of character such as the hero or damsel in distress. Cooper was the first American novelist to create the archetypal character of the frontier hero. Hawkeye is a famous marksman whose skill with his rifle, Killdeer, is legendary. He is courageous and intelligent, capable of outsmarting even the most diabolical of enemies. Noble and moral, he lives by a certain code. For example, he takes enormous risks in trying to conduct the Munro sisters safely to Fort William Henry because it is the right thing to do. He is loyal to both his Mohican companions and the British. The growing country needed its own literature and its own heroes. Cooper provided both.

What are three elements of gothic fiction used by James Fenimore Cooper in The Last of the Mohicans?

Gothic fiction includes such elements as gloomy settings, supernatural beings, evil villains, heroines being pursued, and horror. One gothic element that Cooper uses is setting of the cave. For example, Hawkeye and the Mohicans bring the travelers to a secret cavern in Chapter 7, and they pursue Magua through a cave in Chapter 32. Another gothic element Cooper uses is the characters of the evil villain and the pursued heroine. Magua, the villain, pursues Alice and Cora throughout the novel. Cooper turns to descriptions of horror at different points in the novel. The killing of the infant in Chapter 17 and the bloody massacre that ensues are examples.

Which character changes the most from the beginning of The Last of the Mohicans to the end?

David Gamut changes the most. At the beginning of the novel, he is a naïve, eccentric, awkward man who sings holy songs at inappropriate moments. Clearly, he is not prepared for the challenges he will face as he journeys to Fort William Henry. For example, he does not know how to handle a weapon, and he does not have the basic skills he needs to survive in the wilderness. Although he consistently relies on his faith to guide him, Gamut develops important skills by the end of the novel. He gains some knowledge of the wilderness and is willing to fight with his slingshot.

Why is Magua the villain rather than a heroic character in The Last of the Mohicans?

Magua has many positive qualities. He knows how to evade capture and survive, and his powers of persuasion are strong. Despite these positive qualities and traits, Magua is a villain rather than a hero because he is motivated by his single-minded personal desire for revenge after he is humiliated by Munro. Pride is not a bad quality in the novel; for instance, Hawkeye takes pride in his superb marksmanship. However, in sharp contrast to Hawkeye, Magua acts without a discernible conscience or a code of conduct. Thus he is cast in the role of the villain who continually frustrates the attempts of the novel's hero, Hawkeye, to achieve his goals.

What are three disguises in The Last of the Mohicans and what purposes do they serve?

In Chapter 22, Heyward is disguised as a fool who knows how to heal. In Chapter 25, Hawkeye wears a bearskin disguise. In Chapter 27, Chingachgook is disguised as a beaver. One purpose of these disguises is to add humor to the plot. Another purpose is to advance the plot. For example, Hawkeye's bear disguise allows him to enter the Huron village to rescue Alice and Uncas, and Chingachgook's beaver disguise allows him to listen to the Hurons' plan of attack. A third purpose is to show the blending of identities. Heyward's disguise gives him a Native American identity, while Hawkeye and Chingachgook wear disguises that turn them into animals.

What is the relationship between Magua and Colonel Munro in The Last of the Mohicans?

Magua is mainly motivated to act by his hatred for Colonel Munro. Magua seeks revenge because Munro punished him for breaking a rule of the British army. After Magua drank alcohol and entered Munro's cabin, Munro ordered him whipped. Magua wants to destroy Munro by kidnapping his two daughters and marrying Cora. Magua's scheming drives much of the action of the plot.

What purpose is served by the characters in the Last of the Mohicans who are cultural hybrids in which several different cultures are blended?

Hawkeye is a cultural hybrid because he is a white man whose closest companions are the Mohicans Uncas and Chingachgook. Hawkeye lives as a Native American even though he is white and dresses as a frontier woodsman. Cora is also a hybrid, with an Afro-Caribbean mother and a Scottish father. These characters symbolize the mixing of European and Native American cultures as a consequence of colonization. While Hawkeye is viewed as a heroic character in the novel, Cora is viewed as a tragic one. This duality suggests that the mixing of cultures, as reflected by the two characters, has both positive and negative effects.

What might be the "conflicting passions" that cross Magua's face when he hesitates over killing Cora in Chapter 32 of Last of the Mohicans?

In Chapter 32, Magua hesitates over killing Cora with a "look in which conflicting passions fiercely contended." Lust is undoubtedly one of those passions. Cora is described as beautiful, and Magua has proposed marriage to her. At the same time, by stopping and refusing to go any further, Cora has defied Magua and thwarted his plan for revenge against her father. He is certainly angry and tempted to act on the choice he gives her between "the wigwam or the knife." As Magua raises and lowers the knife, he has a "bewildered air, like one who doubted." In addition to his conflicting emotions, he is possibly also confused by Cora's behavior, which is completely outside his own self-serving frame of reference.

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