The Last of the Mohicans

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Themes and Colors
“Savagery,” Civilization, and the Frontier Theme Icon
Escape, Pursuit, and Rescue Theme Icon
Gender Roles and Gender Expectations Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
Loyalty and Treachery Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Last of the Mohicans, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Escape, Pursuit, and Rescue Theme Icon

The structure of the novel’s action is that of escape, pursuit, and rescue, in which Hawkeye, Uncas, and Chingachgook, and sometimes Heyward, engage in a back and forth with Magua, alternately rescuing and losing Cora and Alice. These complex sequences of escape, pursuit, and rescue serve several purposes in the novel. First, they are necessary components of the “frontier adventure novel,” of which Last of the Mohicans is perhaps the primary example. In this form of the adventure yarn, tension is maintained primarily by the peril of its main characters, and by the defeat of a mortal enemy—in this case, Magua.

Second, they underscore the difficulties of life in the American colonies at this point in their history. Many societies, native and European, converged on a relatively small space in the middle of the eighteenth century, hoping to control its vast resources. The dangers of Hawkeye, Heyward, and the rest of the group are dangers many in this region faced—though perhaps not in such dramatic and sustained fashion.

Third, this structure of escape and rescue allows for a great deal of emotional impact when certain characters are not saved—namely, Uncas and Cora, the representatives of “native” and “European” society. By imperiling most of the lives detailed in the novel, Fenimore Cooper highlights the continued skill of Hawkeye, the luck of Heyward, and, ultimately, the misfortune suffered by the young Mohican warrior and by Munro’s courageous daughter.

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Escape, Pursuit, and Rescue Quotes in The Last of the Mohicans

Below you will find the important quotes in The Last of the Mohicans related to the theme of Escape, Pursuit, and Rescue.
Chapter 1 Quotes

It was a feature peculiar to the colonial wars of North America, that the toils and dangers of the wilderness were to be encountered before the adverse hosts could meet.

Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

The Last of the Mohicans takes place in a colonial United States that is marked by a complex set of conflicts and loyalties - between English settlers, French settlers, Native American communities living on the North American continent for centuries, and various subsets of individuals identifying with more than one of these groups. As Cooper notes, the loyalties between people in this complex network could shift over time, and they were in fact quite dangerous. 

But the woods themselves, the areas of thick vegetation, streams, rocks, and gorges in what is now upstate New York - these posed a unique danger to those unaccustomed to traveling through them and living in them. The natural world is one of the main characters in The Last of the Mohicans - it is a vibrant and dynamic setting, against which the action and drama of the plot takes place. And it is a setting as murderous and dangerous as any conflict with any enemy in wartime. 


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Chapter 3 Quotes

These Indians know the nature of the woods, as it might be by instinct!

Related Characters: Hawkeye (speaker), Uncas, Chingachgook
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

One of the novel's most interesting characters, Hawkeye acts as a mediator between the English, French, Mohican, and Mingo (Iroquois) tribes. Hawkeye trusts that his Native American comrades understand not just how to move through the woods - how not to get lost - but how to find, attack, and defeat an enemy using the woods as a part of an offensive or defensive strategy. Hawkeye has learned a great deal about fighting, and about loyalty and man's relationship to nature, from his Mohican friends, including Chingachgook and Uncas. 

The flip side of Hawkeye's comment, however - and something that would only be apparent to a contemporary reader - is the equation of Native American culture and attitudes with a more "natural," or "purer" way of life. Hawkeye really does believe that his Native American friends understand the woods more thoroughly than he ever could. But other characters in the text, especially English and French soldiers, do tend to believe that Native Americans are closer to nature because they have yet to be "civilized" by European culture. Cooper's novel describes the richness of native cultures as a subtle method of critiquing this European belief of the "noble savage." 

Chapter 4 Quotes

A Huron! They are a thievish race, nor do I care by whom they are adopted; you can never make anything of them but skulks and vagabonds.

Related Characters: Hawkeye (speaker), Magua
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

In direct contrast to the quotation above, Hawkeye does not universally approve of Native American behavior, nor does he believe that all native tribes are equally trustworthy or loyal to their friends. Indeed, Hawkeye argues that the Huron are more than willing to break covenants, to do whatever it is that might advance their own interests, even if at the expense of those around them whom they used to call friends. Hawkeye is characteristically final on this point - he does not leave room for any subtlety. If Magua is indeed a Huron, then it is no surprise, for Hawkeye, that Magua has turned traitor and left the group he was supposed to guide through the woods. This, for Hawkeye, is exactly what a Huron in Magua's position would do.

Hawkeye's beliefs, then, are a subset of a recurring theme in the novel - the judgment of a single person by the perceived actions or attitudes of a group to which that person belongs. (Essentially, a textbook edition of racial stereotyping.)

Chapter 5 Quotes

What is to be done? . . . Desert me not, for God’s sake! Remain to defend those I escort, and freely name your own reward!

Related Characters: Duncan Heyward (speaker), Hawkeye
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:

Duncan Heyward admits that he does not know, and cannot learn, the "ways" of the forest - certainly not in the time remaining to him, after they have been abandoned in the woods by Magua. Hawkeye therefore arrives just in the nick of time, and clearly demonstrates that he understands the paths, and hiding places, in those woods. Heyward has no trouble asking Hawkeye for this kind of help. 

The idea of "escorting" is an important one in the novel. Heyward is tasked with moving Cora and Alice through the forest because, it is assumed, they are utterly incapable of this kind of activity themselves. This is a commonly-held belief among the Europeans (English and French) in the New World - that men must make the colonies safe and civilized for the women who travel with them. But as will become apparent later in the text, Huron and Iroquois tribes do not feel the same way - women in those societies take on much more prominent roles outside the home. 

Chapter 6 Quotes

Are we quite safe in this cavern? Is there no danger of surprise? A single armed man at its entrance, would hold us at his mercy.

Related Characters: Duncan Heyward (speaker)
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

Heyward seems to recognize that the cave in which they hide themselves could prove to be a burden to the group - it could trap them, since it protects them so thoroughly from the outside world and has so very few points of escape. For his part, Heyward tends to critique the plans that have been laid out by others - namely, Hawkeye and Chingachgook - rather than offering plans himself.

This, because Heyward understands tactics from the perspective of the European military - in which soldiers march in rows and wear brightly-colored uniforms, identifying them as belonging to one or another side. The kind of warfare practiced in the forests of the New World, in which opponents hide among the trees and wait to strike, is utterly foreign to Heyward - he does not understand the mechanics of how this kind of warfare might operate in reality. 

Chapter 8 Quotes

He [Uncas] 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.

Related Characters: Duncan Heyward (speaker), Uncas
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:

This shows another aspect of Uncas' and Heyward's personality. Uncas helped Heyward, in part, because he trusts Hawkeye, who has agreed to help Heyward and his party. Uncas thus agreed to be loyal to Heyward, and to provide support for that group in any way possible. Uncas' loyalty to friends is unquestioned. 

Heyward, then, also demonstrates his loyalty here - although characteristically he does so not only by embodying it in action, but by proclaiming it in a direct speech to the group assembled. He argues that, because Uncas has saved his life, he is forever indebted to Uncas, and will do what he can to support him. This, for Heyward, would be the natural outcome of this kind of demonstration of honor - the kind of loyalty that is announced and firmly established in the social codes of the Old World as well as in the New. But Cooper makes plain that Uncas has already possessed and demonstrated this loyalty, without having to announce it so publicly. 

Chapter 12 Quotes

Well done for the Delawares! Victory to the Mohican! A finishing blow from a man without a cross will never tell against his honor, nor rob him of his right to the scalp.

Related Characters: Hawkeye (speaker)
Related Symbols: “A man without a cross”
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:

Hawkeye proclaims that he's a "man without a cross" for several reasons. First, he does so as a way of separating himself from what he sees as the bad soldiering habits of the English and French troops, who do not know how to fight in the woods. Hawkeye, for his part, has lived in the woods for many years, and knows them, he claims, as well as any native. He is also a "man without a cross" because he does not subscribe to the articles of faith of any Christian tradition - he does not feel himself bound to its codes. For many of his European peers, this is a somewhat shocking statement, for many of the colonists believe that Christian Europe has come to the forests of the New World to "civilize" those who already live there. But Hawkeye makes plain that he does not feel this to be the case - that he wishes to live in the woods largely as the natives do, while maintaining his independence from either strictly colonial or strictly native rules. 

Chapter 14 Quotes

Hold! ‘Tis she! God has restored me to my children! Throw open the sally-port; to the field; . . . pull not a trigger, lest ye kill my lambs!

Related Characters: Colonel Munro (speaker), Cora Munro, Alice Munro
Page Number: 161
Explanation and Analysis:

Colonel Munro has believed, till now, that Cora and Alice will not be "returned" to him - that, in sending them out ahead of the colonists with Magua, he has accidentally committed them to their doom. His relief in finding Cora and Alice again is unmatched at any other point in the novel. He feels that he has bucked fate. 

Again, this scene makes plain the relationship of men and women, fathers and daughters, in the "European" communities of the novel. Whereas gender roles among the native communities are far more equal, though by no means perfectly equal, among the Europeans the men fight and protect the women, who mostly do what the men around them ask them to do. It is an arrangement that situates power and authority in the hands of men, not women, and that runs contrary to the spirit of independence possessed by people like Hawkeye, who do not ascribe entirely either to European or to native principles. 

Chapter 21 Quotes

We must get down to it, Sagamore, beginning at the spring, and going over the ground by inches. The Huron shall never brag in his tribe that he has a foot which leaves no print.

Related Characters: Hawkeye (speaker), Chingachgook
Page Number: 247
Explanation and Analysis:

Hawkeye's relationship with Chingachgook is one of absolute friendship and total dedication. They also work together, European and Mohican, to defeat the Iroquois, who have been their enemies since time immemorial. One of the specific traits of the Iroquois, as it repeated in the lore of the region, is that they leave no trace when they walk - that there would be no prints, therefore, with which to trace Magua. But Hawkeye does not believe this to be true - and, indeed, believes that he and Chingachgook themselves can move through the forests without a trace.

This, then, adds to the theme of tracking that wends its way throughout the novel. One only knows another's trail by viewing what that person has left behind - a footprint, a bent twig, the disturbance of a few leaves. Cooper makes Hawkeye almost superhumanly adept at reading these traces - far more so than any European who has ever lived in what is now upstate New York. 

Chapter 23 Quotes

When an Indian chief comes among his white fathers, he lays aside his buffalo robe, to carry the shirt that is offered him. My brothers have given me paint, and I wear it.

Related Characters: Duncan Heyward (speaker)
Page Number: 271
Explanation and Analysis:

Gradually throughout the novel, Heyward has come to realize that there are some customs of the native tribes that he is to obey, not simply because they would be politically or militarily expedient, but because he has come to genuinely feel loyal to his native friends. One of these is depicted here, in which Heyward conceals himself using the paint of the Hurons, just as, he argues, a Huron chief would dress like a European as a symbol of his communion with that group.

What Heyward cannot know, however, is just how one-way this transaction will be in the years after the novel. That is, natives will be asked to dress "like Europeans" for a great many years, whereas it will be far less common for Europeans genuinely to inhabit the cultural traditions of the native tribes they decimate across what becomes the United States. Cooper seems, gently, to understand that exchange between Native Americans and Europeans will be affected by this inequality going forward. 

Chapter 26 Quotes

Even so, I will abide in the place of the Delaware. Bravely and generously has he battled in my behalf; and this, and more, will I dare in his service.

Related Characters: David Gamut (speaker), Uncas
Page Number: 316
Explanation and Analysis:

Again, David is a foil to Hawkeye, a man who is allowed to pass between European and native communities. But David is allowed to do this not because of his knowledge both of native and of European customs, nor out of any inherent military skill. Instead, it is the opposite - David can do this because he knows so little about the ways of warfare, and because his only skills are musical - he is not considered to be a threat at all to those he lives among.

David bears this situation with grace, and during his time in captivity he uses to his advantage, playing his music and generally enjoying getting to know native ways of life. David is an innocent in every sense - a character untouched by so much of the drama of the novel unfolding around him, who persists in his ways, living according to his lights, and doing so without any regret or reservation. 

Chapter 27 Quotes

Several of the [Huron] chiefs had proposed deep and treacherous schemes to surprise the Delawares, and, by gaining possession of their camp, to recover their prisoners by the same blow; for all agreed that their honor, their interests, and the peace and happiness of their dead countrymen, imperiously required them speedily to immolate some victims to their revenge.

Related Symbols: “A man without a cross”
Page Number: 326
Explanation and Analysis:

Cooper goes out of his way in this sectio, to outline different forms of justice and retribution. In the Christian context, as espoused by, say, Alice and David Gamut, one ought not to retaliate against one's enemies, but instead to "turn the other cheek," as Jesus argues in the Gospels. This, of course, is not the method of retaliation used by Europeans in actual battle conditions - but it is the high, indeed almost impossible, bar set by the Christian tradition for how to deal with one's enemies. Cooper, by contrast, shows that, at least in some native communities, there are obligations toward revenge, toward the hurting of victims in an "eye for an eye" relationship to atone for the damage inflicted on one's own side. Cooper does not argue that one or another form of revenge is better - he merely sho2s the differences between conceptions of battle, bravery, and obligation in the skirmishes of the New World. 

Chapter 32 Quotes

The pale-faces are dogs! The Delawares women! Magua leaves them on the rocks, for the crows!

Related Characters: Magua (speaker)
Page Number: 393
Explanation and Analysis:

Even as Magua begins to realize that he is doomed, that he will not be able to survive the final battle, he nevertheless refuses to back down, or to state that in fact he has a new-found respect for his adversaries. Instead, he states that Europeans cannot be trusted, that the Delawares are cowardly in battle (as implied by the insult "women"), and that he will not even allow their wounded bodies proper treatment or burial. This bitterness Magua takes to the very end - he will not allow for any compromise between his own tribe and his enemies.

Magua, then, is one example of the nature of enmity in the novel - but he is not the only example. Although Heyward and Hawkeye, each in his own way, are committed to defending themselves and their friends, they do not believe that their enemies are absolutely evil - nor do they think it is their only job on earth to defeat them. In his hatred of his enemies, Magua is in a realm unto himself - his hatred knows no bounds, and it is this hatred that drives him into the final battle and, eventually, kills him. 

Chapter 33 Quotes

Go, children of the Lenape, the anger of the Manitou is not done. Why should Tamenund stay? The pale-faces are masters of the earth, and the time of the redmen has not yet come again. My day has been too long. In the morning I saw the sons of Unamis [the Mohicans] happy and strong; and yet, before the night has come, have I lived to see the last warrior of the wise race of the Mohicans.

Related Characters: Tamenund (speaker)
Page Number: 407
Explanation and Analysis:

This is a very sad moment in the text, and the closing speech. Tamenund has a hard time believing that Uncas is really gone, that he has been brought low in battle - and that, therefore, the "last of the Mohicans," the final warrior of a great line of warriors, will not live to have his own family. Tamenund laments that this is so, and wonders what might have been had Uncas survived.

But Tamenund also notes that the Europeans, for good or for ill, have taken over most of the native lands, and will continue to. In this the leader understands, with great sadness, the path in which history appears to be leading - he neither accepts it nor fights against it, but merely states that it is so. It is a bitter ending to the tale - but Tamenund also notes that Uncas' bravery was so noteworthy during his life, and that that bravery will be remembered, too - along with the tragic state of affairs that caused Uncas' to be taken from his community in the prime of his youth.