The Last of the Mohicans

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“Savagery,” Civilization, and the Frontier Theme Analysis

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.
“Savagery,” Civilization, and the Frontier Theme Icon

Last of the Mohicans is a study of two societies forced into contact in the forests of upstate New York. The first is “European” society, itself divided into the French and the English settlers and their armies. The other society is that of Native Americans, referred to in the text as natives, “savages,” or as Indians. Native society is then divided into many tribal alliances. Thus the novel takes up what was considered the standard division of the American colonies, into “civilized” white settlers, French or English, and “uncivilized” Natives from all tribes. Fenimore Cooper seems to acknowledge that there are differences between native society and that of Europe, but he rejects the simple idea that natives are uncultured and Europeans alone possess culture.

The activity of the novel serves to bring together members of each of these groups, either in peace or warfare. Hawkeye (also called Natty Bumppo, “La Longue Carabine”) is friends with Uncas and Chingachgook, two representatives of the Mohican tribe who have long been cut off from their native lands and people. Hawkeye, Uncas, and Chingachgook come into contact, early on, with Duncan Heyward, Cora and Alice Munro, and David Gamut, a singer, when this group is traveling between English forts. Hawkeye and the two Mohicans go on to protect this group in their various scrapes, battles, and intrigues throughout the novel. Opposed to this collection of English and native characters, primarily, is Magua, himself of Huron stock, but a warrior-chief who has played with tribal alliances in order increase his power in the region. Magua allies with the French and the “Mingos” for much of the novel.

The novel proposes that the “frontier” zone, existing at the edge of “European” America, is a meeting between native and European cultures. This “frontier” is then recreated, in human terms, in the interactions between the English, the French, and the natives allied to both. In particular, “frontier” culture is embodied by Hawkeye, who believes that his actions, his style of battle, are those of the native peoples of the region, but who also knows that he is a “pale-face.” Hawkeye often states that he is a “man without a cross,” meaning that he has disregarded his European / Christian heritage for a space between the worlds of Europe and the natives.

Throughout the novel, the customs of the Europeans and the natives are described; these systems are merged, at the end, in the twin funerals of Uncas and Cora. Cora is buried in the manner of “her people,” and Uncas is left to be mourned by his father in the Mohican style. This final sequence indicates that Fenimore Cooper envisions the interactions between Europeans and natives as occurring between two cultural systems. In other words, Fenimore Cooper does not feel that Europeans have come to the Americas simply to give the natives culture (because the natives purportedly “lack culture entirely). Instead, in Fenimore Cooper’s rendering, native and European societies share a number of common customs: religious systems; systems of honor; male-female divisions of labor; and practices for remembrance of the dead.

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“Savagery,” Civilization, and the Frontier 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 “Savagery,” Civilization, and the Frontier.
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 2 Quotes

Should we distrust the man because his manners are not our manners, and that his skin is dark?

Related Characters: Cora Munro (speaker), Magua
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

Cora asks her family whether they distrust Magua simply because he's a Native American - a representative of a community that the white colonial settlers, as a rule, tend not to understand. As it turns out, later in the text, the other members of the Munro family have good reason to distrust Magua - as he will turn treacherous and take the side of the French. But this cannot be known early in the novel, and Cora wonders, genuinely, why her family necessarily attributes bad qualities to a Native American guide.

The political and social lessons of The Last of the Mohicans are complex - rather progressive for their time, but, viewed in a contemporary light, still somewhat shocking in their insistence on essential differences between Native American and "European" ways of life. Part of the novel's purpose, as Cooper understood it, was to describe the political and social interactions of colonial America in their fullness, without ascribing absolute good or bad to one side or another. This, despite the fact that Cooper does tend to favor the "Royal American," or English colonial, side. 

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 9 Quotes

“Isle of Wight!” ‘Tis a brave tune, and set to solemn words; let it be sung with meet respect!

Related Characters: David Gamut (speaker)
Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:

David Gamut is an intriguing character in the novel, as he does not participate in the romantic couplings nor in the dramatic action - he is not a fighter, and indeed calls himself a pacifist, a man who would not, for any reason, take up arms against another man. What David does, and does supremely well, is sing, and at this stage in the novel he sings to boost morale, and, perhaps, to remind the others that they are still free to use their voices - indeed, to lift them to God.

The singing of these songs, and the espousing of Christian faith, brings to the fore another of Cooper's themes - the interaction of Christian religions and native religions in the woods of the New World. Cooper, in seeking to describe the Huron and Iroquois tribes, tries to present their traditions and customs as fully as he knows how. And, here, he demonstrates that Christian devotion can be displayed anywhere, at any time - even if by a character who is, by all accounts, something of the novel's comic relief. 

Chapter 10 Quotes

Yes, the pale-faces are prattling women! They have two words for each thing, while a redskin will make the sound of his voice speak for him.

Related Characters: Magua (speaker), Duncan Heyward
Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:

Magua believes, just as heartily as some of the European characters believe, that there are essential differences between Native Americans and Europeans. One of those differences, for Magua, has to do with patterns of speech. Europeans, he charges, use a lot of words to say very little - they use language not to tell the truth but to speak around it, to obfuscate it - in a word, to lie. By contrast, the Native Americans believe that a voice ought to be used when someone has something true, and direct, to say. Magua does not believe in the use of language for deception.

But, of course, both Heyward and Magua practice deception throughout the novel, and so Magua's distinction is a theoretical rather than an actual one. Heyward attempts to use his cunning to build up Magua's vanity and therefore save his friends, and Magua, at the beginning of the novel, pretended to be a scout favorable to Heyward and company before abandoning them. 

Chapter 11 Quotes

And am I answerable that thoughtless and unprincipled men exist, whose shades of countenance may resemble mine?

Related Characters: Cora Munro (speaker), Magua
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:

At this point in the novel, Magua is trying to make the case that Cora ought to live with him as his wife. In doing this, he in part degrades the honor and valor of the European men among whom Cora has lived. Cora assertively tells Magua, in this quotation, that of course there are bad European men, as there are bad people in all communities in the world - she therefore echoes the sentiments she shares earlier in the text, in which she critiques those who (rightly, it turns out) would not trust Magua. But the fact that Magua is a deceptive person and of Iroquois heritage is a coincidence, and Cora wishes to show that bad people, and good people, exist in all communities on the face of the earth, and have since time immemorial. What is more important, for Cora, is the courage one demonstrates in thinking for himself or herself - and not the affiliation that person proclaims, as a source of "honor." 

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 15 Quotes

Ah! thou truant! thou recreant knight! He who abandons his damsels in the very lists! Here we have been days, nay, ages, expecting you at our feet, imploring mercy and forgetfulness of your craven backsliding . . . .
You know that Alice means our thanks and our blessings . . . .

Related Characters: Cora Munro (speaker), Alice Munro (speaker), Duncan Heyward
Page Number: 166
Explanation and Analysis:

This is a small moment of levity in a novel where levity is not all that common. Cora and Alice make fun, gently, of Duncan for his seriousness, and for his desire only to fight the French from the fort, and not to spend time with them within it. 

Cooper's characterizations, as those of Cora and Alice and Heyward here, tend to be schematic, or organized broadly according to theme and type. Heyward is a good, loyal, but somewhat inflexible soldier, who never sways from his devotion. Cora is a passionate defender of the rights of all people, and especially of the rights of Native Americans, whom she believes to be treated unjustly by Europeans. And Alice is a very kind and (as is implied repeatedly) "pure" person, whose honor has in no way been besmirched. Cooper, in this scene, therefore disrupts these types somewhat, without abandoning them - and these three will stay true to their general characters throughout the rest of the novel. 

Chapter 16 Quotes

I will meet the Frenchman, and that without fear or delay; promptly, sir, as becomes a servant of my royal master.

Related Characters: Colonel Munro (speaker), Marquis de Montcalm
Page Number: 181
Explanation and Analysis:

Although Munro does not like the French at all - he, indeed, believes them to be untrustworthy - he accepts the rules of warfare and agrees to speak with them from outside the fort, before the French lay siege to it. He does this because he believes that the rules of warfare apply in all contexts, and to all people - whether they be European or native, and whether the conflict take place on European or on American soil. For Munro, these rules are unshakeable, and an important part of being honorable and "civilized." The rules of war, he might say, are what the fighting of wars are about - defending the principles upon which a society is constructed.

But, of course, not all characters in the novel feel this way. Heyward does, but he is more or less the exception. Of course Magua does not believe in maintaining the covenants he enters into - and Hawkeye, for his part, takes an in-between view, believing that loyalty need not be absolutely in the way of Munro, but that it must nevertheless define a man - that a man, in Hawkeye's mind, must make his own principles and stick to them. 

Chapter 19 Quotes

It is impossible to describe the music of their language, while thus engaged in laughter and endearments, in such a way as to render it intelligible to those whose ears have never listened to its melody.

Page Number: 228
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrator here argues that the Native languages, in particular the Huron language, have a music to them that is all their own - that they are somehow closer to music itself than they are to language. Instrumental music, of course, has no words - it has only notes, sounds. It is abstract, and it does not carry meaning - it is closer to the noise that surrounds one in the world.

Thus, as the narrator is ostensibly praising the language of the Hurons, and arguing for its beauty, the narrator is also noting that this language is somehow more "organic" and closer to nature - and therefore less civilized, less technically developed, than a European language. Although the narrator seems to want genuinely to support and advocate for the Native American tribes he describes, he occasionally does so in a manner that would, today, be considered (at best) ethnically condescending. For European languages, though musical, are also described as languages - as ways of conveying thought, or speech, or literature. 

Chapter 20 Quotes

I little like that smoke, which you may see worming up along the rock above the canoe. my life on it, other eyes than ours see it, and know its meaning. Well, words will not mend the matter, and it is time that we were doing.

Related Characters: Hawkeye (speaker)
Page Number: 241
Explanation and Analysis:

The latter half of the novel contains a great many chases, like this one, in which Hawkeye, Uncas, and Chingachgook make way, with Heyward and Munro, through the woods to find Magua, Alice, and Cora. Indeed, as this passage indicates, the structure of the novel is one of traces and the spotting of traces - smoke and those who see it, caves and those who hide in them. The warfare of Europe, which took place on cleared battlefields, has been exchanged for the warfare of the New World, in which men follow one another in a complex game of cat and mouse.

Hawkeye, of course, is immensely skilled at this game - skilled as no European is, and more skilled than a great many of the Natives whom he fights. Hawkeye's knowledge of the woods, the caves, the smoke that comes from the caves is unparalleled. All Heyward and Munro can do is listen to Hawkeye as he helps them toward Cora and Alice. 

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 22 Quotes

Little be the praise to such worm as I. But, though the power of psalmody was suspended in the terrible business of that field of blood through which we passed, it has recovered its influence even over the soul of the heathen, and I am suffered to go and come at will.

Related Characters: David Gamut (speaker)
Page Number: 257
Explanation and Analysis:

David announces to Heyward, who has found him unattended in the woods, that David is permitted to come and go across enemy lines as he pleases. David attributes this to the power of God's songs that he sings - he believes that the beauty, and, perhaps, the the religious truth of these songs is enough to turn even the coldest heart toward him - thus he is allowed to move across the battlefield without being hurt.

One might, of course, interpret David's immunity another way. Because he very clearly is of no threat to either side, and is uninterested in any of the comings and goings of warfare, he is allowed passage as a harmless neutral actor. There is nothing he can do to hurt anyone. Thus David, despite his pride in his musical ability, might be protected simply because no one on either side feels that he could possibly be a threat. 

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 25 Quotes

Heyward, give me the sacred presence and the holy sanction of that parent [Munro] before you urge me further.

Related Characters: Alice Munro (speaker), Duncan Heyward, Colonel Munro
Page Number: 300
Explanation and Analysis:

Alice is in love with Heyward, and has indeed been waiting for some time for Heyward to propose marriage to her. But Alice, in her "purity" (as it is described throughout the novel), wishes to do everything properly, including getting permission from her father, Colonel Munro, before Heyward can take her hand in marriage. Cooper has clearly set up Alice as a paragon of virtue in the text - as a character who cannot be corrupted, whose purity is so obvious as to be beyond question.

What is more troubling is Cora's relative lack of virtue, despite nothing that Cora has done. Cooper's narrator instead avers that Cora has, in her temperament (perhaps deriving from her mother, a native of the West Indies) a tendency toward a more tempestuous life. Cora, then, although she commits no crime, winds up in situations in which her virtue is continually tested - and Alice, coincidentally, does not. This is another aspect of Cooper's "schematic," or broadly theme-based, somewhat flat depiction of certain characters. 

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 29 Quotes

If the Great Spirit gave different tongues to his red children, it was that all animals might understand them. Some He placed among the snows, with their cousin the bear. Some he placed near the setting sun, on the road to the happy hunting-grounds. Some on the lands around the great fresh waters; but to his greatest, and most beloved, he gave the sands of the salt lake.

Related Characters: Magua (speaker)
Page Number: 350
Explanation and Analysis:

Magua gives a short sermon on the nature of native tribes, and the manner by which they came to be the way they are. Cooper demonstrates that Magua is very knowledgeable in the ways of his own culture, and in the history that culture has established for itself - in the art of telling one's own story, and the story of one's people.

Cooper, importantly, does not necessarily intrude on the narrative here, to argue that Magua's story of the history of his tribe is incorrect. Cooper refrains from implying that the European methods of history, or warfare, or city-building are naturally superior to the native methods. He also does not argue that native methods themselves were closer to nature, or more originally wonderful. Cooper instead manages (usually) to show what is good and ill about both native and European societies - and to show how these societies interacted when they met in the forests of upstate New York. 

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.