The Last of the Mohicans


James Fenimore Cooper

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The Last of the Mohicans: Logos 2 key examples

Definition of Logos
Logos, along with ethos and pathos, is one of the three "modes of persuasion" in rhetoric (the art of effective speaking or writing). Logos is an argument that appeals to... read full definition
Logos, along with ethos and pathos, is one of the three "modes of persuasion" in rhetoric (the art of effective speaking or writing). Logos is... read full definition
Logos, along with ethos and pathos, is one of the three "modes of persuasion" in rhetoric (the art of effective... read full definition
Chapter 19
Explanation and Analysis—Leaf of a Book:

In Chapter 19, Chingachgook identifies the scalp Uncas has taken from an enemy as that of an Oneida. Surprised with the identification, Hawkeye uses a simile and logos to tell everyone why they should trust Chingachgook:

Now, to white eyes there is no difference between this bit of skin and that of any other Indian, and yet the Sagamore declares it came from the poll of a Mingo; nay, he even names the tribe of the poor devil with as much ease as if the scalp was the leaf of a book, and each hair a letter. What right have Christian whites to boast of their learning, when a savage can read a language that would prove too much for the wisest of them all!

Hawkeye compares the scalp to "the leaf [page] of a book, and each hair a letter." One of the racist arguments against Indigenous rights in the United States and around the world was that their illiteracy meant that they lacked intelligence. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the emerging field of anthropology claimed that reading and writing (technologies that were much more common in Europe than in many other societies around the world) signified a more evolved species of human. Hawkeye's simile allows him to reframe the practice of "reading" a scalp as a form of literacy. Using logos, or a persuasive appeal to logic, he suggests that, in fact, American Indians are better readers than "Christian whites" in certain contexts.

Hawkeye's argument still depends on the Euro-centric assumption that literacy is a sign of evolved intelligence. Furthermore, Cooper does not necessarily provide an accurate view of the complex cultural customs surrounding the removal of scalps and other body parts from enemies' bodies. Still, Cooper seems to be speaking through Hawkeye to implore white readers not to dismiss American Indians' intelligence and humanity outright.

Chapter 22
Explanation and Analysis—True and Living God:

In Chapter 22, David Gamut (who is still being held hostage by the Mingos but has been allowed to roam free) tells Hawkeye that the Mingos are devil worshippers who are surely going to hell. Hawkeye uses logos to defend all American Indians from such accusations:

"[...]t would seem that they are among the profanest of the idolatrous.”

“Therein you belie the nature of an Indian. Even the Mingo adores but the true and living God. ’Tis a wicked fabrication of the whites, and I say it to the shame of my color, that would make the warrior bow down before images of his own creation. It is true, they endeavor to make truces with the wicked one—as who would not with an enemy he cannot conquer! —but they look up for favor and assistance to the Great and Good Spirit only.”

Hawkeye is speaking for Cooper, who is addressing common misconceptions among white people about American Indians and religion. Hawkeye tells David that he is wrong: in fact, "even the Mingo" (one of the enemies in this novel) worships the same God as Christians. He claims that sometimes Mingoes and other American Indians make deals with the devil, but only because the devil cannot be vanquished in their society. Even white Christians would do the same, he argues. He tells David that just because American Indian representations of God do not look like the image of a white person does not mean that American Indian people do not look up to "the Great and Good Spirit only." In fact, he states, it is "shameful" that white men have attempted to trick American Indians into believing that God looks like them.

Hawkeye's picture of American Indian religion is simplistic and in some senses downright inaccurate. Nonetheless, Cooper gives him a soapbox in order to push back on a dominant Christian narrative about the "wickedness" of American Indians simply because their religious practices look different from white Christian religious practices. Hawkeye's choice to defend the Mingoes, who are holding Cora and Alice captive, demonstrates just how important it is to Cooper to refute this narrative. It also demonstrates Hawkeye's moral character: he is a principled person who refuses to let people sully even his enemies on false grounds.

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