The Last of the Mohicans


James Fenimore Cooper

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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.

“Savagery,” Civilization, and the Frontier

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…

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Escape, Pursuit, and Rescue

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…

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Gender Roles and Gender Expectations

The Last of the Mohicans also takes up different understandings of the role of men and women in European and native societies. Cora (and, to a lesser extent, Alice) is a three-dimensional character, one possessed of courage and ingenuity in the face of danger. But the demands placed on her life are those typical of an eighteenth-century woman. Generally speaking, both British and French forces believe that war is to be fought by men…

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The Natural World

The Last of the Mohicans is set against a backdrop of immense beauty, wildness, and strangeness, especially for Europeans who are not accustomed to vast expanses of “unsettled” land. The natural features of upstate New York, described by Fenimore Cooper, serve several purposes in the novel. First, the caves, ledges, mountains, streams, and paths of the New York woods are essential elements of the battle-plans of the natives and Europeans. War cannot be fought, there…

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Loyalty and Treachery

Finally, The Last of the Mohicans is a meditation on the nature of loyalty—what it means to be loyal or disloyal, and the consequences of loyalty and treachery as played out in battle. On the one hand stand Hawkeye, Uncas, and Chingachgook—men and warriors who are loyal to their own, whoever that group is said to be. Although the latter three do not start out the novel in defense of Heyward, Cora

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