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, Alice, David, and Munro, they go on, as the novel progresses, to serve them even to the point of death. Heyward’s morality occasionally differs slightly both from the natives’ and from Heyward’s, but all these characters act on principles of trust and honesty that are unbroken throughout the novel. (One might wonder whether this kind of clear-cut moral “goodness” is realistic, but it does seem to be the case in Fenimore Cooper’s conception). Magua, on the other hand, will stop at nothing to further his own interests. He leaves the tribe of his birth for a time, pretending to be a scout sympathetic to the British, then turns back to the Mingos and their allies, in the aid of the French. His common aim, simply, is to gain as much power and influence as possible, and to “acquire” Cora as his wife, partially as an act of vengeance against her father, Colonel Munro, whom Magua believed mistreated him.
There is, too, the larger scale of alliances and broken promises that govern the conflict between the British and the French for control of the region. As the massacre of Fort William Henry is described, it was passively permitted by Montcalm, who, in Fenimore Cooper’s telling, went on to be slain in a later battle of the French and Indian War, and who died a “hero.” But Fenimore Cooper believes, largely, that the French are of changeable opinions, and that the British, from which American rebels came (including Washington), were more stalwart, upright, and loyal. Hawkeye, in this sense, remains a central figure of the novel. Although he is not, perhaps, its hero—that position is reserved for Uncas—he is its most notable, most boisterous personage, and he is a man whose confidence is hard-won. But when Hawkeye commits to a cause—that of the Mohicans, or of Heyward’s band—he does so for life, and he lists the Mingos as his lifelong enemies. This immutable derring-do seems much prized by Fenimore Cooper, and is celebrated throughout the novel as exemplifying the best of “frontier” morality.
Loyalty and Treachery ThemeTracker
Loyalty and Treachery Quotes in The Last of the Mohicans
Should we distrust the man because his manners are not our manners, and that his skin is dark?
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.
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 . . . .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.