Discuss the various roles played by nature in The Last of the Mohicans.

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In The Last of the Mohicans , the prevalence of nature highlights the overall Romanticism of Cooper’s approach, as nature is almost always superior to civilization. Cooper links nature with freedom and loss, offering the message that the change from Indian to European-American rule includes attitudes toward nature, and will...

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In The Last of the Mohicans, the prevalence of nature highlights the overall Romanticism of Cooper’s approach, as nature is almost always superior to civilization. Cooper links nature with freedom and loss, offering the message that the change from Indian to European-American rule includes attitudes toward nature, and will expose—and, most likely, destroy—the inner reaches of the natural world.

As a contrast between its inhabitants, nature displays what Cooper sees as inherent contradictions. On the one hand, it stands for the waning days of Native American control over America, as the land is said to belong to them. This control, however, is exercised through cooperation and respect rather than dominance. On the other hand, nature stands for the spirit of freedom that animates the frontiersmen, who ultimately serve as the agents of white people’s expansion into what was once natural.

In Chapter 1, about “the toils and dangers of the wilderness” he says that the colonists and Europeans

expended months in struggling against the rapids of the streams, or in effecting the rugged passes of the mountains, in quest of an opportunity to exhibit their courage…. But, emulating the patience and self-denial of the practised native warriors, they learned to overcome every difficulty; and it would seem that, in time, there was no recess of the woods so dark, nor any secret place so lovely, that it might claim exemption from the inroads of those who had pledged their blood to …uphold the cold and selfish policy of the distant monarchs of Europe.

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Nature plays a significant role in James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans. In fact, the setting of the entire novel is the natural landscape of the New World. Cooper depicts nature as wild, mysterious, untamed, dynamic, violent, destructive, and inescapable. He also tries to present a contrast between nature and civilization, and, as we shall see, his preference is definitely the “Nature”. The characters like Hawkeye, Uncas, Chingachgook and Magua have a deep understanding of the nature and the landscape of the New World as compared to the Englishmen. The Englishmen are not used to the kind of troubles that the hostile, unfriendly land brings to them back to back. We also know that the French men are privileged in the war as compared to Englishmen because they have the support of American Indians (who have a native knowledge about the natural landscape). Characters like Heyward, Alice and Cora seem to be helpless and troubled because of their limited knowledge about nature. Magua easily cheats and misguides them in the forest. Colonel Munroe’s sophisticated methods of fighting are of no use in the forest. He must take the help of Hawkeye, Uncas and Chingachgook to free Alice and Cora. Hence, "Nature" plays a very powerful and destructive role in The Last of the Mohicans. On a metaphoric level, this novel talks about the invasion of natural landscape of the New World by the civilized Europeans as unfavorable. Nature, in this way, is represented as pure and uncorrupted.

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