What are three characteristics of American Romanticism in The Last of the Mohicans?
One characteristic of American Romanticism is a particular fascination with the American frontier or wilderness. European Romantics were similarly drawn to nature, but their interest lay perhaps in the Alps, the English Lake District or other out-of-the-way European destinations.
Cooper is said to have been drawn to writing a romance during a visit to the Catskills. Cooper set his story on the frontier, in a liminal, contested space at the edge of "civilization," one that had to be navigated with the help of Native American guides. The book thus explores the beauty to be found in an American wilderness frontier, such as in this quote from chapter 3:
The rays of the sun were beginning to grow less fierce, and the intense heat of the day was lessened, as the cooler vapors of the springs and fountains rose above their leafy beds, and rested in the atmosphere. Still that breathing silence, which marks the drowsy sultriness of an American landscape in July, pervaded the secluded spot, interrupted only by the low voices of the men, the occasional and lazy tap of a woodpecker, the discordant cry of some gaudy jay, or a swelling on the ear, from the dull roar of a distant waterfall.
Another characteristic of American Romanticism is a favoring of the young, vigorous American democracy as a better system than the moribund old ways of Europe. We find that sentiment expressed in chapter one:
But, emulating the patience and self-denial of the practiced 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 satiate their vengeance, or to uphold the cold and selfish policy of the distant monarchs of Europe.
Finally, American Romantics tended to romanticize and "other" Native Americans, and while they are shown massacring, they are also depicted as closer to nature than white people (Natty, for example, cannot believe an Indian would ever get lost in the woods), and nostalgically mourned for their passing out of power. At the end of the book we learn:
The pale-faces are masters of the earth, and the time of the red-men has not yet come again.
This plays on our emotions, another hallmark of Romanticism, both American and European.
There are many examples of American Romanticism (a version of the English Romantic movement that occurred some years earlier) in James Fenimore Cooper's novel The Last of the Mohicans.
"Shuns civilization and seeks nature" is seen with the character of Hawkeye. He has a close alliance with certain Native American tribes, however, he is a white man who has chosen to live in the wilderness rather than amid "civilized white men." And while it is important that he maintain his identity as a white man, he finds his strongest friendship with Chingachgook, the "last of the Mohicans."
Hawkeye also embodies the characteristic of "fights for individual's freedom and worth." He fights to save Alice and Cora from Magua. He also helps others of their group escape not only from the Indians (i.e. Major Heyward), but also from the French (i.e. Colonel Munro).
"Finds beauty and truth in supernatural or imaginative realms" also applies to Hawkeye. Whereas Gamut is a religious man, he is ineffective in the wilderness. Hawkeye is not religious in terms of organized religion: he may actually be seen as a pagan in light of this. However, ironically, it is Hawkeye's ability to find beauty and truth in nature that makes him a much more spiritual person than David Gamut. Hawkeye is also a superstitious man, which would bring to light the "imaginative realms" in his system of belief.
The three characteristics of Romanticism in the novel are nostalgia, individualism, and connection to nature. One of the hallmarks of Romanticism in literature is a yearning for the past and for what is authentic. The Last of the Mohicans is nostalgic about the past and about the time when Mohicans were plentiful. As the last Mohican alive, Chingachgook is a Romantic figure who embodies the idea of the "noble savage." He is at home with nature and the natural world and represents the romantic ideal of someone who was a remnant of the past.
Natty Bumppo, known as Hawkeye, is a Romantic character because he is a rugged individualist who lives according to his own sense of what is right and how he feels. He befriends Native American people, showing his connection to a people who are pure and closely connected to nature. He lives in harmony in the natural world, another hallmark of Romanticism. He is not subject to the laws of civilization but lives according to his own sense of morality, making him a truly Romantic figure.