The Last of the Mohicans

by James Fenimore Cooper

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What is Cooper's moral vision in The Last of the Mohicans?

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Cooper's moral vision in The Last of the Mohicans is thoroughly Romantic in that it is based on a belief that there is a universal morality that derives from living in harmony with nature.

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James Fenimore Copper's depiction of indigenous culture in The Last of the Mohicans is notably sympathetic. Instead of regarding the customs and morals of Native American tribes as being barbarous or primitive, as many have wrongly done, he sees them as worthy of respect.

At the same time, Cooper shows himself not to be a cultural relativist in that he clearly believes that there is a universal morality to which people from widely different cultures can legitimately aspire. Although Hawkeye and Chingachgook come from completely different cultural traditions, they have nonetheless been able to forge a deep, meaningful friendship that would not have been possible without shared moral values.

As a Romantic, Cooper believes that we should follow nature in order to lead moral lives. Just as nature displays signs of order and stability, so should the lives we lead. Hawkeye and Chingachgook understand this very well because they both commune with nature on a daily basis. Far from being separated from the natural world, as many white settlers in this part of the world are, they are intimately linked to it by way of an almost spiritual bond.

Because of this, they are able to lead their lives according to the natural rhythms of the environment in which they live. In doing so, they correspond to the Romantic ideal of the natural man living in harmony with nature.

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