The Last of the Mohicans

by James Fenimore Cooper

Start Free Trial

Explain how Hawkeye's heroic persona is shaped by opposing evils in The Last of the Mohicans.

Quick answer:

In The Last of the Mohicans, Hawkeye’s heroic persona is exemplified by his opposition to the evils of both white and Native American peoples. The reasons for his heroic character extend beyond those examples. Hawkeye is an ordinary man who acts in an extraordinary manner. He displays courage and integrity in the face of danger and evil. On his journey through life, he treats both Indian and white peoples honorably.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In fiction literature, heroes are ordinary people who perform extraordinary tasks on their journeys and adventures during their lifetimes. Fictional protagonists take up causes and face ordeals they must overcome to achieve success. Along the way, they receive assistance from human or nonhuman helpers to reach their goals. There is no literary requirement that heroes participate in any particular type of struggle. An obstacle might be physical or psychological, but it is always very important to the hero. With the wisdom acquired from the adventure, the protagonist usually achieves some positive result, and the world becomes a better place. At least symbolically, the literary hero always dies because the old protagonist is gone and replaced by the new hero armed with the wisdom of his journey.

In The Last of the Mohicans, James Fenimore Cooper establishes Hawkeye as the exemplary literary hero. There are no better examples of the protagonist’s heroic persona than his willingness to fight evil wherever it exists on behalf of Native Americans or white settlers alike in the mid-eighteenth century. For example, the author presents the evil of racism to the reader for analysis. Hawkeye considers the Mohican, Chingachgook, to be his father and accepts Uncas as his brother in an era when the romance between Uncas and Cora is considered unnatural and must end in tragedy. Hawkeye rises above racist views:

I am not a prejudiced man, nor one who vaunts himself on his natural privileges, though the worst enemy I have on earth, and he is an Iroquois, daren't deny that I am genuine white ... and I am willing to own that my people have many ways, of which, as an honest man, I can't approve.

Cooper portrays Hawkeye as a traditional hero throughout the book. The protagonist leads a group attacked by Magua and the Hurons to safety under the waterfall. He guides the group to Fort William Henry despite further Indian attacks. He faces several other trials and tribulations as the tale unfolds. However, the essence of Hawkeye’s heroism lies in the equal treatment of white and Indian peoples without regard to skin color or cultural differences. They are unified in their opposition to evil wherever it exists. Cooper paints the picture of a heroic literary persona through the character of the protagonist Hawkeye.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial