The Last of the Mohicans Themes

  • For Hawkeye and his friends, loyalty trumps all else. Hawkeye is devoted to his friends Chingachgook and Uncas, and all three of them are true to their word. This isn't true of all the characters in the novel, however, and one could argue that Magua's disloyalty is his defining characteristic, because he betrays everyone, including his fellow Hurons.
  • Race is the central theme of The Last of the Mohicans. Racism, race wars, interracial friendships, and the threat of interracial marriage drive the plot as the Huron Magua kidnaps the English Cora Munro and further inflames an already deadly war between the Native Americans and the colonists.
  • Nature is also an important theme in The Last of the Mohicans. The novel takes place in 1757 in Upper New York, at a time when industrialization had yet to fundamentally alter the landscape of the region. Hawkeye's skill as a tracker makes him the hero of the novel, whereas Cora and Alice Munro, who have no knowledge of their surroundings, are the biggest victims.


(Novels for Students)

A recurring theme of The Last of the Mohicans is that of personal lineage and its inescapable effects. The idea of lineage is illustrated in several ways, most obviously in the hereditary title of chief that is passed from father to son. This is most direct in the case of Chingachgook, a chief and a Mohican, who passes that lineage to Uncas, the titular last Mohican who will become the last chief, or sagamore, upon his father's death. "When Uncas follows in my footsteps, there will no longer be any of the blood of the sagamores, for my boy is the last of the Mohicans." It is also clear in Hawkeye's repeated insistence that he is "a man without a cross." He obsessively points out that his "white" blood makes him purebred and civilized, despite his time among the Indians. Magua, too, is inheritor of the title of chief from his own people. Cora's forthright and passionate nature is due to her "uncivilized" lineage, as her mother was descended from native peoples of the West Indies. Her sister, of white stock, is retiring and calm.

Cutural Destruction
Though The Last of the Mohicans is clearly an abduction narrative or historical novel, it can also be read as a long essay about the destruction of cultures. Most obviously, the death of the Mohican tribe, embodied by the murder of Uncas, last son of the last chief, acts as a microcosm of the programmatic destruction of Native-American culture. It is also shown through the degradation of Magua's character. He too is a chief, and his heritage has been tainted not by murder but by his interaction with whites—both English and French—and the evils of their culture, especially whisky. It is this sin, drinking the "firewater" of the white man, that leads to his savagery, treachery, and ultimate death. Subtler still is the symbolism of Cora's mother, a woman of West Indian slave origin. In her story, and in the genetic legacy she passes to her daughter, the novel recalls the earlier destruction of native culture in the first conquests of the whites. At the same time, the destruction of culture is effected through "miscegenation"—both metaphorically and literally. Just as West Indian culture has been destroyed, so inter-marriage has destroyed the individuality of Cora's racial heritage.

The metaphonc role of interracial relationships is reinforced in Uncas's story. His love for a woman of white extraction leads to his death, just as his involvement with white politics leads to his moral decay. In much the same way, each character in The Last of the Mohicans experiences the dangers of mixing and losing one's place in one's culture. The...

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