James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans

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James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans

The French and Indian War of the eighteenth century had uniquely complex qualities, matched by the gravity of its outcome. The myriad of cultures involved the French, Canadian, American, English, Algonquians, and Iroquois whom make this era fascinating. The multi-ethnic element made it a war built upon fragile alliances, often undermined by factional disputes and shifting fortunes. Violent as it was, its battlefields encompassed some of the most beautiful country to be found anywhere. Its richness in diverse cultures, the severity of its bloody violence, and the beauty of its landscape, all combine to make this an era with great depth of interest. It is entertaining and educational to witness a re-enactment event of a historical film and novel called The Last of the Mohicans.

In the wake of the 1992 debates about Columbus, the discovery of the Americas, and whether terms such as 'holocaust', 'genocide', and 'racism' should be applied to what happened to Native Americans, Michael Mann's film remake of James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans continues a process of historical erasure or forgetting that Cooper and his contemporaries began. The sentimental racism expressed in Cooper's novel involves the ideas of the auto-genocide of 'savagery' and the inevitable extinction of all Native Americans. Though Mann purported to take great pains in his film to be historically accurate, the film is only accurate in relation to trivial details. It thoroughly scrambles major aspects of Cooper's text, including converting the ageing Natty Bumppo into a young sex symbol (Daniel Day-Lewis). More importantly, the film completely erases Cooper's sentimental racism by, for instance, turning Chingachgook rather than his son, Uncas, into the 'last' of his tribe, and thereby overlooking the motif of the futureless child central to that racism. But in eliminating Cooper's racism, the film in a sense perfects the novel, because the sentimentalism that softened the racism was already a form of erasure or forgetting.

Reading the novel, The Last of the Mohicans, I was actually able to appreciate Cooper’s work, as it was interesting and very different from the movie. While it is true that he is long-winded and very shallowly treats character development, I think that the original work does merit its study. I found that ...

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...nd political correctness. There are no dialogs to speak of, no historical, anthropological, geographic, political, social, explanations or orientation. So you don’t learn much about world history from their conversations and dialogue. What you do grasp about the history of this period is by soaking in the environment, traditions, rules, surroundings, behaviors, clothing, and styles of living.

The movie and novel of The Last of the Mohicans are both great representations of the French and Indian War as they are attempts to resurrect and redefine the American hero. There was an emphasis on the concept that no man has dominion over another. The novel and film both have strong and weak parts that help us understand and to learn the styles and ways of this time period. They are both great tools for learning about modern world history in their own ways about war and tragedy. The Last of the Mohicans is a bold and stirring story that will always be very memorable adventure years to come.

Bibliography

The Last of the Mohicans. Produced by Michael Mann. 1 hour 54 minutes. 1992.

Cooper, James Fenimore. The Last of the Mohicans. Albany: State University of New

York Press, 1983.
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