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The book Last of the Mohicans is based on a novel by James Fenimore Cooper, and revolves around a clan of Native Americans called the Mohicans. The main characters are Hawkeye, his adopted father Chingachgook, and his adopted brother Uncas. Chingachgook, and his son Uncas, are the last of the Mohican tribe or blood line. The movie is also based on these three characters. The era that both stories take place in is the 18th century during the seven years war between Britain and France. The movie is a romance torn between war and race. The Mohicans along with Hawkeye try to save the daughters of a British colonel, but the conflict arises when Magua of the Hurons attempts to kill the Mohicans and kidnap the two girls. There is also conflict between the relationships of all the characters. The villain in both stories is the same and his name is Magua, who is from the Huron tribe. In the book Magua wants revenge against Col. Munro, by trying to marry one of daughters and hurt his pride, but in the movie he wants and does kill Munro. Magua also begins to feel sympathy for Cora the colonel's daughter, but in the movie he has no compassion or feelings for her, but remains brutal until the end. It is revealed in the book that Cora Munro, the Colonel's daughter had a black mother and therefore this tempts her to become involved with the Mohican Uncas, however there is no such reference to this in the movie and you are left to guess why they have become affectionate towards each other. The book explores a lot of racial issues involving the white race and the Indian race during a time when racism was probably at its height. The book portrays that Hawkeye may not have the expertise of his counterparts in the forest, but in the movie he definitely is just as knowledgeable as Uncas and his father. The book also appears to make the enemy, who are the Hurons seem almost stupid and foolish as Heywood poses as a French doctor to fool them. The book is full of historical events, which makes it seem less of a romantic than the movie.
In the opening scene of the movie Hawkeye and his Mohican friends are seen hunting an elk, which is killed by Hawkeye and his long rifle, but in the book they do not want the gunfire to be heard so the elk is shot with an arrow.
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The soundtrack is amazing since it is a constant string instrument complimented by a beating drum that plays throughout much of the exciting forest scenes, including the movie's final, climactic running battle between Hawkey and the Hurons. One thing the makers of the movie attempted to keep was the vision portrayed in the book of sweeping landscapes, gigantic trees, dark forests, crashing waterfalls, and other impressive features of nature. However, once again I think the film presented this better than the book did, due to the fact that film presents such features in a more vivid, more appealing way than pages of descriptive passage, but since we are used to being presented these features in a graphic, immediate way, rather than allowing our imaginations to come up with pictures from the narrative of the book.. The landscape and nature play a significant role in both the book and the film through defining the characters such as Hawkeye who seems to be one with the forest with enormous skills, while Major Heyward seems to be totally unfamiliar with the terrain and this makes him seem incompetent. There seems to be the intersecting of races in the book and also the movie, such as a white woman falling in love with an Indian, and then a white man, who lives as an Indian.
Hawkeye and his companions cross paths with two female characters Cora Munro and her sister Alice as the women are being escorted by Major Duncan Hayward to their father at the front lines. Their characters differed somewhat from the book in which Cora is much braver and less delicate than her sister, Alice, and for this she is punished in that she dies in the end. In the novel Cooper makes it apparent that women should remain and conform to the standards men set for them. In the movie, the makers reverse this idea. Cora is again portrayed as stepping beyond the boundaries of acceptable female behavior at that point in history. In fact, the moviemakers take Cora farther out of bounds than Cooper did. She carries a pistol, and even shoots an Indian to keep herself and her sister safe. However, in behaving this way, she is transformed into a character that more closely resembles a late twentieth century ideal of the independent, self-sufficient woman, probably to make her more sympathetic to today's movie audience. Instead of being punished she ends up with Daniel Day-Lewis. In the book Hawkeye does not show very much emotion and the reader does not have any empathy for him, even though he is the hero. In the movie, however, there is a great romance between Hawkeye and Cora that does not exist in the book, and would have been feared by white men at the time the novel was written. This romance adds a more human side to Hawkeye's character; it shows his caring side beyond all the hero-woodsman qualities, the non-Rambo, late twentieth century version of a hero. Every hero should have a woman at his side, and the makers of the movie, realizing this, transfer Cora from Uncas' side to Hawkeye's. This I think was a wise choice because it gave the viewer more things in common with the hero and thus made Hawkeye a more human hero and therefore more comprehensible to the late twentieth century viewer. One of the characters form the book named Gamuty, sings religious songs, for some unknown reason he does not appear in the movie version.
In the book Magua is motivated by revenge for having been punished like an animal by Captain Munro, and in the book there is a clash between hatred and gaining wealth. Daniel Day Lewis is does not repeatedly use his Indian name of Hawkeye, only once in the film does he use the name. He calls himself Nathaniel. The recurrent use of Nathaniel proclaims his white origin. The woman to whom he aspires is white. The novel's burial scene, while romanticized, is much more accurate and appropriate. Hawkeye's becoming Nathaniel is a blow to his white side against his Indian side ,perhaps the modern equivalent of Cooper's mention about a man "without a cross, "which he often is referred to in the novel.
At the end of the story good defeats evil. Many of the main characters do however die at the end, such as Cora and Uncas. These two seem to be doomed because of the interracial relationship. Maybe Cooper does this to denounce race mixing, which was not accepted in the 19th century. Alice and Heywood, the two white characters, live happily ever after. In the movie Heywood is also killed and has no relationship. A strange ending in the book has Monro suggesting that skin color may no longer matter, but it is evident that Hawkeye does not believe this, and he is probably speaking for the Author. The movie does not suggest that race is an issue.The novel ends with the Last Mohican Uncas dying, which expresses the end of a culture and the romance of the novel as he died for his passion.