The Last of the Mohicans By James Fenimore Cooper Summary and Analysis Chapter 26

Summary

Still dressed as a bear, Hawkeye returns to the camp and approaches a neglected hut in which he sees Gamut. Making sure the place is safe, he enters and seats himself on the other side of the fire, frightening Gamut until he reveals himself. Each one relying on the role he plays, they take a plain and direct route to the main lodge where Uncas is confined. Gamut tells the guards that the conjurer wants to blow his breath upon the captive to make him weak and fearful at the stake.

When the Indians fall back out of earshot, the two men enter and cut Uncas' bonds. With subterfuge necessary, Uncas puts on the bearskin, Hawkeye takes Gamut's attire, and Gamut bravely takes Uncas' place, planning to sing like a madman when he is discovered and hoping that will save him. Restraining themselves, the Mohican and the scout go slowly past the guards, but as they reach the woods, a long cry indicates that the deception has been discovered. Keeping faith that Indian superstition will save Gamut, Hawkeye finds their hidden rifles and the two men dash into the forest toward the Delaware village.

Analysis

Another part of the escape technique is now accomplished, and pursuit begins again. Disguise once more serves a useful purpose and, in the scene between Gamut and the bear in the neglected hut, it provides comic relief. Gamut is the butt not only of humor but also of irony when Cooper says that in his fright he "sought his never-failing resource in trouble, the gifted version of the Psalms." Basically, Cooper is as practical as is Hawkeye, for earlier through incident and authorial comment he has cast doubt on the intended effect of singing psalms. The irony lies in Gamut's inability to understand Indians and the limited but certain way his songs can affect them. Nonetheless, in staying behind, the singing master does show bravery and strong gratitude for the help Uncas has formerly given him. When he does, Hawkeye's willingness as a relativist to reconsider things becomes clear: "I do believe your scent [direction] is not greatly wrong, when the matter is duly considered, and keeping eternity before the eyes, though much depends on the natural gifts and the force of temptation." This theme of relativity is also Cooper's, as he demonstrates here and in numerous other incidents during the two long chases.

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According to Cooper, Hawkeye's purpose as a character is to . . .




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