The Last of the Mohicans By James Fenimore Cooper Summary and Analysis Chapter 31

Summary

Uncas watches the form of Cora until it disappears; then followed by a few warriors, he gravely retires to his lodge to meditate his course of action. When a dwarf pine is stripped of its bark and painted with red stripes, he emerges and begins a dance and war song to Manitou, the Great Spirit. Others follow suit, and they mutilate the tree as if it were the enemy. Meanwhile Hawkeye sends a youth to find his and Uncas' rifles in the forest, and the boy is undetected until he is almost in the village again; then he is shot at and slightly wounded by lurking Hurons, who are promptly chased off.

Taking twenty men unto himself, Uncas puts twenty under the command of Hawkeye and offers to do the same for Heyward, who declines. Reaching their scouts in the forest, they hold a "whispering council," and Hawkeye almost shoots Gamut when the latter approaches from the enemy side in his Indian attire. He informs them that the Hurons are between here and their village and that Magua has hidden Cora in the cave there. The scout now plans to take his men to the right along a stream to join Chingachgook and Munro at the beaver huts and then flank the enemy. After the two forces have extinguished the Huron warriors, they will carry the village and release Cora. Heyward likes the plan, which is immediately matured by their arranging signals and appointing each man to his station.

Analysis

Like the lull before a storm, this chapter continues with Indian customs of preparation during the honorary period of a truce. Also like certain parts in classic ballet or a symphony, the entire movement here is a ritualistic one of slow and relatively quiet potency. There are furthermore a few undertones of the epic, such as the preparation for battle and Uncas' encircling the post and repeating his song three times. Cooper's is a successful intention of giving dignity and religious overtones to a story that is to end in tragedy.

All of this is an intermediate prelude to another element of pursuit, the last of the novel. Loyalty of Indians to chief and of friend to friend is emphasized, and Gamut is brought back into the action because he can give needed information to the pursuers and because he yet has a significant developmental function to serve in the novel. It almost goes without saying that suspense is skillfully built.

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