The Last of the Mohicans By James Fenimore Cooper Summary and Analysis Chapter 33

Summary

The next morning finds the Lenape a nation of mourners in spite of their destruction of a whole community of enemies. Their own loss has brought sadness and humility, and everybody is outdoors in a silent circle about their dead. Munro sits desolate at the foot of the litter holding Cora's body, while nearby Chingachgook keeps a steady, anxious gaze upon the lifeless face of Uncas, now seated and dressed as if alive. After a brief speech from Tamenund, chanting voices are raised in honor of the deceased.

Beginning with the maidens, they sing that Uncas and Cora will be together in the happy hunting ground, that both are of sterling quality and are deserving of each other. But Hawkeye, who understands the Delaware language, shakes his head at "the error of their simple creed." After the warriors formally and in turn ask Uncas why he has left them, Chingachgook begins the monody of the father. Then the girls raise the litter of Cora and take her to her burial place, where they cover the grave and Gamut sings from his psalm book. Munro asks Hawkeye to tell them "that the Being we all worship, under different names, will be mindful of their charity; and that the time shall not be distant when we may assemble around his throne without distinction of sex, or rank, or color." But the scout says that this will not do and merely thanks them. Afterwards, Alice is brought from her mourning in a lodge, and all the white characters solemnly leave except Hawkeye.

A parallel ceremony disposes of the body of Uncas in Indian fashion, and Chingachgook makes a short speech ending with "I am alone." Hawkeye cries that it is not so: "if ever I forget the lad who has so often fou't at my side in war, and slept at my side in peace, may He who made us all, whatever may be our color or our gifts, forget me! The boy has left us for a time; but, Sagamore, you are not alone." The two woodsmen grasp hands across the fresh earth as Tamenund says that "before the night has come, have I lived to see the last warrior of the wise race of the Mohicans."

Analysis

The conclusion of the tragic story is befittingly somber and ritualistic, somehow bringing things together. For instance, Gamut, who has survived his initiation into the frontier, comes so under the spell of the ritual Indian singing that he submits to it and later adds his voice to the ceremony. The man who started out as the traditional, stock comic Yankee character has become in many ways the most thoroughly developing character in the book. He has experienced, learned, and gone into action both beyond himself and in spite of himself.

The motif of disguise (part of the bigger motif of unreality) has been dropped once the pursuit reaches the point of direct confrontation and action. Through death and its aftermath, everything now stands out in naked reality. Chingachgook, for example, has discarded not only his beaver head but also all other decorations on his body except the one tattooed emblem as he faces his dead son. He and Hawkeye quite unashamedly shed tears over the grave of the youth.

The theme of miscegenation is also rounded out. What was for Cooper apparently a taint of mixed blood for Cora is ended with her death, and through his grief Munro pays for his rationalized deviation. The further deaths of Magua and Uncas end the possibility of intermarriage between the novel's racial groups. If the reader assumes that Hawkeye is Cooper's spokesman, then the novel becomes in part a vehicle against miscegenation even after death. The scout's reaction is of course really an extension of his love for individualism and his critical relativity. He believes in a people's "gifts" and in keeping them pure. He respects the differences that confront each other on the frontier, and his view has become in fact a principle of differentness.

Cooper's big theme of the frontier has other aspects, of course, and again here at the conclusion of the story Hawkeye stands right at the center. In spite of (perhaps because of) his ideas about "gifts" and miscegenation, he reverences the concept of brotherhood. This is seen in his willingness to help any worthy person, in his relationship to Uncas and Chingachgook throughout the book, in his final words on Uncas, and especially in his symbolic grasping of hands with Chingachgook at the end. He is Cooper's ideal, stalwart man, in whom the two convictions — differentness and brotherhood — can survive side by side.

It is this quality in Hawkeye that gilds the edge of the cloudy tragedy. As the final words of Tamenund remind the reader, there comes an end for individuals, families, tribes, and even races. But in this novel, Hawkeye embodies that which abides and, through abiding, overcomes. It involves what is ideal and basic to existence and, as here, it can reach the plane of symbolism and ritual.

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