The Last of the Mohicans By James Fenimore Cooper Summary and Analysis Chapter 5

Summary

The pursuit of Magua is unsuccessful, but Hawkeye feels that he has wounded him slightly and is certain of it when they find bloodstains on the sumach leaves. Heyward wants to continue the chase, but the scout fears an ambush, particularly since he has fired his rifle, an action for which he upbraids himself. With night almost upon them, the three woodsmen confer and, at the urging of Uncas, decide to take the group to their "harboring place" after Heyward promises to keep the place a secret.

The horses are a problem, but rather than give them their bridles, the men agree to mislead the foe into thinking that the group is on horseback. When the colt makes a noise in the bush, the scout determines that of necessity it must die so that it cannot betray them. Uncas shoots it with an arrow and Chingachgook quickly and mercifully slits its throat and dashes it into the river to float away. While the Indians lead the horses into the river, Hawkeye and Heyward place the females in a bark canoe and, trailed by the dejected Gamut, wade in to bear it upstream toward the waterfall, passing the dark overhang of the bank where the horses are now hidden.

At the falls, the scout seats all the whites in the canoe and poles it into the center of the turbulent stream, where it is whirled about until he brings it to rest beside a flat rock. "You are at the foot of Glenn's," he says and takes the canoe to fetch the Mohicans and the venison. When they are all together, he worriedly tells that the horses had cowered as if they scented wolves that would hover near Indian kills. He is interrupted by a sad song from Gamut, whom he tries to console for the death of the colt. Then he and the two Mohicans disappear in succession, "seeming to vanish against the dark face of a perpendicular rock."

Analysis

Here the reader encounters the first bloodshed born of war. The wounding of Magua and the killing of the innocent colt stand in contrast to the preceding shooting of the deer for food. Now that the two parties have become one by virtue of survival necessities, Hawkeye shows his skill as a woodsman who also knows his enemies' ways. He stands forth as a decisive character.

Gamut too grows in characterization. While the two girls give simple female reactions to the killing of the colt, Gamut grieves in such a way that he commands the solace and respect of Hawkeye, who says that "it's a good sign to see a man account upon his dumb friends." In being thus cruelly initiated into the expediencies of savage warfare, the singing master temporarily loses his comic character to become the sad civilian, the inexperienced outsider on whom the magnitude of these actions can fall with full personal force.

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