The Last of the Mohicans By James Fenimore Cooper Summary and Analysis Chapters 13-14

Summary

Now that the afternoon is shortening, Hawkeye leads the party many toilsome miles to an open space surrounding a low, green hillock crowned by a rude, decayed block-house, the scene of a victorious youthful battle for Chingachgook and the scout. Under the hillock are the long-dead Mohawks, the memory of whom makes Hawkeye once again refer to the two Mohicans as the last of their tribe.

All except Chingachgook fall asleep and awaken at the rising of the moon to continue their journey. Before they can leave, they hear the steps of some twenty enemy Indians who have apparently lost their trail. While the protagonists wait in quiet suspense, two Hurons approach the mound but warily withdraw out of respect for the dead. As soon as the sounds of the hunters completely fade away, the seven fugitives silently head north again.

After tactically walking barefoot in a stream for an hour, they turn again to the plain and reach the "bloody pond," where in a previous battle Frenchmen had been surprised, slain, and tossed into the water. Being now near the French outposts, they encounter a French sentinel, whom Heyward fools by answering in French and whom Chingachgook slips upon, kills, and scalps. Since they must turn back for safety, Hawkeye leads them up a mountain from which, as morning comes, they can see to the east Fort William Henry on the southern tip of Lake George. Between them and the fort are General Montcalm's ten thousand Frenchmen, while to the southeast is the camped detachment from Fort Edward.

Firing has already started, but as a great fog descends, the party plans to push through it to the fort. They have strayed from their way when a cannon ball from the fort rolls to a stop near them and they decide to follow its furrow to safety. Again running into French forces, they have to flee and become lost until Uncas finds the furrow again. They are hotly pursued, but within minutes they are beneath the walls of the fort, where Munro recognizes the voice of Alice and orders his men out the sally-port. Led by Heyward, the English disperse the French as the gigantic, grey-haired Munro, large tears rolling down his cheeks, embraces his two daughters in his arms.

Analysis

The story has now reached the end of the first long chase, during which one pattern of pursuit-capture-escape-and-pursuit is completed. But Cooper has made sure that the present safety for the main characters is only relative. He has made the reader aware that the defending English are far outnumbered and contained by the ten thousand French and their Indian allies; even the sentimental reader who may feel relief and a gush of emotional release at the reunion of the father and daughters knows that the protagonists now face the double danger of foes and can no longer maneuver as they did in the forests. If any lull is to come, it will be in terms of action, not suspense.

The action here is so intense that little individual characterization is presented. Gamut is barely present, and Uncas apparently has no chance to show his interest in Cora. At one point Hawkeye relates some of the history of the tribe of Mohicans, and his reference to his two companions keeps alive the background theme of tribal demise. But rather than its setting him apart as an individual, Chingachgook's taking of scalps merely shows how much he still has in common with all other Indians, though his actions do stand in contrast to Uncas' behavior in the preceding chapter. Hawkeye, who sees Chingachgook's actions as part of his Indian "gift," evinces one new character element with his superstition at the "bloody pond." However, since Cooper is busy rounding out his action, he does not dwell on theme or characterization in these moments.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

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




Quiz