The Last of the Mohicans By James Fenimore Cooper Summary and Analysis Chapters 28-29

Summary

It is morning in the village of the Delawares, who earlier withheld their assistance from their ally Montcalm. Though everything is peaceful, the warriors are apparently prepared to fight if necessary, for here and there they carefully examine their arms and eye a silent lodge in the center of the village. When Magua appears, unarmed and with a gesture of amity, on a near distant platform of rock, the principal chiefs meet him and he talks formally with their most approved orator Hard Heart. Unable to learn anything about his prisoner Cora and the "strange moccasins" of white men in the woods, he presents the chiefs with gifts. Sure of himself, he startles them by saying that the white man, who he believes is among them, is La Longue Carabine, the famous killer of Indians.

Calling a council of more than a thousand Delawares, they wait for the emergence of three aged men from a particular lodge. The tattooed patriarch in the middle is the famed Tamenund, well over a hundred years old. He is shown every extreme of respect and reverence. After a suitable delay, a few young men go to the silent lodge and return with Cora, Alice, Heyward, and Hawkeye. Uncas is not present.

To delay and protect the others, Heyward claims to be La Longue Carabine, yet so does Hawkeye. In a contest of proof, Heyward fires within inches of an earthen vessel at fifty yards distance, but the scout casually shatters it, and everyone believes it an accident. Hawkeye is convincing when he scores a bull's-eye on a gourd that the major barely misses.

After an effective oration from Magua, the hands of the scout and the major are tied. Cora rushes to the feet of the patriarch, but Tamenund, prone to sink into the lethargy of age, answers her supplications with facts about the wrongs done his people. Cora tells him that there is one of his own people who is not present but should be heard. Doubtful, the aged chieftain says, "Let him come," and sinks into his seat. In the deep silence, the young men prepare to obey his order.

Analysis

Racial conflict, consciousness of race, and pride in one's color — all give focus to these two chapters. Conflict is presented early in the discussion of the relationship of the Delawares to the French and to the Six Nations. It is objectified in the verbal fencing between the Huron Magua and the Delaware Hard Heart about prisoners and alliances and in the taunts thrown at each other by Magua and Heyward. But it reaches its climax in a revealing cry by the mixed-blooded Cora to Tamenund: "Like thee and thine, venerable chief, the curse of my ancestors has fallen heavily on their child." Cora, the strong, is aware of her background, and it is a sad weight upon her and a sore conflict within her.

Consciousness of race centers mostly in Hawkeye and Magua. When the former is handed the loaded rifle to prove his identity, he tells the Huron that he might now easily shoot him but he cannot — "because the gifts of my color forbid it." Magua makes profitable oratorical fodder of race by declaring that the Great Spirit made blacks to be slaves and whites to be traders, but those with brighter and redder skins "did He fashion to his own mind." Magua's is a temporarily successful move to win the ethnic-minded Delawares to his side.

There is also pride in what Magua says, as there is in practically all of the formal movements and speeches of the Indians in these scenes. Tribal pride is seen in the Delawares' solemn delight in being called the Lenni Lenape, a people favored by the Great Spirit. The most sovereign pride is devolved upon the representative Tamenund, whose life has spanned more than three generations of warriors and who is a venerable living legend of both tribal and racial ancestry.

Underlying these matters of race, of course, is a continuation of the technique of pursuit through a variation. Here it is mostly a verbal tug-of-war for human lives, with Magua presumptuously pursuing and threatening because of the Indians' honor and tradition concerning a captor's right to possess his captives.

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