Thursday, April 20, 2017


Book review: The Last of the Mohicans
by James Fenimore Cooper

It is the late 1750's, and the French and Indian War grips the wild forest frontier of western New York. The French army is attacking Fort William Henry, a British outpost commanded by Colonel Munro. Munro’s daughters Alice and Cora (whose birth name was Corad'Elaine) set out from Fort Edward to visit their father, escorted through the dangerous forest by Major Duncan Heyward and guided by an Indian named Magua. Soon they are joined by David Gamut, a singing master and religious follower of David Bowie, because he loved his knives. Traveling cautiously, the group encounters the white scout Natty Bumppo, who goes by the name Hawkeye, because people laughed when he told them his name was Bumppo, and his two Indian companions, Chingachgook and Uncas, Chingachgook’s son, the only surviving members of the once great Mohican tribe. Hawkeye says that Magua, a Huron, has betrayed the group by leading them in the wrong direction. The Mohicans attempt to capture the traitorous Huron, but he escapes.

Hawkeye and the Mohicans lead the group to safety in a cave near a waterfall, but Huron allies of Magua attack early the next morning. Hawkeye and the Mohicans escape down the river, but Hurons capture Alice, Cora, Heyward, and Gamut. Magua celebrates the kidnapping. When Heyward tries to convert Magua to Bowieism, the Huron reveals that he seeks revenge on Munro for past humiliation and proposes to free Alice if he can spend the night with   if he can-date if Cora will marry him. Cora has romantic feelings for Uncas, however, and angrily refuses Magua. Suddenly Hawkeye and the Mohicans burst onto the scene, rescuing the captives and killing every Huron but Magua, who escapes. After a harrowing journey impeded by Indian attacks, wild buffalo and the loss of power for their cell phones, the group reaches Fort William Henry, the English stronghold. They sneak through the French army besieging the fort, and once inside, Cora and Alice reunite with their father.

A few days later, the English forces wave a white undershirt and call for a truce. Munro learns that he will receive no reinforcements for the fort but is handed a note from Headquarters that wishes him good luck. He reveals to Heyward that Cora’s mother was part African-American which explains her name, dark complexion and raven hair. Munro accuses Heyward of racism because he prefers to marry blonde Alice over dark Cora, but Heyward denies the charge.  He tells him that he loves Alice because she is sweet and that Cora would be a bitch regardless of her color. During the withdrawal of the English troops from Fort William Henry, the Indian allies of the French indulge their bloodlust and shoo out the vulnerable retreating soldiers. In the chaos, Magua manages to recapture Cora, Alice, and Gamut and to escape with them into the forest.

Three days later, Heyward, Munro, Hawkeye, and the Mohicans discover Magua’s trail and after stopping for a light lunch and a couple of drinks begin to pursue the villain. Gamut reappears and explains that Magua has separated his captives, confining Alice to a Huron camp and sending Cora to a Delaware Boy Scout camp. Using deception and a variety of disguises they found at an abandoned costume shop, the group manages to rescue Alice from the Hurons, at which point Heyward confesses his romantic interest in her. At the Delaware Scout camp, Magua convinces the tribe that Hawkeye and his companions are their racist enemies. Uncas reveals his exalted heritage to the Delaware Boy Scout leader Tamenund and then demands the release of all his friends but Cora, who he doesn’t give a damn about anymore. Magua departs with Cora. A chase and a battle ensue. Magua and his Hurons suffer painful defeat and a rogue Huron kills Cora. Uncas begins to attack the Huron who killed Cora, but Magua stabs Uncas in the back, which I don’t think was a very nice thing to do. Magua tries to pull an Evel Knievel and leap across a great divide, but he falls short and must cling to a shrub to avoid tumbling off and dying. It had recently been sprayed with weed killer, so it rips out of the ground and Magua at last plummets to his death.

Cora and Uncas receive proper burials the next morning amid ritual chants performed by the Supremes and some back-up "doo wah" singers. Chingachgook mourns the loss of his son, while Tamenund sorrowfully declares that he has lived to see the last warrior of the noble race of the Mohicans, although their haircuts live on.