Last of the Mohicians James Fennimore Cooper's Book Review

Excerpt from Book Review :

Last of the Mohicians

James Fennimore Cooper's The Last of The Mohicans was published in 1826, part of a pentology, but the best known work for contemporary readers. The story takes place in 1757 during the French and Indian War, when France and Great Britain were at odds for dominance of the North American Colonies. During this war, the French made treaties and allied themselves with many Native American tribes to up the balance between the far more numerous British and colonialists. It was written in a popular genre of the time in which historical accuracy came second and numerous inaccuracies in terms of Native culture were simply overlooked, or became part of White popular culture (Peck). Ironically, there is a famous American author who took great pains to deride the material, Mark Twain. Twain found the novel lacking in variety with excessive verbiage, and even suggested that before praising the work, perhaps the critics and professors should have actually read the book (Twain).

Cooper wrote Last of the Mohicans during a time of burgeoning growth and struggle for national character in America. We must first put the story in the context of the historical and cultural aspects of America in the early 1820s -- sometimes referred to as the Jacksonian Era. The United States was moving from a climate of revolutionary fervor and realization of the vast task of self-rule, through a Jeffersonian period in which much of the political and social power gravitated from the northern capitals to the larger, rural estates of the Mid-Atlantic and Southern Regions. Jackson epitomized the idea of a land-baron; wealthy, intelligent, politically astute, patriotic, and ever expansionist. However, for the common person, this was an area of dualism -- the ever western expansion
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promised greater opportunity and a chance to build a new life, but the idea of settling a vast and untamed wilderness was frightening to others. Similarly, the whole economic structure of the U.S. was dichotomous as well. On one hand we had a wealthy oligarchy of rich planters whose money came from the exploitation of others (slavery). On the other hand we had a capitalist class with visions on vast western lands, transportation networks, and the exportation of natural resources. Some see the era as a gradual evolutionary transition of power from the upper echelons of former British intellectuals (the Founding Fathers) to a more populist culture (Meacham).

Too, Cooper, like Washington Irving, was searching for a way for American to have its own literary tradition and success; not to simply be seen as a rather poor cousin of the British. Cooper also wrote The American Democrat, originally intended to be a textbook on republican democracy, but really served to argue that the American character required a particular kind of person and particular duties from the electorate (Franklin). Thus, in Last of the Mohicans, the plot and theme defines the frontier and the frontier spirit; what are the basic characteristics of the American spirit and identity through the role of the relationships of Natty Bumppo (Hawkeye).

"When a man consorts much with a people, continued Hawkeye, if they are honest and he no knave, love will grow up atwixt them…. So that the love atwixt a Mohican and a Mingo is much like the regard between a white man and a serpent" (Cooper, 243).

D.W. Griffith was a pioneering film directory of the silent movie era, best known for his epic 1915 film Birth of a Nation. As a director,…

Sources Used in Documents:


Boles, J., ed. A Companion to the American South. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004. Print.

Cooper, J.F. The Last of the Mohicans. New York: MacMillan, 1921. Print.

Franklin, W. The New World of James Fenimore Cooper. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982. Print.

Meacham, J. American Lion. New York: Random House, 2008. Print.

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