Last of The Mohicans Analysis
An interesting research topic is to compare, contrast and analyze the nove and the film, The Last of the Mohicans. The writers at Paper Masters will help explore this complex topic that illustrates Cooper's novel is fraught with historical inaccuracies.
James Fenimore Cooper's 1826 historical novel The Last of the Mohicans: A Narrative of 1757 providers a glimpse into the battles fought along the American frontier during the French and Indian War (Seven Years' War). French forces allied with a number of Native American tribes fought British forces and colonial settlers over a period of seven years. The outcome of the conflict, of which North America was only one theatre of battle, saw dramatic and lasting shifts in world power.
- The novel by Cooper, though extremely popular in the nineteenth century, was widely seen to be grossly inaccurate in its historical details.
- Michael Mann's 1992 film works almost as a revision and refutation of Cooper's novel.
- Historical details that Cooper either did not know or ignored are reintroduced.
- The film takes pains to present the Native Americans as flesh and blood characters than Cooper's simple depiction of noble savages.
An excellent research paper topic will explore some of the more interesting elements of the film and examine their historical veracity.
Aside from the historical and political issues reflected in the novel, it also provides insight into early views regarding race. The main character Hawkeye, also known as Natty Bumppo and in French as "La Longue Carabine" (the long rifle), is a white man who has largely adopted Native American culture. He is a sort of white-Indian hybrid in his own eyes, and counts the Mohican tribe as being almost family; his two closest friends are Mohicans. Interestingly, his apparent social multiculturalism does not preclude an obsessive emphasis on his own white heritage. Nor does it extend to the realm of romantic relationships; Hawkeye is virulently opposed to interracial coupling. This was the dominant attitude at the time, of course, and Hawkeye is in fact unusual in his social openness to Native Americans. This contradictory attitude about race involving the apparent commitment to equality confounded by intolerance in specific domains mirrored racial attitudes of much later times. A The Last of the Mohicans analysis is revealing of the historical underpinnings of these complex attitudes.
The historical background to the film is the events of the French and Indian War - specifically those taking place in the Hudson River Valley in August 1757. As part of the French strategy to divide the English colonies, a force under General Montcalm was sent from Quebec to capture a string of forts defending the Upper Hudson. One of these was Fort William Henry, located at the southern end of Lake George. In the film, the English send troops to reinforce the fort and enlist colonial militia units to assist. At the same time, the titular Native American character, Chingachgook, Uncas, and Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis playing the son of white settlers raised by Mohicans) must decide to help them or go west. In the end, they do help, and Hawkeye falls in love with the daughter of the fort's commanding officer, Cora (Madeline Stowe). Their love story ultimately comes to dominate the historical events in the second of the film.
But in the first half, we are treated to a detailed recreation of the siege of Fort William Henry. In order to capture the fort, Montcalm brought up pieces of heavy artillery that would destroy the earthworks. The only problem was that he could not get the cannons close enough to the fort without exposing his men to open fire. To solve this problem, Montcalm had his troops slowly build trench lines approaching the fort. This would allow him to position the artillery close enough to the fort to be effective, yet shield his men from direct fire. This effort is shown visually in the sequence where the three Mohicans and their English companions sneak into the fort. It is also repeated by Colonel Munro, who understands exactly what the French strategy is and knows that it will work unless he receives proper reinforcements. In this way, the film is extremely accurate in depicting why and how the fort was captured.