The Last Of The Mohicans By Jf Cooper English Literature Essay
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In 1757 France and England battled for the control of the continent America. (Online 2) They fought for the rights of the territory in the northern part of America because both populations overcrowded Europe. During this war, the French often united themselves with Native American tribes in order to outmatch the English, with often tragic results due to the savagery of native Indians, especially the tribe called Hurons. Descriptions of certain incidents in the novel, such as the slaughter of the English soldiers by Huron Indians, reflect exposition of real historical events. Furthermore, some characters in the novel, especially General Montcalm, are based on real individuals. (Online 2)
Furthermore, the theoretical method used in the paper is contrastive analysis, which means that the plot structure (exposition, climax, resolution, etc.) is joined in order to analyze the plot of the novel and the film. The practical method used in the paper is discourse analysis, which means that the plot of the novel and the film, as well as the protagonists in the novel and the film are analyzed and compared.
Exposition is the beginning part of the plot. Kane has said, 'The exposition is that part of the plot which gives us the background information about the characters, telling us what we need to know in order to understand why they act as they do in what is about to unfold. [â€¦] Exposition leads to conflict.' (1988:267) Furthermore, in the book "AP English Literature and Composition" the exposition is explained more simply, '[â€¦] exposition is the revealing of whatever information we need in order to understand the impending conflict.' (2003:67) Exposition includes setting, description of characters and introduction of problems.
The following part of the plot structure is rising of action. This is the part which rises the emotion within the story and fills an important part between a conflict and a climax. With a rising of action a story starts to unfold, more complications/conflicts arise. It is the development of events in a novel or a movie. Rising of action is also the part which develops the characters. The story here 'becomes complicated' (Online 9) or, in other words, interesting for a reader or an audience.
As mentioned before, rising of action culminates in climax. It is the peak of a story where things can either turn good or bad for the characters. Therefore, in some sources climax is called a turning point in a story. 'No matter what form climax takes - a battle to the death or a quiet decision to do the right thing - the climax must be the culmination of the main story problem'. (Online 10) Another interesting fact about climax mentioned by Hilari Bell, the famous American fantasy author, is that 'your beginning sells a novel - but it's the climax that sells the next.' (Online 10)
The next part of a novel is falling action. This is the moment where story flattens, and all events and problems fall into places. It brings the outcome. It is important 'to bring the outcome as rapidly and impressively as possible' (Neal 2009:115) in order not to loose the next part of a novel - resolution. However, in some sources authors claim that falling action is the same resolution. (Online 11)
"The Last of the Mohicans" was written in 1826, but the time of the novel takes place in the mid-summer of 1757 during the French and Indian War, in the wild woods of America. It has gone under a lot of criticism starting with the day it was first published. Many critics since 1826 claim that Cooper shows the false nature of an Indian and says that "The Last of the Mohicans" is the worst work by Cooper. 'We should be glad to know [â€¦] in what tribe, or in what age of Indian history, such a civilized warrior as Uncas ever flourished?'(Peck 1992:6) After a while the so called defenders of Cooper appeared stating that 'Cooper's Indian characters are as carefully studied and as successfully portrayed as his white ones [â€¦]' (ibid.:8) and announcing that the novel is 'one of the most famous and most romantic works' by Cooper. (Online 13)
The most important protagonists of the novel are Cora Munro, the eldest sister, and Alice Munro, the youngest one, Colonel Munro, the Father of both girls and the commander of Fort William Henry. Furthermore, Duncan Heyward, a gallant young officer, who has feelings for Alice, and David Gamut, a silly religious singer, accompany girls. At the beginning of the novel the small group of four is led by Magua, a dreadful Indian. After a while the group meets Hawkeye, a skilled woodsman, and two Mohican friends - Chinngachgook and his son, Uncas.
One of the themes of the novel is love between Duncan and Alice, Uncas and Cora. 'The sweetness, the beauty, the witchery of your younger daughter, Colonel Munro, might explain my motives, without imputing to me this injustice.' (Cooper 1994:188) Major Duncan Heyward tries to explain his motifs for loving Alice. It is very vital for him to explain every detail why exactly he has chosen Alice, not Cora, so that Colonel Munro understands him well and accepts him as a son.
Another theme is friendship among the protagonists. 'He saved my life in the coolest and readiest manner, and he has made a friend who never will require to be reminded of the debt he owes.' (ibid.:85) Duncan expresses his gratitude to Uncas who had just saved his life during the Hurons' attack. It is only one of many quotes that shows the importance of friendship in the novel.
The role of the family is also expressed very brightly in the novel. ''Tis she! God has restored me my children! [â€¦] Pull not a tigger, lest ye kill my lambs!' (ibid.:170) Father, Colonel Munro, finally meets his daughters. In fact, the point of being together with family is the main cause why all protagonists have gone through the story that Cooper wrote. At the very beginning the predominant causes for covering such long distance to Fort Williams Henry is the desire and wish to meet Colonel Munro, the Father of both girls.
The fourth but not less important theme is the question of racism, which appears already at the very beginning of the novel, for instance, Cora's confident opinion about Indians 'Should we distrust the man because his manners are not our manners, and that his skin is dark!' (ibid.:24) It is obvious that it does not matter to Cora what origins a human has. She does not divide people by colour, language, manners, etc. Now and then appear similar situations where the protagonists express their opinion about different races.
Religion is also showed as a significant fact throughout the novel. The one and only protagonist who lives with religion and who adapts Christian stories and songs in every situation, no matter how dreadful the situation may be, is David Gamut. 'I never abide in any place, sleeping or waking, without an example of this gifted work [â€¦] 'The Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs of the Old and New Testaments' [â€¦].' (ibid.:29) Religious songs are those who help him survive the horrible conditions through all attacks.
The last theme is the life of the Indians. "I have listened to all the sounds of the woods for thirty years, as a man will listen whose life and death depend on the quickness of his ears." (ibid.:72) Although this quote is said by Hawkeye, the "pale-face" who lives with Mohicans, it shows the nature of an Indian. Quickness and attentiveness are one of the characteristic features of an Indian. A reader can follow all the traditions of Indians, for instance, the cutting off of scalps after killing an enemy, or the nature of animal in Indian when he tries to catch somebody or hide from somebody. Another Indian tradition is seen in the Indian protagonist names. They are called after some animal which is similar in moves and actions. For example, Hawkeye, who has lived with Mohicans and is considered as an Indian, is named after hawk due to his preciseness in shooting. Other instances are Uncas, whose name in translation means a fast deer, and Magua, whose name means a sly fox.
By gathering so many themes and discussion points in one novel, it seems that Cooper tried to show every aspect of a human's life and every aspect that worried him. Those aspects are the way a person is loved by somebody, the way he/she is loved by his/her family, the way he/she is loved by friends.
Concerning the structure of the plot, the exposition introduces the reader to the setting of the novel and to all the protagonists. It starts when both Munro girls have started their journey to Fort William Henry, and then they meet Hawkeye with his friends. There are several conflicts in the novel - all connected with the frequent attacks and fights between the group and Indians. However, the main conflict is the battle between the English and the French, which lasts throughout the novel. Furthermore, the rising action starts where Magua captures both Munro girls during the Huron attack to the English. This fact turns the novel into a new direction, and the events start to take more rapid motion. The climax in this novel appears in the moment where Uncas manages to kill Magua although he himself is wounded to death. The author of the term paper claims that the falling action and the resolution are joined together in this novel, since there is only one day, the burial day, described after the climax, where everyone mourns the death of Uncas and Cora, the lovers who at least can be together in heaven, and everyone realizes that the last of the Mohicans is dead now.
2.2. The Plot Analysis of the Movie
The movie "The Last of the Mohicans" was filmed in 1992 by Michael Mann. Basically, the critics of the movie are good. The movie is considered to be 'a rousing, naturalistic war epic that is a welcome relief from all the car crashes and explosions that have become such tireless cycles in most action films.' (Online 14) James Kendrick, the author of the previous quote, maintains that Michael Mann and Daniel Day-Lewis, the star of the movie who appears as Hawkeye, have been working hard on this movie. They spent a long time looking for appropriate woods in America that could resemble the place described in the book, they have been spending months to learn how to act like an Indian and how to fight like an Indian.
The setting of the movie is the same as in the novel - few days in the French and Indian War. However, not all protagonists are the same. They are Cora Munro, Alice Munro, Colonel Munro, Duncan Heyward, Magua, Hawkeye, Chingachgook and Uncas. Thus, it means that a very significant protagonist from the novel called David Gamut, who represented the religious theme in the novel, does not appear in the movie.
The themes basically are the same, too. However, movie provides some slight changes. Of course the main theme of the movie is love, yet it is not between Duncan and Alice, Uncas and Cora. The main love "heroes" are Hawkeye and Cora, Uncas and Alice. Duncan also has feelings for Cora, hence, making tensed relationship between Hawkeye and Duncan. Although Cora and Hawkeye talks little to each other, their gazes and body language tells all about their love. They are madly in love, albeit they hardly know each other. Another instance is love between Alice and Uncas. There are barely five sentences they exchange, but it does not matter for Uncas dies saving Alice. A very similar situation which proves the feelings toward Cora is the self-sacrifice of Duncan. He bears the punishment meant for Cora and dies for her.
There is a new-found theme in the movie - revenge. In the heat of the battle and other attacks almost every protagonist has a motif for revenge, especially Magua. He wants to revenge the death of his family by killing the Munro family. At the end of the movie the calm and wise Chingachgook kills Magua as a revenge for killing his son.
The role of the family is also very significant. Both Munro girls love their father very much, especially the youngest one, Alice. Through and through the movie it is obvious that Cora loves Alice very much and takes care of her every minute. Though she is scared, she does not show her fears. She is the eldest sister; hence, she supports her sister in every attack acting like a mother to Alice. Furthermore, although Hawkeye is not the real son of Chingachgook and is not the real brother of Uncas, he loves them as his own family, which he does not remember having. He is ready to sacrifice himself for his family. 'This fight is not yours. I love you and my brother. And you should leave this place now.' These are the words meant for Chingachgook and Uncas when the British army arrests Hawkeye.
The theme that stands very close to love by its significance is the life of Indians. Many traditions of Indians are described and showed in the movie. For example, the very beginning of the movie shows one of the traditions - worshiping of an animal. Hawkeye with his Mohican friends have killed a deer, and Chingachgook says, 'We're sorry to kill you, Brother. We do honour to your courage and speed, your strength.' It is obvious that they do not kill without a reason. They need something to eat, they need something to wear. Then one of the next scenes, where the disloyal Magua starts a fight and kills almost everyone together with his Indians without a reason, shows the different nature of different native Indians. Nevertheless, it seems that it is important for an Indian to make his name in a tribe. For instance, Magua will do anything to be acknowledged by the wisest and eldest leader of Hurons. Thus he is ready to put innocent people to death. 'Magua will sell the English officer to the French. And the reward is my gift to you, wise one. The women are the children of the white war chief, Munro. They will burn in our fires. Then all can share in these trophies of honour.' These are the words Magua says to the wise Indian.
Relating to the structure of the plot, the exposition presents the audience with the setting by describing the place, time and facts about what happens in America. Furthermore, every character is introduced already showing their nature. The exposition continues with the start of the long way to Fort William Henry. The movie comprises many conflicts. One of the conflicts is the attack by Indians when the group of English was led into the trap. Another conflict appears when an innocent family is massacred for nothing. No tools, no weapons are taken from them. They are simply murdered. The next conflict arises already in the Fort William Henry where Hawkeye helps the men, who do not want to continue the endless war, to escape from the fort; thus, putting himself in prison. The rising of action starts with another slaughter when the English leave the fort. A bunch of Indians attack and massacre everyone they see. The rising of action continues all the way while Munro sisters, Hawkeye with Mohicans and Duncan try to escape the wild Indians. It continues even in the Huron gathering where the wise Indian appears and decides of the destiny of the white men which are brought there by Magua. The climax in the movie is the final battle where Uncas, Alice and Magua die. Uncas tries to rescue Alice, but Magua kills him. Alice in horror of Magua jumps of the cliff. As revenge Chingachgook kills Magua. The falling action is joined together with resolution, the same as in the novel. Chingachgook mourns his dead son and with pity announces that he is the last of the Mohicans alive.
2.3. Comparison of the Plot Analyses
Novel is rarely identical to its screen version. Lots of scenes are taken out. Sometimes it is not the omitted scene that causes an interest in comparing a book with its screen version, but the change of the plot, change of the themes or/and change of the protagonists. There are many similarities and differences between the novel "The Last of the Mohicans" and its screen version.
Concerning the comparison of the themes, love, family, Indian life are the common themes in both - the novel and its screen version. However, each of the themes comprises many differences when comparing them in the novel and the movie.
Firstly, love is different and lovers are different. As stated before, Duncan and Alice have feelings for each other, and they are the main lovers of the novel for the dialogues between them reveal their love. Although, when talking, they are very reserved to each other because of their manners, the feelings, which they try to keep to themselves, are obvious. 'Alice trembled violently, and there was an instant during which she bent her face aside, yielding to the emotions common to her sex; but they quickly passed away, leaving her mistress of her deportment, if not of her affections.' (Cooper 1994:308) This is the moment where Duncan reveals his feelings, but, though Alice is overwhelmed with the news, she hides her emotions. Another love flicker happens between Uncas and Cora. Their feelings are not that obvious as between Alice and Duncan. This "couple" presents an interracial love which was neither understandable nor acceptable at that time. Thus, as a proof to the fact, they both die at the end of the novel showing that 'different races should not mix'. (Online 15) Nevertheless, the way that Uncas sacrifices himself for Cora shows his feelings for the girl. Regarding the movie, Hawkeye falls in love with Cora, and no one hides his/her emotions in the movie. Already when they first meet after the first attack of Indians on their way to Fort William Henry, their gazes reveal that they like each other and later on something will happen between them. In comparison with Alice and Duncan, the lovers of the novel, Cora and Hawkeye do not hide their emotion, they talk, and their love is obvious. They are not reserved as Duncan and Alice in the novel. Hence, the awkward situation between lovers does not even exist in the movie. The other two lovers of the movie are Uncas and Alice. Although they do not have the chance to talk to each other for there is no right moment, they like each other. The proof is the tragic end of the movie where Uncas tries to rescue Alice and dies. The similarity of the love theme is that Uncas and Cora in the novel; and Uncas and Alice in the movie have the same role in each work. The only difference is that Michael Mann decided that Uncas will fall in love with the other sister. The fate of Uncas changes neither in the book, nor in the movie.
Also the role of the family appears in both works - in the novel and its screen version. This theme provides a reader and an audience with completely similar facts. Those are love and care between both sisters, love between the girls and their father, love between the Mohicans and Hawkeye. Whenever a situation comes to prove the love and care for a family member, the protagonist of the novel or the movie sacrifices him/ her for the benefit of other family members. The brightest examples are Hawkeye and Cora. Hawkeye is always ready to put himself in danger, thus expressing love for his unreal family - Mohican friends. Cora does the same. She does everything just to save her sister. In the novel she is ready to marry Magua if Alice is released. In the movie at the dreadful attack of Indians when leaving the Fort she kills one Indian who tried to kill Alice.
The novel and the movie are also full of Indian traditions. One of the similar traditions is the scalp cutting of the killed enemy. Indian skills reflect different animals; hence, their names are given after the animal which he resembles. Another characteristic is the role of the Indian in his tribe. It was very significant for them to make their name. The role in the tribe depended on the men he killed - as many as better. If and Indian has killed many, he is respected by others in the tribe, and respect was important feature among Indians. The cut scalps were the proofs of the killed men. Therefore, Indians have such blood-thirsty nature. These are the general observations of the novel and its screen version.
The themes that vary in the novel and its screen version are friendship, revenge and racism. It seems that the novel gives friendlier atmosphere than the movie. Of course that both works spin around friendship and revenge; however, the theme of friendship is more actual in the novel, and revenge is more actual in the movie. The novel comprises several scenes where the protagonists thank each other for saving his/ her life, takes care of each other; thereby presenting friendship. Since the movie is shorter, and it does not contain all the scenes and the relationship of the protagonists from the novel, it does not show such grate friendship as it is in the novel. There are more revenge scenes. Magua wants to revenge his family. Chingachgook revenges the death of his son. Since there is no time for detailed descriptions in the movie, it is more passionate. One action scene follows the other; there is no breathing-space in between. It keeps audience alive throughout the movie. On the contrary, the descriptions of nature or the protagonists in the novel calm the reader and allow to enjoy the slow motion of every detailed characteristics of nature or protagonist.
A significant theme, basically discussed in the novel, is racism. As mentioned in the first subchapter of the analysis, Cora is the protagonist who shields Indians and other people who are not protected. Of course, she does it in the level of words. She is helpless as a woman, especially at the time of the war. Nevertheless, the author of the term paper did not notice such theme in the movie.
Concerning the comparison of the plot structures, the exposition is similar in both - the novel and the film. It starts with the introduction of setting and protagonists and continues when the main protagonists start their journey to the Fort William Henry. The conflicts mainly are the same, too. The difference is that the novel comprises more conflicts than the movie, since there are more Indian attacks, and the route seems longer than in the movie. The main conflicts are the frequent attacks in both works. Though the plot by its structure seems similar in the novel and its screen version, the rising action differs in them. The rising action in the novel is when Magua captures both Munro girls while other Indians slaughter the English. There is no such scene in the movie. The rising action in the movie is the escape of the Munro girls and their companions when Magua is following at the end of the movie. The climax is partially similar in both works, too, for it is the final struggle on the cliff where Uncas and Magua die (in both of the works). The only difference here is that the third protagonist who dies is Cora in the novel and Alice in the movie. Finally, falling action together with resolution slightly differs since the novel describes the process of burial, but the movie shows only how Chingachgook mourns the death of his son.
Considering all the above, there are many similarities and differences between the novel's plot and the movie's plot. The main similarities are the themes of love, family and the life of Indians. Exposition, basic conflicts and part of climax are similar, too. However, the differences are the themes of friendship, revenge and racism. Concerning the plot structure, rising of action and falling action together with resolution differ.
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