A reader of The Last of the Mohicans can detect bigotry in the novel, which is perpetuated by ethnic difference and ethnic stereotypes. Cooper’s book portrays bigotry as one of the novel’s contemporary subjects, offering negative and generic issues to citizens of different races. In a more rigorous review, the book’s ethnic stereotypic remarks, along with Cooper’s social differences, fuel racial and cultural tolerance. The author does not only utilize the stereotypes to further the racial barriers but also support and build the plot of the book promoting the idea that people from different racial and cultural upbringing can be divided on racial grounds. Through his character, Hawk-eye, the author manages to embody the progressive ideas of racism. The stories of the Native Americans provides valuable insights into the aspect of the race that surround the multiracial individuals. According to Edgerton, Cooper becomes “perceptive in showing how the heritage of Cora influences her self-perception” (Edgerton 12). Cora judges herself together with other people in light of skin color characteristics and multiracial aspect. From the book, it is evident that racial progression does present to have a wide range of feelings and significant shows how adverse racial opinions and views could be damaging to the society.
Analysis of Racism in The Last of the Mohicans
Racism does portray to be a strong theme in the novel right from the beginning of the story. For example, Cora is vehemently against the racism and tells her sister “Should we distrust the man because his manners are not our manners and that his skin is dark!” (Cooper 24). This shows that some of the characters in the book such as Alice take pride in propagating racism against other races such as the black. Cora is not racist and does not judge other people basing on the skin color, a person’s manners and their origin. The blacks and the Native Americans face and endure racism done against them due to their skin color. The sentiments of racism that are highly expressed in Cooper’s book revolves around the idea of “savagery” and “barbarism” along with the inevitable extinction of the Native Americans. Cooper does treat racism as being a significant deterministic factor in the novel. Notably, the white people do exhibit certain character traits that are solely related to the white society e as discrimination of other races and the belief in God as the ruler of the entire universe. The Native Americans are also seen to exhibit some character traits which is highly evident in the native land showing racial divide. For instance, in the book, the traffics stereotypes of the “noble savage” along with the vague magical nature of the Native Americans show the differences in the two racial stereotypes have managed to thrive in the American generations and the problem is still evident to being one of the social challenges in the society.
Hawk-eye is a character that could at first be thought of being a racial slur when he states that “A man without a cross” (Cooper 72). Nevertheless, the statement can be identified to being a proclamation which emphasizes that persons with pure white background could live in harmony and become friends to people from different races. Evidently, through Hawk-eye, he develops interests in befriending the Indians and he pushes the idealism of Cooper’s view on racism in an amicable manner. He blends between people from different races and cultures. Later on, the book unfolds how Hawk-eye shows the extent of his relationship to the Native Americas and even declares his willingness to die for Uncas in the fighting. He states that “they shall see how a man without a cross can die” (Cooper 300). Unquestionably, Hawk-eye’s actions indicate the way a society can live in harmony but also still be divided along lines of racism.
During the 19th century, there existed miscegenation laws which were in place and aimed at preventing the multiracial groups from mixing with the other races owing to the widespread belief of inequality arising from skin color. Hawk-eye from the novel tries, by all means, to break the typical racial and cultural stereotypes through his actions. He does not the only aim in befriending the Indians but rather seeks to pass and explain an understanding of a common belief that equality is important in a society. Notably, the reader gets confronted by Hawk-eye’s belief when he speaks to Duncan concerning the ruin of William Henry. He asks Duncan whether he does believe in the idea that the white man and the other skin colored people are one and the same thing. The exchange that is seen between Hawk-eye and David Gamut hold serious weight in the notion of cultural similarity between the Indians and the Americans. Clearly, Hawk-eye in his promise to revenge if Uncas is killed says that “there is a single Ruler of us all, whatever may be the color of the skin” (Cooper 301). Richly, Cooper does use Hawk-eye’s proclamations to imply that the Native American and the American races are equal.
Racial prejudices are rampant and David Gamut who is of Calvinist background becomes engulfed in the idea that the other races are inferior. He views the Indian people as being unequal to his race. Gamut along with the other protestant individuals understand that the Native Americans are people who are not destined for salvation and thus they are meant to die and languish in hell. This idea of racial prejudice against the Indians and blacks has made the Calvinist believe that it is their sole duty to claiming that the Latin American land is not under the rule of the Christian God as they are not equal. Hawk refuse to accept the actions of the whites who treat themselves as being righteous people and looks down upon the other groups of races. Hawk-eye denounces their self-reflection in the cultural values. Indeed, Hawk-eye gives the reader the first taste of cultural realism and accepts that the white man is not always right in their actions. Hawk-eye is more morally upright on the issues touching on racial discriminations, cultural and racial beliefs that are perpetuated against the Indian race. Hawk-eye does praise the Indian race and isolates himself from that of white and in the entire novel, he notes that the Indians cannot in any way be compared to the white people in their abilities.
Examining the character Cora reveals racial prejudices that touch on multiracial discrimination evident from the book. Indeed, the multicultural heritage of Cora causes her to feel that her life is characterized as being less valuable compared to that of her friends and family members. She particularly compares herself to her sister Alice and sees her be more important than herself. Nevertheless, the family of Cora thinks very high of her, but the love that he receives from her family does not have any positive impact in convincing Cora that she is valuable as the other family members. Thus, the racism propagated to the mixed race individuals presents to be strong and negatively affects the characters. The aspect of multiracial identity is firmly established in Cora’s mind and thus imagines that she is a freak of nature. The forced hidden identity and the treatment become extremely detrimental to her self-confidence and also to her herself persuasion affecting her identity. No matter how hard other people perceive Cora as being a treasured and respected person, the multiracial background primarily and profoundly affects her. This emanates from her racial perception on how other people perceive her to be.
The people around Cora thinks her as being an intelligent and beautiful woman despite her multiracial origins. They describe her as having “a complexion that was not brown, but it appeared rather be charged with the color of the rich blood, that seemed ready to burst its bounds” (Cooper 21). In the entire novel, Cora is complemented due to her courage and strength as oppose to her sister Alice. For example, Heyward positively commends Cora in the enemy ambush while he strongly rebukes Alice. Heyward states that “To you Cora, I will urge no words of idle encouragement; your own fortitude and undisturbed reason will teach you all that may become your sex; but cannot we dry the tears of that trembling weeper on your bosom” ( Cooper 99). Despite all the positive comments that Cora receives, she still feels as being worthless and she is heavily affected by her multiracial background. She is willing to trade herself and her freedom for that of her sister Alice due to the imagination that she is worthless.
Slavery is also evident to be progress on lines of racism and majorly affects the blacks. The slaves were discriminated and they were thought to be inferior people. They were brutally subjected to torture and bitterly endured the harsh treatments from the white people. Racism prevails and the black people had to face the hard reality of racial discrimination. Munro states that “to be descended, remotely, from that unfortunate class who are so basely enslaved to administer to the wants of a luxurious people” (Cooper 188). From Munro’s statement, he disagrees with the act of slavery and supports the idea of racial equality even though he is sure that his society will not agree to his proposition. He decides to hide the heritage of his daughter and his previous marriage to avoid racial discriminations. Notably, Heyward efforts himself in remaining to be respectful to his superior and the desires in becoming a father-in-law even though Alice does not give in to his demands. Slavery was an act that was detrimental to the society and subjected many of the black people under torture because of their skin color.
According to Edgerton, “racial labeling whether it is forced or chosen, can cause turmoil by creating an environment in which a person must deny a part of their heritage and family or, by being rejected by a part of their heritage or family” (Edgerton 27). Cooper does clearly demonstrate identity problems of the multiracial people in the book. Notably, most of the multiracial people are reluctant in accepting their background as being the best compared to that of others. This is clearly evident from Cora. Cora depicts the struggles that the multiracial individuals go through in the quest acknowledging their identity through the confessions they make and their own doubts. They normally perceive their looks as being different to the other races.
Cooper did not only choose to perpetuate racism and inequity that are prevalent in the society but also promoted a greater progressive of the idea that the whites together with the other colors are equal. Throughout the book, we are able to notice the oppressive convictions that the characters such as Cora go through due to their multiracial background. The multiracial people view themselves as being inferior to the other races. Certainly, Cooper was able to make an introduction of vastly foreign concepts of equality and tolerance among the different races and this is emphasized through the use of Hawk-eye character. Evidently, Hawk eye’s characterization is depicted to be an example of a brotherhood and friendship to all the races and does not strive to perpetuate the stereotypical inquiries that are evident in the society.
Cooper, James Fenimore. The Last of the Mohicans. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990. Print
Edgerton, Gary. “A Breed Apart’: Hollywood, Racial Stereotyping, and the Promise of Revisionism in The Last of the Mohicans.” Journal of American Culture 17.2 (2004):1-20. Print.