- Series: Bantam Classics
- Mass Market Paperback: 432 pages
- Publisher: Bantam Classics (June 1, 1982)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 012000030X
- ISBN-13: 978-0120000302
- ASIN: 0553213296
- Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.9 x 6.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 668 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #81,240 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Last of the Mohicans (Bantam Classics)
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"[Cooper's] sympathy is large, and his humor is as genuine—and as perfectly unaffected—as his art."— Joseph Conrad
From the Inside Flap
Illus. in black-and-white. This action-packed edition of James Fenimore Cooper's famous adventure brings the wilds of the American frontier and the drama of the French and Indian War to vivid life.
"From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Fast forward about eight or so years, find me sorting through my books, and Last of the Mohicans was rediscovered. I believe I got about 200 pages into it over the course of 2 1/2 weeks, and bleh, I just can't force myself to read this any more. It is very seldom that I won't finish a book, even one I don't like, but I just can't get through this one.
For the first 200 pages, the characters are shallow and uninteresting. The women are gentle and reserved and know their places, and the men are violent and love to shoot things. The plot can basically be summarized this way:
-- Hack through forest.
-- Make racist statements.
-- Kill some people.
Maybe it gets better on page 201. I don't know. But this one is going in the Goodwill box.
Whatever information that appeared in the subtext of the cartoon story at that time entered my brain subliminally -- either above or beneath my awareness -- completely unimpeded by any critical thought or analysis. Only later was I to learn that there is no such thing as innocent "state-sanctioned" literature in the USA. It all has the same racial purpose: promote white supremacy by any means necessary. The trick is how to cleverly hide the fact that this is all that it does?
I suppose those years were the period of time, when unbeknowance to me, I was already fully "in training:" learning to adopt "white subjectivity" as my own (and only) reality. And thus predictably, the only consciousness I had of Indians (even though there was an Apache named Adam, whose family lived in my community and attended my segregated Elementary school) was that of the savages that the cartoons obviously had intended for me to interpret them to be. [How dumb did that make me as a young black kid?]
Fast forward six decades and the second reading, and the fog clears up a bit. Although I must confess that before embarking on this behemoth of a book, I first reread a similar cartoon version called "Great Illustrated Classics." The smaller 240-page version tracked so closely with the much larger original, that I safely concluded that, as Mark Twain had also said about Cooper's story: it was never to be taken as serious literature," it was intended to be nothing more than a cheap adolescent tale of white male heroism.
Even today, the plot to this book still makes absolutely no sense to me. I say that only because the context (and its historical background) remains hidden mostly in the shadows: We know that the events here took place during the French-Indian War in the backwoods of up state New York, and little else. In the foreground, as well as dripping from every orifice in the subtext, is little more than another syrupy frontier story of white male supremacy-style heroism. The unmistakable, and thus one must suppose, the real intent of all white heroism stories is to further promote white supremacy and white racial superiority. End of all American settler-based novels; end of all colonial American literature?
Cooper's novels helps this "white tribal project" along quite a bit by taking up all of its important racial sub-themes at once (white men are stronger, braver, smarter, more human, more moral, and thus immensely more civilized; plus white women are more beautiful and chaste and thus always sexually off limits to any minorities, etc. ad infinitum).
However, as is always a hidden requirement -- since promoting "White supremacy" was frown upon by descent society even during the mid 18th Century -- the trick again is to be able to do it with at least a bit of sophistication and finesse.
If Cooper's novels excel at anything it is selling white supremacy with finesse and sophistication: To wit: (1) a couple of the representatives of the various tribes are allowed to be brave, smart and honorable -- even human -- but only to the extent their humanity reflects, and is put in the service of, the white's man racial project; the rest of the Indians all are villains, period. (2) Cora, who is only allowed "to imagine" being in love with an Indian, according to the unwritten racial code, had to be a mulatto, not a pure white woman (who could not even imagine such?), even though her father was a white Colonel, (3) a bumbling nerd of a white man, Mayor Heyward, was thrown in for good measure, even though in the end he too metamorphosed into a white male hero.
Uncas, the last Mohican, since he alone was capable of falling in love with a white/mulatto woman (the pretty daughter of a white Colonel, Cora Munro) was the only Indian allowed to be human "on his own terms." The rest, as all minorities still are today (including the tall mulatto Indian Chief in the White House, Barack Obama), were just objects to be moved around on the chess board according to the rules of white subjectivity, white supremacy, and at white people's whims.
There are other sub-themes here, but since, as Mark Twain also recognized, the reader is constantly being hit repeatedly over the head with a racist "two by four," there is nothing else to learn (or to review), except maybe the point that the land, the wilderness and nature all belong to the white man too. You too get it now, don't you?
This "jerry-rigged" love story which was "contrived" especially to allow temporarily at least one Indian to be human on his own terms, was resolved in the end by them both being rendered symbolically dead: Cora had to be killed for even thinking about being in love with an Indian (even though strictly speaking she was not even a full-blooded white) and with Uncas being the last of the Mohican tribe, he too was rendered dead by being the last standing symbol of Indians on the continent. This symbolic extermination, was the "classy" Final Solution" of the Indian problem: The white man always win even when he is scared to death that his game -- the racist fraud that he is superior -- will be uncovered and he will then have to say I am sorry.
However, there is an answer to that problem too: "American Exceptionalism" has been designed specifically so that the American white man will never have to say: I am sorry. QED
I rarely give a classic less than five stars, but this one gets one star.
Today I can't even start with all the wrong things this novel presents. The title? Well, the Mohican/ Mahican People were not extinct, not back then not now. They are still here today, a recognized by the government indigenous nation, all official, despite the Copper's claim. He must have mixed it up with the Mohegan People from a totally different area (around modern-day Connecticut) - those people might have been extinct back then, or at least there is no such nation recognized by the government today. Yep, slightly similar names (given to these people by the outsiders, they called themselves in no similar terms, trust them on that, those were totally different people), but when one writes historical novel (even if a century or more ago), couldn't one bother to research his subject, just a little bit? Or maybe, to be on the safe side, to call his novel differently? ("The Last of the French South of Canada" say or something of the sort. "The Last of the English before the Independence War", maybe? :D)
And of course this is just the beginning! The stereotyping is crazy, impossible to even comprehend (even for the author's times). A Huron baddie - oh yes, they (Huron/Wayndot People) were humans, so had their baddies aplenty, no arguments about that. But that guy's behaving in the most chauvinistic way, when Huron, being closest relative to the Iroquois nations, were nearly matriarchal culture, where women enjoyed rights and freedom and even political involvement like in no other culture around the earth (or almost none - I can't speak for the entire earth). So this guy, who is raised to held women in highest of respects being a part of his culture (unless he was raised elsewhere) goes around, kidnapping/killing/trying to force women, along all the rest of bad stuff he does. Yep, makes much sense, of course.
Oh my, I think I better stop on this lecture, but I wish this book was less worldwide known, spreading too many colonial lies.