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The Last of the Mohicans (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)
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The Last of the Mohicans (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

3.6 267
by James Fenimore Cooper, Stephen Railton (Introduction)
 

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The Last of the Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble

Overview

The Last of the Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

During the fierce French and Indian wars, an adroit scout named Hawkeye and his companion Chingachgook weave through the spectacular and dangerous wilderness of upstate New York, fighting to save the beautiful Munro sisters from the Huron renegade Magua.

The Last of the Mohicans is the most popular of James Fenimore Cooper’s five Leatherstocking Tales. With its death-defying chases and teeth-clenching suspense, this American classic established many archetypes of American frontier fiction.

An engrossing “Western” by America’s first great novelist, The Last of the Mohicans is a story of survival and treachery, love and deliverance.

Stephen Railton, Professor of English at the University of Virginia, has written books on Cooper, Mark Twain, and the American Renaissance, and has created major websites on Twain, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and American culture.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781593081379
Publisher:
Barnes & Noble
Publication date:
11/25/2004
Series:
Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
1,411
Product dimensions:
5.75(w) x 8.44(h) x 1.04(d)

Read an Excerpt

From Stephen Railton's Introduction to The Last of the Mohicans

We must not fall for the fiction Cooper uses to organize the story he tells in The Last of the Mohicans. There has never been a “last” Mohican. The tribe Cooper refers to by that name survives to this day, on a small reservation in Wisconsin. According to Cooper’s version of the Mohicans’ story, the death of Uncas in the middle of the eighteenth century is the last act in the tragedy of a once-mighty nation. There are a number of tragic elements in the real history of the people who, when they learned to write English, referred to themselves as the Muhheakunnuk or Moheakunnuk, but the story they have written with their actions is that of a people who, while remaining true to key elements of their heritage, made great efforts to adapt to and earn a place in the new world that descended on them with the arrival of the traders and settlers from Europe.

As Patrick Frazier recounts that story in The Mohicans of Stockbridge, the tribe accepted Christianity about two decades before the events Cooper dramatizes in the novel; two decades after the supposed death of the last Mohican, they fought on the American side during the Revolutionary War. When the tribe relocated from Massachusetts to the vicinity of New York’s Oneida Lake in the mid-1780s, just a few years before the infant James Cooper was carried to Cooperstown on the banks of nearby Lake Otsego, they took with them a letter from George Washington attesting that the Muhheakunnuks “have fought and bled by our side . . . as our friends and brothers . . . [and] as friends and subjects to the United States of America.” No efforts could stop the tide of white pioneers from diminishing their population and driving them farther west, but like nearly all the original Native American tribes, they survived despite the centuries of cultural loss, economic dispossession, white aggression, discrimination, and neglect.

That true story, however, is one the United States is still reluctant to tell, and repressed almost completely throughout the nineteenth century as the pioneers moved westward across the continent. On the other hand, Americans loved the story Cooper tells in Mohicans. Published in 1826, it was Cooper’s sixth novel; he was already America’s most successful novelist, a position he held through most of his career, and among the thirty-two novels he wound up writing before his death in 1851 were a number of best-sellers. The Last of the Mohicans was first among them all: his most popular book, and one of the most widely read American novels ever. Like most of Cooper’s novels, especially those he wrote in the first half of his career, it derives from the model of the historical romance that Walter Scott established in Waverley (1814). The subtitle of Cooper’s novel—A Narrative of 1757—echoes Waverley’s subtitle, ’Tis Sixty Years Since, and in his preface to the book’s first edition Cooper warns mere novel readers that by “narrative” he means historical fact, not imaginative fancy. But the project of The Last of the Mohicans is myth making, not history writing, and the myth it makes served contemporary readers precisely by replacing history as the nation was enacting it with a story about the fate of the Indians that both moved and reassured the whites who were in fact (but not in Cooper’s fiction) the agents of that fate.

As Cooper tells the story, the first person to label Uncas “the last of the Mohicans” is actually his own father. Chingachgook himself is still a vigorous warrior, and the narrative repeatedly refers to Uncas as “young” and “youthful”—that such a father would be anticipating the death of such a son rather then looking forward to his eventual marriage and children seems to violate the truths of the human heart, but as Cooper tells the story, even Uncas accepts his ominous title. In fact, he enters the narrative exactly at the moment in chapter III when Chingachgook tells Hawkeye that when Uncas dies the whole tribe will be extinct, “for my boy is the last of the Mohicans.” “Uncas is here!” is the next line, as “a youthful warrior” steps out of the woods to join the conversation. “Here,” this introduction to him implies, “but not for long”—Uncas will figure throughout the novel as a character with an expiration date. As a rescuer of the story’s two white heroines and as the lost prince of the Delaware nation, Uncas is regarded by both the narrator and the white characters with considerable admiration. His head may be naked except for its “scalping tuft,” but the narrative calls it “noble.” Alice looks upon him as a heathen, “a being partially benighted in the vale of ignorance,” but she also associates his “graceful,” “dignified,” “pure,” and “proud” form with classical ideals, “some precious relic of the Grecian chisel.” Cora goes further: “Who that looks at this creature of nature, remembers the shade of his skin!” To her, that’s a rhetorical question, but her companions’ “short and embarrassed silence” in reply keeps the line between races firmly in place. Combined with the epithet “the last,” that racial boundary lets readers know that all the sympathetic admiration they bestow on Uncas is extended provisionally. Within those limits, the narrative allows Uncas to grow increasingly heroic. After the first rescue scene, for example, while his father scalps the Mingoes they’ve slain, Uncas hurries with Duncan, the white officer and gentleman, to the side of the two white maidens. Duncan is not ashamed to cry at the sight of their deliverance. Uncas doesn’t go that far, but his eyes nonetheless “beam with a sympathy that elevated him far above the intelligence and advanced him probably centuries before the practices of his nation.”

While that sentence doubtless sounds patronizing, if not racist, to most twenty-first century readers, Cooper’s books display more respect and admiration for Indian characters like Uncas than was the norm in his culture. Indeed, his depiction of Uncas as so noble a savage came under attack from a number of critics. A novel like Robert Montgomery Bird’s Nick of the Woods (1837), also a best-seller, was written expressly to contest Cooper’s “poetical illusions” and “beautiful unrealities” by describing instead what Bird in his preface calls “real Indians,” who are unrelievedly “ignorant, violent, debased, brutal.” Mark Twain made the same argument in Roughing It (1872), and began a sequel to Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) that takes Huck and Tom into the Indian Territory so he can debunk Cooper’s romances by exposing the boys to a series of atrocities committed by treacherous Indians. In 1851, shortly before Cooper’s death, the Chippewa chief and activist George Copway publicly thanked the novelist for having created Uncas as a “hero” who “possesses all the noble traits of an exalted character,” an Indian whom Native Americans could read about with pride. Yet although Cooper advances Uncas centuries ahead of his tribesmen, he is careful never to suggest that the last Mohican could progress to the point where he belongs inside American civilization. He lifts Uncas high enough to make his passing tragic—but readers mourn for him at the end, as they admire him throughout, from within the safety of a world out of which he has already disappeared.

Meet the Author

The creator of two genres that became staples of American literature — the sea romance and the frontier adventure — James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851) was born in New Jersey, raised in the wilderness of New York, and spent five years at sea before embarking on his successful writing career. Among Cooper’s many novels, his best-known books are the five "Leatherstocking" tales — including The Deerslayer and The Last of the Mohicans — each featuring the fictional hero Natty Bumppo.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
September 15, 1789
Date of Death:
September 14, 1851
Place of Birth:
Burlington, New Jersey
Place of Death:
Cooperstown, New York
Education:
Yale University (expelled in 1805)

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The Last of the Mohicans (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 267 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Lest its importance be lost, let me praise at once the Barnes and Noble Classics edition of THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS for its bit more than one page long essay -- 431f-- after the end notes -- called 'INSPIRED BY THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS.' By Stephen Railton, 'INSPIRED' lists and describes notable cinema inspired by Cooper's masterpiece. They begin with D. W. Griffith's 1909 one reeler, LEATHER STOCKING and move along through the 1920 Maurice Tourneur version with Wallace Beery as the satanic Magua and 1924 and 1936 versions by director George B. Seitz, the last starring Randolph Scott 'in perhaps the performance of his career.' Michael Mann's Oscar- winning 1992 THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS is great fun but bears very little resemblance to Cooper's original. *** The last words of this great novel give a sense of what the point of the yarn is. They are solemn remarks by ancient chief Tamenund, well over a century old, whose name is also preserved as Tammany and in 'Tammany Hall.' He concludes thus the funeral rites for Cora and Uncas: 'It is enough,' he said. 'Go, children, of the Lenape, the anger of Manitou is not done. ... The pale-faces are masters of the earth, and the time of the red-men has not yet come again. The day has been too long. In the morning I saw the sons of Unamis [turtles, totem, i.e., of Delawares of the eastern seaboard] happy and strong and yet, before the night has come, have I lived to see the last warrior of the wise race of the Mohicans.' 'Ch XXXIII' *** This book is probably too leisurely for children or even college students who are not English majors. Read it for a sad meditation on why American Indians and European whites never found a way to live together as equals and form an entirely new North American civilization -- much as the Normans had done in Saxon England. Fenimore Cooper makes much of white prejudices against interracial marriages. That Scottish Cora could love and be loved by the last Mohican Indian, gorgeous young Uncas, was thinkable to Cooper's readers only because far back in time she had had a West Indian granddam of color. *** Cooper also notes that the massacre of surrendered troops of Fort William Henry by Indian allies of the French was the second such incident to blot the copy book of the Marquis de Montcalm. *** A final historical suggestion by Cooper is that the Indians could have made themselves as much junior partners of the colonials as the savage Highlanders of Scotland eventually became of Scottish lowlanders and the vastly more numerous English. But the Indians could not unite. They spent too much time killing and raiding other Indians to resist the all-conquering European whites. --- -OOO-
TheQuillPen More than 1 year ago
Well, I must be the bearer of bad news here: the back cover of the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of this novel leads readers astray. It mentions "death-defying chases and teeth-clenching suspense," but let me tell you, there's nothing teeth-clenching about this book. I've never liked Cooper's writing, so I may come off as a little harsh, but the plot is average at best and even painfully predictable at times. Granted, plot isn't everything, but this novel does not possess many qualities that redeem the floundering plot. Cooper writes rather coldly, and his characters, with the possible exception of Hawk-eye, are extremely flat and even unlikable, which does not work well for this kind of story. I must give Cooper credit for his exquisite descriptions, especially of the vast frontier wilderness, but unfortunately for Cooper, description alone doesn't make a good book. I'd like to read The Last of the Mohicans again, just to make sure I didn't miss some revelation the first time around, but when the book cover is better than the story, you know something's wrong.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read a chapter, and almost put it back on the shelf. But if you can make past the first two chapters, you won't be disappointed. After the slow beginning, the pace never slackens, and the characters and plot are engaging and lively.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This by far is a great book. The first chapter is a bit hard to understand, but it grows from there to become a novel of suspense. I highly recommend this book for those who like a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
KTW More than 1 year ago
Twain was right about Fenimore....but i still need to read all the classics i blew off or didn't finish in HS
jenmurph21 More than 1 year ago
I almost don't know what to make of this story. At times I hated it but then there are other sections that I really loved. I enjoyed the character of Cora Munro and wish she said and did more in the book. I thought Cooper used way too much description when writing his scenes, and it distracted from the storyline. There are a lot of sections where he could have said the same thing in about half the time. The verbal assault he puts the reader through is annoying and it takes away from the actual plot. After reading the book I decided to watch the 1992 movie version, which surprisingly I enjoyed much more than the book. The movie isn't anything like the book, it has the same characters and the same overall plot, but other than that the movie has a totally different tone than the book did, and I think that's what appealed to my 21st Century brain. I'd recommend only if you want to broaden your knowledge of early American novelists and see just where American literature came from. If you're looking for pure entertainment, just watch the movie with Daniel Day Lewis.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This Book took me a long time to finish. It is a good story and should be read. But it is really slow going, and i found that parts of it are boring. if you have trouble getting through books you shouldnt read it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Huge fan of the movie but I must say it was hard to finish this book. I tried to put myself in the mindset of the time it was written, but the book was simply just too boring. Explanations and events in the story were excruciatingly too drawn out and the dialogue was ridiculous in a lot of parts.
PriPri More than 1 year ago
This book contains The Last Of The Mohicans and The Prarie and technically I only finished The Last Of The Mohicans, but it's a novel in itself so it counts. Anyhoo, I loved the book. Once you get past the nineteenth century prose, it's really a great story. It's a story of adventure and friendship, loyalty and revenge, of newly made bonds and loss. This book is a hard read and quite frankly I'm shocked that it took me just under a week to get through it. The language--the prose is not for everyone. But I can see why this book has remained a favorite classic for well over a hundred years. I'm looking forward to tackling the rest of the Leatherstocking Tales...at a later date. For those who are fans of the Michael Mann movie version of this story(of which I am one), this book is nothing like the film. Though it will always be on my top ten list of favorite movies, having read the book, I'm a bit perturbed at the changes Mann and the script writers made to the story. Clearly we all know the book is always better than the movie, and that some things must be omitted due to the timing and flow of a film. However, there were some changes that I think were unnecessary and I would like to have seen them on film. They really downplayed Chingachgook and Uncas' roles in the adventure, their relationship with each other and Hawkeye, and their status among the Indian people. Also they downplayed Duncan who wasn't really a douche in the novel as he was in the film. The love interests were portrayed all wrong, and frankly the movie was more of a love story than that of an adventure. Whereas the novel was move adventure and only vague mentions of romance. I've never seen any of the other versions of the film and have to wonder if they were more true to the novel. I suppose I mentioned this to warn anyone against reading this hoping it'll be a more fleshed-out version of the film. While the overall story basically remains the same, the journey, battles, rescues and some deaths are completely different. But to those who are lovers over books, classics, or true stories of adventure and virtue, this is a must-read!
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The Alpha Den. + siggy test
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MemawPam47 More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite books.
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