Book Review: The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper

Ever since reading Little Women in third grade I’ve had a strange infatuation with classic books. Something about the prose, amazing dialogue, intricate plot lines, and deep ideas imbedded into the novels of yesteryear I find intriguing.

The Last of the Mohicans definitely falls into the category of classic literature, but it is not quite as well known as books like Little Women. 

I discovered The Last of the Mohicans after watching the 1992 movie of the same title. (Which, by the way, is an absolutely amazing piece of cinema. The music, the cinematography, story, acting… the whole thing is absolutely stunning.) The movie is rather loosely based on the novel, and I tend to like the plot of the movie The Last of the Mohicans a little bit more than I liked the book. (I know, I know, it’s a cardinal sin for a book lover to say they like the movie more. But hey, I’m just being honest.)

But don’t let my opinion stop you from reading the book, Cooper’s novel is a great piece of literature. While I did not agree with everything the character’s said or did, there was much to appreciate in the story. Cooper’s plot kept me biting my nails in nervous anticipation.

Cora and Alice, the daughters of a British colonel, are on their way to meet their father in the midst of the French and Indian War. They are accompanied by a soldier, and good friend Duncan Heyward, as well as the Indian, Magua. Magua betrays the group which leads to a series of dangerous escapes and intense conflict. Upon seeing their situation, Chingachgook, Uncas (his son, the last living member of the Mohican race), and Hawkeye, a white scout who has adopted the Natives’ ways, come to their aid.

Each character has an unique and strong personality. Cooper’s cast of characters all have a trait that can be appreciated, admired, and applied to our own lives. I think this was most intense in the devotion the men in the story showed to the sisters. In every trial they remained faithful to Cora and Alice and fought for their safety no matter the cost. Even if that meant death.

Jesus tells us, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12-13) I think this was the greatest lesson I gleaned from reading, and watching, The Last of the Mohicans.

Throughout the novel, and the movie, is this idea of “the last of.” Cora and Alice are the last and only descendants of their father’s line. Uncas and Chingachgook are the last of their people. Hawkeye is the last of his family. (At least to the best of his knowledge.)

With this idea there comes an air of melancholy. But every “last of” in the story serves to highlight the fact that Uncas is the last of the Mohicans. Literally, once he dies that race of people will be gone forever. Lost to the dusty corners of forgotten history. This fact reminds the reader of the sad fate of many Native American peoples.

Uncas’s love for Cora, ignites hope into the novel and we are constantly reading more and more to discover the outcome of their forbidden love. This “last of” idea also sparks life into friendships and relationships that might not have been under normal circumstances.

Overall, The Last of the Mohicans is an exciting adventure story, often overshadowed by the movie made with its name. And although it’s a bit of a challenging read, finishing the book is definitely worth the difficulties faced while reading it.



Photos in collage are all courtesy of Pinterest and Google Images.

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