Study Guide

Duncan Heyward in Last of the Mohicans

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Duncan Heyward

If Hawkeye gets to be called "The Long Rifle" and Magua gets to be called "The Sly Fox," we'll go ahead and nickname Duncan Heyward "The Overcooked Noodle" or "What Happens to a Newspaper When You Leave It Out In the Rain" or "A Day-Old Egg Salad Sandwich On WonderBread."

Basically, this dude is bland and useless. No one wants this guy.

Heyward is a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and rich young major in the English army whose two main characteristics are his naiveté and his love for Alice Munro. He's the epitome of steadfast integrity: Heyward means well and conducts himself well, but is often mocked by Hawkeye for his ultimate uselessness in the world of the frontier:

"Ay, there is white reason in what you say; but a man must ask himself, in this wilderness, how many lives he can spare […]" (32.32)

"White reason," which is what Heyworth is full of, can translate to "theory, not practice." This guy knows stuff, but it's all useless. He's like a guy who busts out geography facts but gets lost on a road trip, or who knows about the history of bread but doesn't know how to knead dough.

We've gone over the many ways that Cooper's writing is problematic, but we have to say that we admire what he does with Heyworth's character. No—Heyworth isn't admirable at all. But portraying a white man as feeble and useless compared to Native Americans? That was pretty revolutionary back in the early 19th century. Cooper is using The Last of the Mohicans to state that white European education means diddly squat in the wilderness, and he's using our man Heyworth as the exemplar of that diddly squat-itude.

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