Study Guide

Last of the Mohicans Prejudice

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"Should we distrust the man because his manners are not our manners, and that his skin is dark?" coldly asked Cora. (2.12)

Cora is the least prejudiced character in the novel. Go Cora. But she basically outlines what every other character is thinking: that yes, you should distrust men whose manners are different (read: different cultures) and whose skin is dark.

"A Huron!" repeated the sturdy scout, once more shaking his head in open distrust; "they are a thievish race, nor do I care by whom they are adopted; you can never make anything of them but skulls and vagabonds." (4.14)

Hawkeye very clearly despises Huron Indians. He says they are nothing more than a "thievish race" of "vagabonds." Ouch.

"And I tell you that he who is born a Mingo will die a Mingo," returned the other positively. "A Mohawk! No, give me a Delaware or a Mohican for honesty; and when they will fight, which they won't all do, having suffered their cunning enemies, the Maquas, to make them women—but when they will fight at all, look to a Delaware, or a Mohican, for a warrior!" (4.16)

Hawkeye likes and appreciates Delaware and Mohican Indians. What is the effect of this kind of prejudice?

"Twas like himself!" cried the inveterate forester, whose prejudices contributed so largely to veil his natural sense of justice in all matters which concerned the Mingoes; "a lying and deceitful varlet as he is. An honest Delaware now, being fairly vanquished, would have lain still, and been knocked on the head, but these knavish Maquas cling to life like so many cats-o'-the-mountain." (12.11)

Hawkeye is deeply prejudiced against Mingo Indians. Why does he not carry the same types of prejudices against Mohicans and Delawares? Is his prejudice based on personal experience?

While they yet hesitated in uncertainty, the form of the Indian was seen gliding out of the thicket. As the chief rejoined them, with one hand he attached the reeking scalp of the unfortunate young Frenchman to his girdle, and with the other he replaced the knife and tomahawk that had drunk his blood. He then took his wonted station, with the air of a man who believed he had done a deed of merit.

The scout dropped one end of his rifle to the earth, and leaning his hands on the other, he stood musing in profound silence. Then, shaking his head in a mournful manner, he muttered:

"'Twould have been a cruel and an unhuman act for a white-skin; but 'tis the gift and natur' of an Indian, and I suppose it should not be denied. I could wish, though, it had befallen an accursed Mingo, rather than that gay young boy from the old countries." (14.32-14.34)

Hawkeye is condoning an Indian action that he never would have accepted from a "white-skin." This also speaks to prejudice: he's saying that all Native Americans are capable of coolly doing "cruel" and "unhuman" stuff.

"And you cast it on my child as a reproach! You scorn to mingle the blood of the Heywards with one so degraded—lovely and virtuous though she be?" fiercely demanded the jealous parent. (16.29)

Munro is peeved because he thinks the reason Heyward doesn't like Cora is that she's a quarter African-American. Munro is getting all Papa Bear here, standing up for his lovely daughter (and probably getting offended on behalf of her biracial mother, as well).

"Heaven protect me from a prejudice so unworthy of my reason!" returned Duncan, at the same time conscious of such a feeling, and that as deeply rooted as if it had been ingrafted in his nature. (16.30)

Heyward acknowledges that his prejudice against blacks is not reasonable, but still feels it anyway. Heyward is basically the human equivalent of a dirty sock, and this is one of the reasons.

"Come," he said, laying his soiled hands on the dress of Cora, "the wigwam of the Huron is still open. Is it not better than this place?"

"Away!" cried Cora, veiling her eyes from his revolting aspect. (17.80-17.81)

Given that Cora is comfortable with Uncas and "marries" him later, what is problematic about marrying Magua? Clearly her prejudice is not racially based.

"Yes," said Hawkeye, dropping his rifle, and leaning on it with an air of visible contempt, "he will do their singing. Can he slay a buck for their dinner; journey by the moss on the beeches, or cut the throat of a Huron?" (18.48)

Hawkeye's prejudices are not just racially or tribally based. He also carries prejudices against book learning, which he sees as being next to useless (at least compared to survival skills).

Nothing but the color of his skin had saved the lives of Magua and the conjurer, who would have been the first victims sacrificed to his own security, had not the scout believed such an act, however congenial it might be to the nature of an Indian, utterly unworthy of one who boasted a descent from men that knew no cross of blood. (26.1)

Hawkeye emulates the Indians more than any other white man in the novel. Why is he so proud of being "pure" white? What prejudices does he carry against Indians?

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