Study Guide

Last of the Mohicans Chapter 3

By James Fenimore Cooper

Chapter 3

  • Epigraph from Bryant, "An Indian at the Burial-Place of his Fathers."
  • The author explains to us that he wants to leave behind the group for a moment and shift the scene a few miles to the west.
  • Two men are lounging on the banks of a stream about an hour away from General Webb's camp.
  • The day is beginning to cool down, but the atmosphere is still warm enough to cause drowsiness. The men are talking idly. One is clearly an Indian and although the other is similarly dressed, he is clearly of European heritage.
  • The Indian is seated on the end of a mossy log and is almost naked. He carries a tomahawk, scalping knife, and a short military rifle commonly provided by the whites. All told, he is a warrior at the height of his powers.
  • The white man appears to have endured many hardships. He wears a hunting shirt and summer cap. He carries a knife similar to the Indian's but no tomahawk. He is also wearing moccasins and leggings. He carries a really long rifle. (We learn via one of Cooper's asterisks that army rifles are always short and hunting rifles are always long. Thanks, Coop.) As he talks to the Indian, he is on constant alert, scanning the forest around him.
  • The white man is speaking the Indian's language. Luckily, the author tells us, he will translate for us.
  • The two men are in the middle of what appears to be a friendly discussion. The white man, who is addressed as Hawkeye (cool name or coolest name, seriously?) points out that that the Indian's current lands were wrested from previous Indian inhabitants. The Indian, whose name is Chingachgook, replies by asking Hawkeye if there is no difference between Indian weapons and European weapons. (It appears they are arguing about the validity of white men claiming Indian lands as their own.)
  • Hawkeye asks to hear the Indian's version of how Indians and Europeans met. (We're guessing this ain't going to be the Thanksgiving story we all learned in school.)
  • Chingachgook pauses, then explains how his people fought the Alligewi and the Maquas until they claimed a great deal of land and drove the Maquas into the forest. Chingachgook tells how the Dutch plied them with alcohol and his people gradually gave up their land. Chingachgook is a chief among his people, but the way affairs now stand, he has never visited his ancestral lands.
  • Hawkeye is touched. We learn that Chingachgook has a son named Uncas, described as "the last of the Mohicans." (This is our first clue that Uncas is going to play a pivotal role in the story, because: title.)
  • We are introduced to Uncas right away as he makes a sudden and noiseless appearance next to his father. He is described as a "youthful warrior."
  • The three remain silent for a while until Chingachgook asks if Maquas have been sighted in the woods. Uncas replies that there are about ten of them, but they remain hidden.
  • Chingachgook decides they will eat tonight and deal with the Maquas tomorrow.
  • Almost as if on cue, a deer is spotted in the bushes. Hawkeye raises his rifle to shoot but ends up letting Uncas shoot the animal with bow and arrow.
  • After the kill, Chingachgook hears white men arriving on horseback and instructs Hawkeye to speak to them when they arrive. Hawkeye hears nothing at first and reflects on the strangeness of Chingachgook being better able to detect the sounds of white men.