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With its death-defying chases and teeth-clenching suspense, this American classic established many archetypes of American frontier fiction. The creator of two genres that became staples of American literature — the sea romance and the frontier adventure — James Fenimore Cooper 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.
The tribe Cooper refers to by that name survives to this day, on a small reservation in Wisconsin. 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.
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. The Last of the Mohicans was first among them all: his most popular book, and one of the most widely read American novels ever.
Within those limits, the narrative allows Uncas to grow increasingly heroic. Duncan is not ashamed to cry at the sight of their deliverance.
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Indeed, his depiction of Uncas as so noble a savage came under attack from a number of critics. 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.
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Date of Birth: September 15, Date of Death: September 14, Place of Birth: Burlington, New Jersey. Place of Death: Cooperstown, New York. Education: Yale University expelled in Average Review. Write a Review. Related Searches.
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