The Last of the Mohicans by Cooper: Summary

In 1757, during the American wars between the French and the English, a small party leaves the English Fort Edward heading for Fort William Henry, which is being threatened by the Montcalm's army. Major Duncan Heyward is taking Cora and Alice Munro to join their father, the head of the garrison at William Henry.

James Fenimore Cooper

Shortly after their departure, they are joined by David Gamut, a pious but eccentric singing master. However, the Indian guide Magua (also known as Le Renard Subtil) betrays them and leads them into territory inhabited by the hostile Maquas Indians. The group is saved by an accidental encounter with Hawk-eye (Natty Bumpoo), a clever and experienced scout, and his Indian friends, Chingachgook and Uncas. Uncas, Chingachgook's son, is the last surviving Mohican chieftain.

Hawk-eye takes the party by canoe to a convenient hiding-place on an island in the river. The Maquas, led by Magua, attack and when the group's power runs out Hawk-eye and his Indian friends go to fetch help. The rest is captured and led through the forest to an Indian encampment. Heyward tries to bribe the canny and treacherous Magua. But the Indian wants Cora for his squaw to revenge himself for a humiliating whipping he once received at Munro's hands. When Cora rebuffs him, Magua invites his followers to kill the white party. At this point, Hawkeye, Chingachgook, and Uncas intervene: rather than go for the help they have been following the Indians and their captives. In the ensuing fight all the Maquas are killed except Magua, who runs away into the woods. Hawk-eye, then, leads the party through the forest to a ruined blockhouse- the scene of his first battle, he explains- where they rest. Then they continue their journey to William Henry, narrowly avoiding the hostile Indians. Although the English fort is already surrounded by the French army, Hawk-eye is able to bring his friends safely through the enemy lines.

On arriving at the fort Heyward tells Munro that he wants to marry Alice. At first Munro is angered that Heyward has not chosen Cora. Cora, Munro's daughter by his first marriage, has West Indian slave blood in her veins and Munro is quick to take offense on her behalf. But he is soon appeased and gives his blessing, provided that Alice consents to the marriage. Meanwhile, the fort is hard pressed by the French army. Montcalm offers Munro and Heyward generous and honorable terms of surrender, which they reluctantly accept. The Indian allies of the French, however, ignore the treaty. When the English emerges from the fort they are massacred by Magua and his followers. Magua himself abducts Cora, Alice and David Gamut.

A few days later Munro, Heyward, Hawkeye, Chingachgook and Uncas return to the fatal spot to search for the hostages. Since the retreating Indians have covered their tracks carefully Hawk-eye and his need all their skill to follow the trail. Finally, they arrive on the outskirts of a Huron camp, where they meet Gamut, who has been forced to dress. He explains that Munro's daughters are both safe, but have been separated: Alice is with the Hurons while Cora has been taken to a nearby village of Lenni Lenape Indians, part of the Delaware tribe. Since Chingchgook and Uncas are related to the Delaware they decide to go with Hawk-eye to bargain for Cora's release. Heyward enters the Huron camp disguised as an Indian. He pretends to have been sent by the French to treat the braves wounded in the recent battle.

Uncas, however, is soon captured and the Hurons, at Magua's instigation, decide to execute him the next morning. Hawk-eye arrives disguised as a bear, and he and Heyward manages to find out where Alice is being held prisoner. Magua interrupts their meeting, but is overcome and left bound hand and foot. Heyward and Alice leave, but Hawk-eye insists on remaining to help Uncas. With Gamut's help he frees the Mohican brave. Uncas dons the bearskin and Hawk-eye dresses as Gamut, and together they make their way out of the camp. Gamut himself remains behind disguised as Hawk-eye, but the imposture is soon detected.

Magua goes to the Lenape tribe and, under the eyes of the Lenape chief, Tamenund, he confronts Hawk-eye and his friends. The Lenape at first sympathize with Magua but, when they learn that Uncas is a Mohican chief, they change their allegiance. Alice and the whites are freed; according to Indian law, Magua still has the right to take Cora with him. He insists on doing so, even though Hawk-eye offers himself as Magua's prisoner in her place. Uncas then leads the Lenape tribe in pursuit of Magua and his Huron braves. A long and fierce battle results. One of the r treating Hurons kills Cora, and Uncas himself is killed by Magua. Hawkeye, proving his reputation as an expert long-distance shot, kills Magua. The whites mourn Cora, Uncas is buried according to Indian rituals.