Style and Narrative Technique in The Last of the Mohicans

Cooper's style is a simple one. He makes a sparing use of the figurative language of simile and metaphor. He quickly intensifies the narrative moment, then describes it and having described he exposes it. But his method of exposition and description is factual and straightforward.

James Fenimore Cooper

Despite straightforwardness Cooper's style is full of unnecessary words. His style suffers from the problem of being wordy. The following line exemplifies how wordy, his style is: "David Gamut began to utter sounds that would have shocked his delicate organs in more wakeful moments." The same thing can be expressed in the following simple sentence -'Gamut began to snore'.

Cooper's diction is not only wordy, but sentimental and cloying. He was too sentimental when he was describing Heywood and Hawkeye taking the reviving Alice to the safety of the forest. "The representative of the bear had certainly been an entire stranger to the delicious emotions of the love while his arms encircled his mistress; and he was, perhaps, a stranger also to the nature of that feelings of ingenuous shame that oppressed the trembling Alice."

Poetic Simplicity is one mark of Cooper's style. Cooper's delineation of nature often achieves poetic simplicity. His description of action can be as clear and accurate as a stated fact. The following paragraph cited directly from text certifies this fact of poetic style.

'The scout had shook him priming, and cocked his piece, while speaking; and, as he ended, he threw back a foot, and slowly raised the muzzle from the earth: the motion was steady, uniform, and in one direction. When on a perfect level it remained for a single moment, without tremor or variation, as though both man and rifle were carved in stone. During that stationary instant, it poured forth its contents, in a bright, glancing sheet of flame.'

From this above cited textual paragraph, it becomes clear that Cooper's fluctuation is sometimes erratic by the standards of today. But his sentences are always clear in meaning.

The use of dialogue is another effective stylistic device. Cooper makes his mythic hero Hawkeye's talk change from the literary to the vernacular. Under certain circumstances conversation of other characters is shown elevated, high-flown and too formal. On using the dialogic rhythm of Native American Indian, Cooper was trying to imitate their native oratory in formal situation. Though Cooper tried to capture the rhythm of human speech in ordinary situations he is not as successful intended to be.

Cooper's style is characterized by symbolic touch. Cave serves as a symbol of the labyrinth. The fall Hawkeye describes stands as a symbol of occasional chaotic tumults along the river of life. It also represents the period of human conflict and chaos in the novel. When Cooper wants a reader to be aware of symbolic possibilities, he is generally as straightforward as with his exposition and description. In the novel, symbolism intended towards Hawkeye seems consistent with the great exception of the mythic Hawkeye, Cooper's use of symbolism is rather haphazard and inadequately developed. One serious flaw in Cooper's style is that it is afflicted with wordiness, heaviness and awkwardness. Yet it has the virtues of simplicity and clarity.

The first effective narrative technique Cooper used in this novel is the technique of repetition. The sympathetic party of characters is shown trapped and then escaped. Again, they are shown trapped and escaped successively. Repetition is seen most obviously in the plot device of the trap and escape of the sympathetic party of characters. This technique of repetition is used to drive home the plight of the Indians and the historical events that have brought them to their present condition. Some repetition is incremental. That means when certain narrative element is repeated, something more is added into the structure of repetition.

The second technique in use is the technique of opposition. Cooper brings into collision several opposing elements, conflicting substances. They are French against English, Indian against Indians and Indians against Whites, Magua against Hawkeye's party. Sometimes opposition takes the form of debate. Hawkeye’s arguing religion with Gamut: The major and controlling opposition is the juxtaposition between savagery and civilization.

The third thematically important narrative technique of Cooper is the technique of making a contrast. In this novel Cooper leaves no stone unturned in contrasting the condition of nature and the condition of man. Cooper puts clam interludes of the natural world against the violent and bloody scenes. Even in the realm of man cruelty and nobility are juxtaposed. One step ahead love and hatred are juxtaposed within the realm of man. The Munro sisters themselves make a blonde-brunette contrast. Within Hawkeye rests the contrast between inherent isolation and urge to involve others.

The last technique at work in the narrative of The Last of the Mohicans is the technique of pouring sentimental as the pivotal event into the outward narrative mold of the episodic adventures.