MEG11 American Novel
The first sign of romanticism in the novel is the importance which the author gives to nature. The motif of the Frontier is one of the central themes of American literature of the 18th century. Coming to the Americas, the European settlers find themselves facing the unforgiving wilderness of the continent, the hostility and the fierce opposition of the native population, and the struggle to conquer the unknown land and make it their home. Already in the first chapter, Cooper presents his account of the colonial wars of North America by introducing the terrain as an actual arena for battle. “The facilities which nature had there offered to the march of the combatants, were too obvious to be neglected,” (Cooper, James 10) states the author, and then proceeds to describe the various attributes of the local nature in view of their role in the warfare.
The dangerous and unexplored terrain of the American continent plays a crucial role in the course of the story, as it continues to present the characters with diverse challenges. Nature complicates the characters’ paths, as they have to be constantly aware of their surroundings and be on the lookout for any unknown threats which might come from beyond the yet unexplored Frontier at any moment. Apart from that, presenting vivid descriptions of the beauty of nature, following the standard of literature belonging to romanticism, is one of the main focuses of the author. “The vast canopy of woods spread itself to the margin of the river, overhanging the water, and shadowing its dark glassy current with a deeper hue” (Cooper, James 35), states the author, making sure to provide the natural setting for each scene in the novel.
Another feature of the romanticism period in the literature which can be found in the novel is defined by the characters which play the leading and most essential roles in the story. The author chooses to center the characters who represent the mistreated or shunned category of society. For once, Cora Munro, who is of an African American descent, is given, perhaps, the most crucial role in the story. Throughout the novel, the issues concerning interracial relationships, as well as the gender roles, are brought to the surface through her character.
Perhaps the most distinctive sign of romanticism in The Last of the Mohicans is the heroic individualism. To a certain extent, the novel follows the typical pattern of romantic literature; namely, there is a delineation between the so-called good and evil characters. While Cora, Hawk-eye, and the Mohicans can be identified as the first type, Magua and the Hurons fit the description of the latter. Cooper pays much attention to the details of each character’s appearance and personality. As most of the main characters are introduced in the first chapter, the reader can distinguish each particular individual by the detailed description of the way they look, from their stature to their clothes.
If one were to consider the novel of James Cooper an example of romanticism literature, there is a type of character, typical for the literature belonging to the period, which stands out among the others and should be identified. It is an idealized hero who stands up for what is right, can find a way out of even the most hopeless situations, and comes out victorious in all of his battles. Hawk-eye and the Mohicans easily represent such heroic characters in the novel: “We shall not attempt to describe the gratitude to the Almighty Disposer of events which glowed in the bosoms of the lovely maidens, who were thus unexpectedly restored to life, and to each other” (Cooper, James 165). Thus remarks the author when the Mohicans save the Munro sisters from the Hurons, going as far as using the tradition of medieval romance to name the hero by his attributes.
Finally, the novel contains elements of a fairy tale, where imagination and supernatural beliefs prevail over rationality or logic. One of the most representative examples can be Hawk-eye’s transformation in a bear in Chapter VIII. No one can see through the man’s disguise up until the moment he reveals himself, which makes it adopt elements of mythology, which the romanticism literature is known to address. Moreover, the novel focuses on certain parts on the spiritual beliefs of the different people, often using them as a vehicle for the character’s actions, rather than logic or reason. Ultimately, the Munro sisters, their white companions, and the Indians let their religious and cultural traditions guide them in their actions and decisions.
To conclude, we have named a complete set of characteristics which confirms that the novel of James Cooper belongs to the literary tradition of romanticism. The Last of the Mohicans contains the fascination with mysterious and sublime, as well as the appreciation of nature and its importance in moving the plot of the story forward. Additionally, some of the characters are almost symbolic in their heroic individualism, representing a certain social group. Finally, the accent on the complexity of feelings and emotions of the characters in diverse situations is the particular element of the Romanticism literature which makes the novel of James Cooper a highly beneficial and entertaining read.