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Carl Van Doren (1885–1950).  The American Novel.  1921.


Page 34

and Chingachgook are of course considerably limited by their former conduct in The Pioneers: one must still be the canny reasoner, the other a little saddened with the passing years. The purest romance of the tale lies in Uncas, the forest’s youngest son, gallant, skilful, courteous, a lover for whom there is no hope, the last of the proud race of the Mohicans. That Uncas was idealized Cooper then and always freely admitted; Homer, he suggested, had his heroes. And it is clear that upon Uncas were bestowed the standard virtues which the philosophers of the age had taught the world to find in a state of nature. Still, after a century many can smile upon the state of nature who are yet able to find in Uncas the perennial appeal of youth cut off in the flower. The action and the setting of the novel are on the same imaginative plane with the characters. The forest, in which all its events take place, surrounds them with a changeless majesty, a venerable calm, a depth of significance that sharpens, by contrast, the restless sense of danger. Pursuit makes almost the whole plot. The pursued party moving from Fort Edward to Fort William Henry has two girls to handicap its flight and to increase the tragedy of its capture. Later the girls have been captured, and sympathy passes, a thing unusual in Cooper, to the pursuing rescuers. In these tasks Hawkeye and the Mohicans are opposed by the fierce capacity of the Huron Magua, who plays villain to Uncas’s hero, in physical qualities Uncas’s match, in moral qualities his opposite. There is never any relaxation of suspense, though there are certain preeminent moments which belong with the most thrilling episodes in fiction.



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