James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans as a Mixture of Genres
James Fenimore Cooper's The last of the Mohicans is often seen as a simple adventure story within the historical frame of the French and Indian war. Only if we analyze the novel in a closer way, we will realize that it goes beyond this label and that its sources are many and varied, giving the work the richness of the genres on which Cooper's novel is based. These are romanticism, western, (being its author one of the forerunners of these genres in the U.S.A.), captivity narratives and epic.
In works belonging to Romanticism, nature is given a great important role. In fact, the action takes place in the open air, except for the chapters of the siege of Fort William Henry, so it is the setting which predominates along the work. The close connection between the characters of romantic novels and nature is exemplified in the characters of Chingachgook, Uncas and Hawkeye, which apart from knowing the place where they live and being completely adapted to it, they consider nature as a divine entity. In his introduction of this novel in the Oxford Classics edition, John Mcwilliams agrees with this affirmation of the concluding that for Cooper it was more than the place where they move; 'it was the very condition of life, the shaper of moral values and of human behavior, for good and for ill'. In a similar way, the same happens in other important romantic American novels such as Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter and Herman Melville's Moby Dick. In the former, Hester and his daughter Pearl live in close connection with nature as a source of moral freedom, and in the latter, the Nantucketeers consider themselves as part of the sea.
The theme of nationalism, a recurring point of this genre, is present in two ways, showing on the one hand the adventures of the heroic pioneers of the U.S.A. fighting in order create a new nation, and on the other hand, the adventures of the last two Mohicans, representatives of the mother of all Indian tribes. Related to this aspect, there is also an interest in knowledge about cultural origins. This question of nationalism also appears in Moby Dick since the Nantucketeers seem to consider themselves the only conquerors and owners of the seas, a fact which expresses the so-called 'manifest destiny' proclaimed by John Louis O’Sullivan in 1845. In contrast, The Scarlet Letter tells a fictitious story in the seventeenth-century Boston criticizing the puritan American settlers. One of the main characteristics of the genre is the exaltation of the senses and emotions which are represented by Hawkeye and the Indians in general, which, as we have mentioned before, live closer to nature than the white men, which although they stand for reason and intellect they are incapable of adapting to a wild world in which they try to apply their rules, strategies and hierarchies.
In general, the image that we obtain of the white men is not a positive one for they...