THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS (1920)

Sound Bites

The “bad” Indians are creatures that “are presented as being distinctly different than whites, almost subhuman, costumed in war paint and caveman skins.  They are physically strong, practically indestructible, but also childlike, unpredictable and prone to violent behavior.” (Gary Edgerton 1)

The British “tended to dwell on the Indian’s illiteracy, alcoholism, and love of trinkets, because these traits made the red man seem a child who needed the protection of the white father.  Evidence of polytheism, scalping and torture rituals was regarded as a sign of barbarism. . . . Behind all these oversimplified judgements lay the assumption that the red culture was ‘savagery,’ white culture was ‘civilization,’ and the two could never peacefully exist.”  (John McWilliams 52-53)

In spite of the good and bad side of the Native American culture, they are never able to gain acceptance in our own time.  The goodness of the “noble savage” is not enough to prevent the ultimate destruction of their race.  (Jessica Roche, Lehigh University)

Thus the “twin deaths of Uncas and Cora prevent the reality of interracial sex.”  (Martin Barker 27)

“Filmmakers from early in the century adopted the images and stereotypes which had already been popularized by fiction and art was only a continuation of a practice which had already  been institutionalized  in American popular culture.”  (Bataille and Hicks 9)

“The vast majority of Native American tribes rarely appeared in films and the major leaders such as Tecumseh and Pontiac were bypassed for sagas about minor chiefs such as Geronimo.”  (Crowdus 295)

The Last of the Mohicans seems, despite itself, to have had the narrative energy to become a certain mythic classic.  I say ‘despite itself’ because most literary critics are agreed that the book itself is intolerably badly written.”  (Barker 26)

“Women are shown as having no part in Native American political life.  Most of the Native American details, in fact, are inaccurate or anachronistic or both, including a duel according to ‘tribal laws,’ the use of wampum and dress.”  (Cameron 53)

“The film’s field of meaning is not Cooper’s, either.  His America was a romantically idealized wilderness; the film’s is a prototypical United States, seen as having a neutral alliance with Britain.” (Cameron 53)

“Major distortions are often central elements of the entire genre.  The suicidal frontal assault is the supreme example.  In film after film, Native Americans hopelessly fling themselves into stockades, stagecoaches, circled wagons and fortified positions of all kinds.”  (Crowdus 295)
 
 

Copyright (c) 1999 by Jessica Baker Roche, Undergraduate at Lehigh University.

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