Posted by E. Lane on May 20, 1997 at 10:53:44:
Without James Fenimore Cooper, there would be no "Last of the Mohicans"! A greater appreciation of this classic could be had through a better insight into Cooper himself.
He has suffered unwarranted criticism of his character, as well as his literary talents. Though it is true that Cooper's portrayal of the 'noble red man' is romanticized and extremely idealistic, it is also true that it is a portrayal inspired by sincere admiration on the part of a man who was a harsh critic of American culture at that time. Cooper's own sentiments are keenly expressed through Natty Bumppo (Hawk-Eye), a character who had a real prototype in Cooper's own life.
As to his literary skills, Cooper remains under-rated and under-appreciated (though he remains one of the most widely read authors in Europe). His usage of metaphysical imagery is masterful and it is no small matter that his work influenced Melville, Hawthorne, Conrad, and D.H. Lawrence. "The Last of the Mohicans" is historical fiction, an action-packed adventure, and a great romantic tale, but above all else, it is a tragedy. (And let's not forget, it is fiction! Perhaps Cooper should be allowed a bit of artistic license?)
Why did he finish off the Mohicans?................To be continued-
Cooper's literary career began as a lark! After complaining about the quality of a novel he was reading, Cooper's wife challenged him to make good on his boast that he could write better. The rest is history, as they say.
Actually, this is also one of the challenges. While on a sight-seeing tour in 1824 with a group of young Brits, Cooper and company stopped and lingered at Glens Falls, in New York State. (Cooper had a life-long fascination with caves and waterfalls.) As the men admired the falls from the cavern in which they stood, Edward Stanley, future Earl of Derby and Prime Minister of England remarked;
"Here is the very scene for a romance."
Cooper accepted this challenge, just as he accepted his wife's, promising Stanley a copy of his book. 18 months later, in February 1826................................................."The Last of the Mohicans" was published!
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