Posted by Elaine on October 02, 1998 at 19:33:41:
In Reply to: Re: Maddy vs Cora - Some Roving Reflections and Then Some! posted by Ilse on October 02, 1998 at 17:09:05:
: This is bordering on a topic that has interested me for a long time. Why the big difference between the two sisters? Why would Alice be so fragile, and Cora be so strong, if growing up together. This is so as well as in the book as in the movie. I have been thinking about the impications of Cora being of mixed blood. This topic is sadly ignored in the movie, and I think it is although very subtle in the book, it is also very important. Now, as far as I know, over here, they mostly put it down to the fact that the attraction between Cora and Uncas (again, ver subtly in the book) could not have happened, in that time, if Cora would have been "pure white". But I also wonder if that is, in the book, the reason why Cora is so different from her sister. Maybe she had to battle prejudice a long time before that; maybe she would have learned to defend herself?
: Just brainstorming?
Yes, you're right. The mulatto background of Cora is sadly absent from the film. Though Cooper presented Cora Munro to be in every way her father's eldest, he does not ignore her mixed background. He gives us a father who makes no distinction between his daughters and his love for them while at the same time he is very protective and ever watchful for those who may slight Cora on the basis of her mulatto blood. (He assumes Major Heyward is referring to Cora when he speaks of his feelings for one of his daughters, then is very angry at Heyward for 'slighting' Cora when he realizes his affections are for Alice.)
What does this say about Cooper? He was exploring PROGRESSIVE social issues for an early 19th century author. Though he has been labeled a racist, I think the more one reads his work and understands it in the context of his time, the more it would appear this is an unwarranted charge. Race conscious? Without a doubt. But Cooper didn't merely ignore the issue, or toss it carelessly into his tales, he really examined it; he used it to symbolize the classes, clashes, tragedies, and inequities of his time.
What was he saying when he paired the mulatto Cora with the Mohican Uncas? Why did they both die? Some would say it represented the perceived impossibility of a white woman/Indian man relationship. Others would say both Cora and Uncas were symbols of days gone by (Cora's mother was a West Indies woman).
Cooper surely didn't have Col. Munro limiting Cora's prospects based on her mixed blood heritage. He expected her to have every advantage any ENGLISH officer's daughter to have with no consideration of her ethnicity.
The question of Alice and Cora being so different; could it have been merely the difference of an elder daughter and her 'baby' sister? That could account for the strength vs frailty/naivete
personalities. Or was it Cora's awareness of a world beyond English aristocracy (which she adhered to) due to her mulatto blood that allowed her to react to and see things that Alice couldn't grasp? And was Cooper wrong or insensitive for creating these aspects of his characters?
More brainstorming, Ilse.
As an aside (and to further complicate this discussion); there is speculation that the real Col. Monro did serve in the West Indies for a time and that he may have had a mulatto daughter. His military record doesn't reflect a West Indies assignment, but there is a time gap in his record. This speculation is further supported by the fact that Cooper held Col. Monro in high esteem as a military hero and would not have tampered with his reputation by claiming an adulterous relationship with a West Indies woman lightly. Who knows?
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