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MonkeyNotes-The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
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Chapter 16

Summary

Major Heyward gives Munro Montcalm's message, but Munro waves it aside, wanting to speak of Duncan's interest in his daughters, which he partially disclosed days earlier. Duncan then asks him for the hand of his girl. A pleased Munro asks him whether he has spoken to Cora about his intentions. Duncan is shocked that his proposal for Alice is mistaken for Cora. He tells Munro that he loves Alice. Munro is outraged as he feels Duncan doesn't think Cora is good enough. He tells him how, when he was young, he had left Scotland after being refused by the father of the woman he loved. In the West Indies, he had married a woman who was of mixed race. Cora was their daughter, and he believes that Duncan, being from the American South, is therefore prejudiced against her. Duncan denies the charge and informs him that he was unaware of Cora's history anyway. Munro then tells Duncan how he returned to Scotland after Cora's mother's death and married his first love, who became Alice's mother.

At last Munro asks about Montcalm's message and Duncan tells him. On hearing the message, Munro is angry. He tells Duncan to announce to the French that he is coming to meet them. Munro meets Montcalm with Duncan acting as the interpreter. There are rows of French soldiers flanked by Indians to receive him. Montcalm passes Webb's letter to Munro, in which he urges Munro to surrender, as he cannot rescue him. Montcalm informs Munro of his plans to annex the fort but to let the English keep their flags and emblems.


Notes

In this chapter, the theme of racial prejudice is again touched upon. In previous chapters, the author has depicted Duncan with hues of gray in his character. Duncan cannot hide his nausea at talking with Magua, but with Uncas, after his first feelings of disquiet, he is fine. In this chapter, Munro believes Major Heyward has refused Cora because she is of mixed parentage. Duncan believes -- and claims -- that he is above such feelings of racial prejudice. Yet he is almost too happy in his discovery that Alice's mother was white, asking about her heritage with an "eagerness that might have proved dangerous at a moment when the thoughts of Munro were less occupied than the present." He, of course, feels that as an officer and a gentleman, he is above such prejudices, but perhaps the superior feeling of being white has been subconsciously imbibed very early in life. Though discrete and gentlemanly, he is far more conventional in his racial attitudes than the common and foreign-born Munro, who rails against prejudice and slavery.

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