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MonkeyNotes-The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
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Chapter 19

Summary

As the party settles in for the night, they eat and discuss the whereabouts of Magua. Duncan hears a noise which he cannot identify and calls Hawkeye. Rather than answer his question immediately, Hawkeye engages Duncan in a rambling discussion about the afterlife, during which Duncan keeps hearing the noise and getting more and more frantic. Finally Hawkeye casually identifies the sound as that of wolves. They are interrupted by a second sound, which causes Hawkeye to stop talking and call Uncas.

Uncas slips away and Chingachgook, also alerted, sits by the fire, pretending to sleep but carefully watching everything. Suddenly a flash and the report of a gun interrupt them. A few moments later, Uncas returns with the scalp of their stalker, which Chingachgook identifies as belonging to an Oneida. The Mohicans and Hawkeye debate with each other over their plan of action, and Hawkeye is about to be overruled until he adopts the Indian method of speaking and manages to convince the Mohicans of the efficacy of his plan.


Notes

Duncan has become nearly as sensitive to sound as Hawkeye and the Mohicans. But he is still unable to identify the sounds he hears. There is a humorous moment when he becomes more and more frantic as Hawkeye seems to ignore him, until Hawkeye casually identifies the sound as that of a wolf. When Hawkeye identifies the next sound as that of a man, Duncan, who cannot tell the difference, is astounded.

Hawkeye expresses some of his pragmatic nature when discussing the afterlife with Duncan. He rejects the idea of predestination and the traditional Christian view of what heaven will be like. Rather, he thinks that paradise will look like what each man hopes it will be like, and that the red man will stand as much a chance of going to heaven as the white. "We serve a merciful Master," he says, "though we do it each after his own fashion."

Chingachgook reveals his superiority and wisdom when, from the tuft of the hair on the scalp, he identifies the man as belonging to the Oneida. This is again a reference to the knowledge and skills of the Indians.

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