From implausible, daring escapes to unrealistic accounts of the savagery of the Native Americans, James Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans emphasizes the "fiction" in historical fiction. The novel is comically littered with contradictory tones and gross inaccuracies in terms of frontier life, but in spite of the aforementioned, Cooper manages to convey his over-used American roughrider, Hawkeye, as a genuine model for nineteenth-century gunslinger heroes. Also appreciable is the author's brief commentaries on racism, with a unique facility for embedding a sort of linguistic philosophy that are unique to Cooper. .
The book begins innocently enough, with an introduction that tells us that the setting is the third year of the French and Indian War. The author's use of historical facts allows the reader to more vividly imagine what is being described, and allows Cooper to draw on the reader's knowledge of the French and Indian War. Already, the specter of racism has "reared its ugly head", as one of the characters of the book exhibits a stereotypical reaction to a Native American, one of both fascination and repulsion. This fear of Native Americans is what fueled, in part, the Jackson-era anti-Native American policies circa 1830. As the beginning of the book progresses, however, we see that Cooper may not be in favor of busting stereotypes; in fact, he may be responsible for quite a few of them. As the focus switches to Coopers beloved character, Hawkeye, the "cowboys and Indians" sentiment that so clearly defined the mid-nineteenth century manifests itself with great propensity. From gun-toting woodsmen to arrow-slinging Indians, Cooper's use of broad stereotypes indicates he may have had a hand in creating an anti-Native American culture. His references to the numerous acts of savagery on the parts of the Native Americans are disturbing, and for the most part untrue. The frequent scalpings, the drinking of blood, and the amputation of body parts offer only a brief glimpse in to what the author would have you believe about Native Americans.