4232 American Renaissance
Sample Student Research Project 2010
The Forbidden Love of Uncas and Cora
Forbidden love is a theme that is commonly seen throughout many stories told around the world. The general flow of each of these stories is always the same: two people from opposite ends of the social or economic spectrum find ways to triumph over the adversities set by their cultures, peers, families, or laws of their lands and they live happily ever after. The idea of love happening whenever, wherever, and with whomever is one that inspires all people for it indeed is a very true ideal. Although it is accurate to say love has no bounds, sometimes the outside pressure from society, family, the government, or whatever can keep people from really acting on their love and desire so they can’t really express it with the one they wish to. In James Fenimore Cooper‘s The Last of the Mohicans, two characters have a mutual attraction that they never get to act upon. These two characters are Cora Munro, a mulatto female and daughter of a respected British Colonel, and Uncas who was son to wise Indian Chingachgook and the last pure blood member of the Indian tribe known as The Mohicans. Both Uncas and Cora are tragically slain near the finale of the book, ending any chance these two ever had of forming a real relationship. It is for this reason that it is necessary to try and determine how the possible relationship of these two vastly different individuals would have developed had both parties lived at the end of the story.
Uncas and Cora met
on the American frontier on what would become
"Uncas will stay," the young Mohican calmly answered, in English.
"To increase the horror of our capture, and to diminish the chances of our release! Go, generous young man," Cora continued, lowering her eyes under the gaze of the Mohican, and, perhaps, with an intuitive consciousness of her power; "go to my father, as I have said, and be the most confidential of my messengers. Tell him to trust you with the means to buy the freedom of his daughters. Go; 'tis my wish, 'tis my prayer, that you will go!"(Cooper 561)
This shows how Uncas can’t deny Cora’s wishes because he cares for her (Dolata). Cora displays her own affection by not taking her eyes off of Uncas until he is completely out of sight and is indeed following her command. This interaction introduces the reader to the possibility of the two having a romantic relationship but this possibility is dismissed without much of a chance for working out. The possibility of Uncas and Cora being together and its apparent doomed status do a good job of illustrating Coopers true thoughts on the subject of interracial romance.
. Since we don’t
live in a perfectly open world, we must acknowledge that relationships of any
type between two people of different races always involves hurdles to jump while
maintaining that relationship. It wasn’t long ago that families discouraged
interracial interaction between young children and marrying someone who was a
difference race was illegal. The
"Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix."
This was a statement reflective of the ideas of American
Society in the 1960’s meaning there are many Americans alive today who can
vividly remember this case and the times of illegal interracial marriage. If the
Loving’s had a hard time getting married 40 years ago, a possible relationship
between Coras and Uncas from The Last of the Mohicans ( which takes place
Tatum, PH.D wrote about the stereotype of “the Tragic Mulatto” in her book
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?. This
stereotype, which talked about how a mulatto person wouldn’t be accepted by
anyone and would have a hard time fitting in anywhere, most likely plagued the
mulatto Cora at some point in her life. Evidence of this comes from Cora’s stern
demeanor when race issues arise during the story such as when she said, “Should
we distrust this man because his manners are not our manners and that his skin
is dark?” An interesting point to make note of is that in this quote, James
Fenimore Cooper wrote that Cora asked it “coldly”. This leads one to believe
that she has had experience with people distrusting or dismissing her because of
her skin color. The years of being treated differently and as an outsider may
have hardened her and sharpened her sensitivity toward racial issues. In
contrast, Major Heyward and Cora’s
sister Alice feel awkward when racial issues are raised. Cooper writes that an
“embarrassed silence” occurred when Cora brings up race differences as natural.
Heyward and Alice’s embarrassments are representative of the thoughts of the
society in their native home of
The title The Last of the Mohicans is a reference to Uncas’ and his “pure-blood” Indian heritage. Hawkeye, a father-figure to young Uncas, stresses racial purity and expresses a sort of sorrow in how Uncas has no full blooded female Mohicans to mate with. Hawkeye sees Uncas as the last of a dying breed dismissing the idea of any mixed race child of Uncas’ being considered a true Mohican. Paul Spickard, a scholar who studies the histories of racial categories, states that:
“If races were pure (or had once been), and if one were a member of the race at the top, then it was essential to maintain the boundaries that defined one’s superiority, to keep people from the lower categories from slipping surreptitiously upward.” (Qtd. In Tatum,169)
This is perhaps Hawkeye’s view on the matter and it could be shared among most people of that time period. Hawkeye may have thought of Uncas and Chingachgook as more noble and respectable than the British because of their wisdom and sensibilities toward nature. The British citizens might have thought of themselves too high class and sophisticated to marry the lower class blacks or Indians. This could have caused the belief in people that racial mixing is against nature. People today still believe in staying with your “like kind”. Categorizing oneself is one of the most basic human instincts. For example, if one were to take a look around any large grouping of people, it would be easy to notice smaller groupings of people who have similarities in that larger group. In football stadiums, the sides are split for the opposing teams. In high schools, different cliques hang around each other using criteria such as what sport you play, what club you belong to, what classes you take, and even what gender or race you are. This is a more subconscious occurrence today but in 1757, it was more of a rule and an expectation. The class system was very prominent to the point where same race people didn’t hang out if they were on a different economical standing. Cora was not a pure-blooded person and therefore didn’t see a reason or need for racial purity the way someone like Hawkeye or Uncas could. Staying pure in all forms of life and with your own kind was the norm so Uncas and Cora would have been defying one of the oldest traditions of both the Indian culture and the British culture.
With their vast
differences and the time and place they lived in, it is unlikely that Cora and
Uncas could have had a successful relationship in their respective societies.
Cooper, James Fenimore. The Last of the Mohicans.
Europe: Carey and Lea of
Phillips, Brian. The Last of the Mohicans: Sparknotes.
Tatum, Beverly Daniel. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting
Together in the Cafeteria?.
Dolata, April. Child and Cooper: Competing Perspectives on Race in Early American Fiction.
James Fenimore Cooper: His Country and His Art . The
Patria, Melia. Groundbreaking Interracial Marriage. 14 June 2007.