Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper

It was a feature peculiar to the colonial wars of North America, that the toils and dangers of the wilderness were to be encountered before the adverse hosts could meet. 

Preamble and exposition begin this novel. At the time it was written, people may have had less access to information than we do today, so perhaps an expository introduction was necessary. But it feels like the novel is beginning with an encyclopedic footnote. If you don't believe me, read the rest of the first paragraph and see if your eyes don't start to glaze over and your brain start to atrophy.

A wide and apparently an impervious boundary of forests severed the possessions of the hostile provinces of France and England. The hardy colonist, and the trained European who fought at his side, frequently expended months in struggling against the rapids of the streams, or in effecting the rugged passes of the mountains, in quest of an opportunity to exhibit their courage in a more martial conflict. But, emulating the patience and self-denial of the practiced native warriors, they learned to overcome every difficulty; and it would seem that, in time, there was no recess of the woods so dark, nor any secret place so lovely, that it might claim exemption from the inroads of those who had pledged their blood to satiate their vengeance, or to uphold the cold and selfish policy of the distant monarchs of Europe.

A characteristic of the writing style in those days is long-winded sentences that would need some serious weeding to appeal to today's dumbed down taste. After all, people were smarter back then. Nowadays, people enjoying reading a series of sentence fragments and one word paragraphs.

First thing said:

"Are such specters frequent in the woods, Heyward, or is this sight an especial entertainment ordered on our behalf?"

This dialogue only comes in chapter 2 which further suggests that chapter 1 is pure telling and informing. However, it does move the plot forward and asks for some pertinent information.

Verdict: Fail

This is part of the series: the top 100 novels from Daniel S. Burt's book called Novel 100, the top 100 novels of all time. There is debate of course as to what should be on that list, but his opinions are as good as any. The Last of the Mohicans figures in as the 88th greatest novel of all time.

Theodore Moracht

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