Friday, July 13, 2012

Book Review: "The Last of the Mohicans" by James Fenimore Cooper

One of my favourite movies of all time is the 1992 version of The Last of the Mohicans directed by Michael Mann and staring Daniel Day-Lewis. It is full of action and the heroics of the American Frontier during the French and Indian Wars in 1757. The film is partly based on the book of the same name written in 1826 by James Fenimore Cooper, but there are huge differences between the book an the movie - Cooper would have been horrified at the extent of the editing of characters and scenes carried out by Hollywood.

Image source:
American Literature.
The book (free from the Kindle store) is a difficult read as the language is very verbose, or what Mark Twain referred to as "excessive verbiage" and has been called "unreadable". There is no doubting this as many passages are written without the reader in mind. Nevertheless, it was a great success as a book in the 19th century and is still regarded as an American classic. For me the book was a terrible read - even from a historic point of view I learned very little. But the real interest to keep me going through it was how different my favourite movie was from the book. I was astounded that there was so much difference between the two - here's how Wikipedia describes it:

Image source: Wikipedia.
Many of the scenes from the 1992 movie did not follow the book; in particular, some characters who survive the events of the novel die in the film, and vice versa. For example, Colonel Munro, killed in the film by Magua during the evacuation of Fort William Henry, lives on in the novel and helps search for his daughters. Chingachgook kills Magua in the film, whereas in the novel, Hawkeye kills him. The usual deletions from cinematic versions of The Last of the Mohicans are the extensive sections about the Indians themselves, thus confounding Cooper's purpose. Further, romantic relationships, non-existent or minimal in the novel, are generated between the principal characters, and the roles of some characters are reversed or altered, as are the events

Even the romances were different, there is the strong sexual tension between Hawkeye and Cora (who dies in the book but survives in the movie) - there is no such thing in the book. Script writers clearly could do whatever they wanted - and they did. The movie is more interesting, and thankfully there are no more books written in the prose of Cooper.

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