S-Space Researcher Institutes (연구소) American Studies Institute (미국학연구소) 미국학 미국학 Volume 33 Number 1/2 (2010)
Subversive Voices: The Interplay between Race and Gender in The Last of the Mohicans
- Kim, Mary
- Issue Date
- 서울대학교 미국학연구소
- 미국학, Vol.33 No.2, pp. 71-103
- This study explores how the Native American and feminine voices in James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans engage with one another to create a subversive dialect that “violates” the racial and gender doctrines imposed upon them by white male authority. Cooper’s novel reveals contradictory strains regarding both Native Americans and women in that he inscribes contemporary racist and misogynistic views but at the same time exhibits criticism of these intolerant ideologies. In his non-fiction work, Cooper unequivocally vilifies or disparages Native Americans in order to endorse America’s westward expansion. But in writing this novel, he is prompted by what may be called a “literary impulse,” which both frees and constrains him to address the latent ambivalences and conflicts of the ideologies that underlie his narrative so that it might acquire some form of authenticity.
The Native American and feminine elements present subversiveness in themselves, but on intersecting with each other throughout the novel, they carry greater potential to rupture the dominant hegemony. Contrary to the familiar view that Hawk-eye is the novel’s most prominent transgressor, this study aims to give that role to Cora. Unlike Hawk-eye, whose masculine potency and implication in American imperialism impede a genuine communion with the Indians, Cora’s racial background and gender allow her to relate to the natives on a more egalitarian basis. Personally experienced racial discrimination and identification with a collective feminine identity facilitate such transgressive relationships. This is exemplified by the fact that whereas Hawk-eye consistently paints Magua as a demonic reincarnation, Cora not only succeeds in communicating with the Huron chief but also embodies the possibility of a romantic union with him. Namely, the transgressions on part of the Indians and those on part of the female characters reinforce and amplify each other. The result is a rich narrative that carries the potential to undermine itself, truly a fitting analogy to the history of American colonization.
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