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The Last of the Mohicans is an action packed, romantic and adventurous drama, set during the peak of the French and Indian War in America. The English had managed to vanquish most of the native Indians, but there were still some tribes who attempted to maintain their independence. After setting the scene, Cooper begins the story proper. Cora and Alice, Commander Munro's daughters, are escorted by Major Duncan Heyward out of Fort Edward to visit their father at Fort William Henry. An Indian runner, Magua, acts as their guide, but treacherously leads them onto the wrong path. He wishes to capture the women and make one of them, Cora, his wife, in order to get revenge on Munro, who had previously mistreated him. In the course of their journey, they meet David Gamut, Hawkeye, Chingachgook and Uncas, the latter two being the only two survivors of the Mohican tribe. When Hawkeye identifies Magua as a possible traitor, Magua escapes into the forest. The party realizes that Magua will seek out his companions and search for them, and from then, the chase is on.
The entire plot then revolves around the clash between these two parties. The chase continues through picturesquely described forests, swirling waters, caves, and Indian villages. Magua chases the group and captures Duncan, Cora, Alice, and David. Uncas, Chingachgook, and Hawkeye rescue them and later unite the girls with their father. They then face the danger of the French, who have captured Fort William Henry. When the English women and children are being taken to safety, Magua strikes again. He kills all the women and children except Cora and Alice, whom he captures, along with David, who had been acting as their escort.
The men track Magua to a Huron settlement, where they find David. He is a prisoner of the Indians, but is allowed to wander freely as he is considered insane and harmless due to his continual singing of hymns. David leads Duncan to the village where Alice is imprisoned. She is supposed to marry an Indian brave, but is saved by Major Heyward, who dons Indian paint to disguise himself. Both are rescued by Hawkeye, who disguises himself as a bear. Duncan and Hawkeye tie up Magua and escape with Alice. After helping Duncan and Alice flee, Hawkeye returns to the village and with the help of David, rescues Uncas.
The Delawares and the protagonists, now joined by Munro and Chingachgook, follow, and a fierce battle ensues between them and the Hurons, whom they defeat. Magua escapes, but is trailed by Uncas, Hawkeye, David, and Duncan. Near a large cliff, Magua asks Cora to choose between being his wife and being killed by his knife. At this moment, Uncas manages to catch up with them. As Magua is momentarily distracted by Uncas, his companion stabs Cora. Uncas kills her assailant but is in turn stabbed and killed by Magua.
Hawkeye chases Magua, who leaps from one cliff to another. He soon misses his step and slips, but manages to clutch on to a shrub. Hawkeye shoots Magua, who falls to his death.
The next day the dead are mourned and praised, and Cora and Uncas are buried in an elaborate ceremony. Hawkeye tells Chingachgook that he is not alone, for he is still there with him. Tamenund laments the decline of the Indians and the death of the last of the Mohicans.