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The Last of the Mohicans, Cooper presents a varied picture of the feminine landscape. Cora and Alice, who are sisters, represent two very different types of women. Cora's Rejection.

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Introduction

Cora's Rejection Edward Katz ENG 180 9/29/03 Every human being is hampered by labels and stereotypes that are placed on them. Stereotypes work to confine a person to a set of norms and expectations which, in turn, govern how they are supposed to act. The nature of stereotypes is that they create limiting and constricting boundaries. Society is full of assumptions and ideas about a person simply because their gender classifies them as a female and it is easy for a women's life to become defined by these societal stereotypes. However, there are many arenas where these types of oppressive labels can be opposed, confronted, or even reaffirmed and literature is one of these places. In his novel, The Last of the Mohicans, Cooper presents a varied picture of the feminine landscape. Cora and Alice, who are sisters, represent two very different types of women. Alice's identity is tightly tied to traditional notions about femininity because she conforms to every gender stereotype. On the other hand, Cora stands apart from the traditional rendering of a female because of her heroic and aggressive actions. However, Cooper never fully questions the subjugated role of women in society or cultural notions about a woman's abilities because at the close of his novel, Cora dies while Alice lives on. The death of Cora reflects the death of all the values and principles that she possessed. ...read more.

Middle

Describing a scene in which both are held in captivity the divergent attitudes of the sister's becomes plain. "On his right was Cora...with a steady eye, whose steady look still read the proceedings of their enemies. On his left, the withes which bound her trembling limbs refused, and alone kept her fragile form from sinking...her unconscious looks wandered to Duncan, with infantile dependency (Cooper: 123)." In this scene two very different representations of females emerge. Alice is the person who is defined by gender stereotypes and she "unconsciously" looks towards a male to rescue her. The fact that Alice unconsciously looks to a male to save her reinforces gender stereotypes because it implies that it is a female's nature to seek help from a male. However, Cora is strong and does not waver in the face of danger; instead she keeps a steady and keen eye on her captors. Cora does not turn into a quivering infant and does not look for the aid of a male but instead maintains her measured composure. As an individual Cora is headstrong, aggressive, courageous, and in many aspects the equal of a male. In other words, Cora challenges nearly all social norms about the roles, capabilities, and limits of women. She stands up and speaks out for the things that are important to her. ...read more.

Conclusion

On the other hand, Alice subordinates herself to men and waits to be rescued and eventually she is saved. Alice accepts her spot in the social chain, even though it is inferior to men, but she lives on. The circumstances surrounding Cora's death, and Alice's continued life, seem to discourage female's seeking an equal spot on the social ladder and therefore the novel only strengthens the lesser role of women. In The Last of the Mohicans, readers are offered a view of what a women who is not restrained by gender labels and stereotypes looks like. Unfortunately, this is a fleeting and momentary glimpse because Cora is murdered. Cora's murder does not help to strengthen the plot and can be seen as the rejection of all the things that made her unique. Cora's rejection only serves to reaffirm and strengthen pre-existing assumptions about the things that women can accomplish. On a larger level, the text's rejection of Cora is symptomatic of society's rejection of independent women. Society creates definitions and stereotypes that bind and inhibit the freedom of women. Society has the power to dismiss individuals if they are deemed "inappropriate". Therefore, women, like Cora, who are free because they are not limited by their gender identity, are often relegated to the margins of society. Novels are a powerful vehicle that can be used for change and in The Last of the Mohicans, the text could have challenged many assumptions about women but it ends up falling short of this mark. ...read more.

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