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Idealization Vs. Demonization Essay, Research Paper

The opposing views of idealization and demonization of the Native Americans by early nineteenth century writers intensified the two polar views of Native Americans in society. With his written idealization of the Native Americans , a loose group of people embraced the spirituality of the Indian as a relief from the over barring society. Because the Indian’s political and societal structure was foreign to the same individuals, they assumed that the Indian did not possess these structures, and therefore was not used by them. The Native American possessed the freedom that others were denied within the strict moral principles of civilization; the Indian became a metaphor for the individuals’ desire. The demonizing writings of the Native Americans resulted in another bias that triumphed in terms of legislature and social policy was absorbed in violence and hatred for this threatening class of people who did not have any place in a quickly expanding European-based society. Guided by a broken Darwinian beliefs, these men took the differences of the Native Americans’ from the standards of the European culture and established those as inferior characteristics that applied to every Native American. In other words, the lack of understanding fueled complicated social hierarchies; domineering Europeans classed Native Americans as lazy, and therefore forecasted various tribes as doomed to be destroyed by European progress and civilization. In this idea, the Native American was not a metaphor of desire, but rather one of fear. It is nineteenth century writers’ depictions of Native Americans that substantiated the American s contrasting views of the culture. James Fenimore Cooper idealized his American Indian characters to such a degree that they failed to resemble real Indians at all, however, Cooper demonized some of his Indian characters as well. In Last of the Mohicans, the representation of these extremes is noted in the characters of Chingachook and Uncas as idealized, and the Hurons and Magua as demonized.

The concept of freedom that many outsiders to the European Civilization desired, was demonstrated in the idealization of the characters Chingachook and Uncas, in the novel The Last of the Mohicans. Those unfamiliar to the European civilization in the corresponded Native Americans with nature that was threatened by the industrialism’s rise. Because the Indian’s political and societal structure was foreign to the same individuals, they assumed that the Indian did not possess these structures, and therefore was not used by them. The Native American possessed the freedom that those individuals were denied within the strict moral principles of civilization; the Indian became a metaphor for the individuals’ desire. They speak figuratively and metaphorically, their physical descriptions reflect notions of nobility, and their actions are always selfless and pure. In a description of Uncas in the novel,

At a little distance in advance stood Uncas, his whole person thrown powerfully into view. The travelers anxiously regarded the upright, flexible figure of the young Mohican, graceful and unrestrained in the attitudes and movements of nature. Though his person was more than usually screened by a green and fringed hunting shirt, like that of the white man, there was no concealment to his dark, glancing, fearful eye, alike terrible and calm; the bold outline of his high haughty features, pure in their native red; or to the dignified elevation of his receding forehead, together with all the finest proportions of a noble head, bared to the generous scalping tuft. (pg. 87)

The “graceful and unrestrained in the attitudes and movements of nature”(pg. 87) proves Cooper’s tendency to connect American Indians with nature, both equally endangered by European civilization’s advance. Moreover, like the virgin land that Cooper describes as unmolested before the white man (pg. 88), so Cooper envisions the Indian as equally pure. Here Cooper encodes this pureness in Uncas’ physical description; his features are “pure in their native red,”(pg. 126) and his head, commonly used as a revealing characteristic of a character’s personality, has a “dignified elevation” and is “noble” with the “finest proportions.”(pg. 87)

On the other hand, Magua and the other Hurons are demonized; they exhibit subhuman tendencies that are unnatural to the civilized, such as to turn to violence, and the habit of eating their meat raw. For example, after Magua’s band kills a straggling fawn, one Huron eats it: “Without any aid from the science of cookery, he was immediately employed, in common with his fellows, in gorging himself with this digestible sustenance”(pg. 112). Moreover, in one particularly touching thought, a Huron warrior who desired a woman’s “gaudy” shawl, took her baby out of her arms, and killed it: “The savage spurned the worthless rags, and perceiving that the shawl had already become a prize to another, his bantering but sullen smile changed to a gleam of ferocity, he dashed the head of the infant against a rock, and cast its quivering remains to her very feet” (205)

Within Last of the Mohicans, the polar of sentimentalizing Chingachook and Uncas, versus demonizing Magua and the Hurons, by civilization. The two bias opinions lingered within the outcome of their culture today. Evolution of the stereotype, the idealized Native American versus the demonized Native American, is apparent in their current lifestyles. For example, the Native Americans living on reservation preserving their culture as the idealized Native American versus the demonized Native American who deserted their culture and beliefs, and adapted to the European civilization that took over their lands. The two opposing variations of Native Americans possibly emerged from the two opposing viewpoints of their culture.


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