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In the Classroom > Picturing America Lessons > The Truth Behind The Last of the Mohicans

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Suggested Answers for "Examining Expressive Content" Questions

How would you describe Wyeth’s depiction of Uncas?

Fierce, menacing, larger than life, ready to fight, powerful, primitive

Describe the setting in which Wyeth chose to put Uncas.

Natural, wilderness, wild, undeveloped, majestic, beautiful

What decisions did Wyeth make in regard to composition, viewpoint, and size to achieve the desired character?

Uncas fills the frame, he stands above the viewer and his bare body is set against the clouds, he is bare-chested & muscular, has a menacing gaze

Suggested Answers for "Teaching Plan" Questions

1. How does he compare to the painting? If you note any differences, why might Wyeth have chosen to make them?

It is evident that Wyeth faithfully created Cooper's description except that Wyeth chose to depict Uncas stripped down to his breechclout rather than dressed in Cooper's "green and fringed hunting-shirt". Perhaps this was done to make Uncas appear more powerful and more a man of the wilderness, and to make him appear more familiar to white society's image of Native American men during Wyeth's time.

2. How were their lives different from what is depicted in the novel and painting?

Many adopted a number of aspects of European life ways. These included living in houses, wearing European clothing for the most part, farming, keeping domesticated livestock, owning some of the same tools, furniture and domestic items, joining churches, holding town offices, receiving some education and sending their children to school.

3. List the ways in which Wyeth and Cooper stereotype Uncas.

Cooper describes Uncas as having a "fearless eye" and "high, haughty features", a "wild expression", and as being "terrible and calm", "dignified", "noble", "proud and determined", and as being an "uncorrupted" native.

Wyeth captures all of the above in his painting plus shows Uncas in the wilderness, wearing little clothing, and holding a bow and arrow.

4. Why then, did people of European descent in the 1820’s think that so many Native peoples were vanishing? In areas where Native people did really “disappear” or seem to, why might this be so?

Some Native people chose to live in the same manner as the dominant culture, whether to blend in to gain acceptance and succeed, or to be left alone, so they might not have appeared to be “Indian” to white eyes. Many others had already left their homelands to live with other Native peoples in areas less encroached upon by Europeans.

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