The Power of Sound An Exploration of Cooper’s Use of Language in The Last of the Mohicans

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Keery, Alexandra
This essay examines the use of both language and paralanguage within Last of the Mohicans. Examples of paralanguage in the novel include: the Indian war-whoop, music, animal calls, and all other non-verbal aspects of speech. It is clear that throughout the novel language is a tool of power, if a character has the ability to properly understand and communicate across different language barriers, he or she is able to gain leverage within situations they may encounter, often dangerous. However, these kinds of language interactions can only go so far; they always require some kind of translation to take place in order to be understood. Translation itself is problematic because it is another example of potential power manipulation. This is where I argue paralanguage becomes a powerful tool. Ultimately, Cooper utilizes paralanguage as a tool within his novel to show how such a device can break across nationalistic boundaries of understanding. There is no need for secondary translation to take place when this kind of language is employed. To investigate this claim the paper examines scholarship centering on the use of bodies in Last of the Mohicans; specifically how bodies are manipulated, much like language, by nationalistic and cultural attempts for control. This paper also analyzes how verbal language functions in the novel. Lastly, there is an examination of paralanguage, paying close attention to the use of pure sound such as the war-whoop and music. Ultimately, Cooper utilizes paralanguage to show the sheer power of non-verbal elements of communication and the capabilities of being understood despite strong nationalistic communication barriers.