Fort William Henry The Savages Explored Essay

This essay has a total of 868 words and 4 pages.

Fort William Henry The Savages Explored



Fort William Henry: The Savages Explored

The massacre of Fort William Henry occurred in the year 1757, when France’s Native
American allies captured, tortured, or killed 308 surrendered English. The incident was
brutal, it has been told and retold throughout history by an array of authors, historians,
and media agencies. Although every re-telling of the massacre has inevitable variations,
the writings of James Fenimore Cooper and Francis Parkman, and the Hollywood film “The
Last of the Mohicans” with the portrayal of Native Americans as inferior, vengeful savages
in an attempt to explain the tragedy of the historical event.

James Fenimore Cooper used negative descriptions of Native Americans in his novel The Last
of the Mohicans to dramatize the massacre at Fort William Henry. This helps the reader
make sense of the tragedy. Cooper depicted the Huron Indians as “raving savages” that were
both “wild and untutored” in their nature (Cooper 207). It is easier to understand the
massacre when Cooper blatantly indicates to the reader that “revenge is an Indian feeling”
(217). The presuming way that Cooper characterizes Native Americans as animalistic and
unintelligent inadvertently dehumanizes the Indians, and creates a plausible reason for
the slaughtering. By stating that the Indians became “heated and maddened by the sight” of
blood, and even “drank freely…of the crimson tide” that covered the ground, the motive for
the massacre becomes obvious: primitive vengeance (208). A passage which clearly evokes
the strongest understanding of Indian savagery is stated below:

… [the Indian’s] bantering but sullen smile changing to a gleam of ferocity, he dashed the
head of the infant against a rock, and cast its quivering remains to [its mother’s] very
feet (207).

Cooper undoubtedly used the worst possible trait of a savage: the ability to murder
infants shamelessly to emphasize his opinion of the Indians. Furthermore, the inferiority
of the Indians is reinforced by their broken dialect. Magua, the Huron chief speaks in
incomplete sentences and uses improper grammar: “Magua is a great chief” which
demonstrates his lack of intelligence (208). James Fenimore Cooper was a very effective
novelist, and it is apparent that his treatment of the Indians in The Last of the Mohicans
was an attempt to explain the tragic deaths of so many.

Like Cooper, Francis Parkman’s book Montcalm and Wolfe has a primitive and uncivilized
depiction of Native Americans. This is an indirect explanation of the tragedy at Fort
William Henry. Parkman blatantly displayed the Indian ally’s inferiority by stating that
“their religion is brute paganism” and that “their paradise is to be drunk” (Parkman 493).
An animalistic image emerged with the description that “[the Indians] grappled and tore
each other with their teeth like wolves”, which reinforced the created picture of the
savage (493). Similar to Cooper, Parkman uses Indian dialect to dehumanize and set Native
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