Walter Scott's Ivanhoe (1819) and James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans (1826) attempt in divergent ways to deal with the contradictions attendant on the contemporary ideology of "chivalry." In these novels chivalry becomes inconsequential: the woman's fate depends ultimately not on the intervention of a "knight" but on the irresolution of her would-be ravisher, who becomes paralyzed momentarily when he finds that the heroine is "resolved" to die rather than suffer abuse. Scott's method of rescuing his heroine Rebecca is not reassuring: the villain Bois-Gilbert implausibly drops dead, killed by "the violence of his own contending passions." One reason that chivalry fails to protect women in these novels is that it is not disinterested (as Edmund Burke defined it), but rather dependent on sexual desire. The Last of the Mohicans, moreover, shows that not all evil men will be irresolute: when the Europeanized Indian Magua cannot bring himself to kill Cora Munro, one of his "savage" comrades stabs her instead. The impulse that impedes the unchivalrous Magua is, ironically, the sexual desire that undergirds chivalry, but Cora's killer lacks even this desire. By showing that chivalry is powerless against men who are outside its sexual economy, The Last of the Mohicans renders moot Scott's struggles in Ivanhoe over chivalry's inconsistencies and contradictions.
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