Reflections on Hope Leslie

Change the title?

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The novel Hope Leslie was written by Catharine Sedgwick in the year 1827. The Native American character named Magawisca plays a huge role in the novel. Sedgwick describes her, as “someone tall for her age, her form was slender, flexible, and graceful; and there was a freedom and loftiness in her movement which, through tempered with modesty, expressed a consciousness of high birth. Her face, although marked by the peculiarities of her race, was beautiful even to a European eye (22/23). Magawisca, who is a daughter of an Indian chief named Mononotto, was captured along with her mother and brother and was taken to Boston to become a servant to the Fletcher family (21). Hope who is another character in the book has also been taken from her home just like Magawisca. Due to the fact that her parents have died coming to the new colonies; her mother Alice who just so happens to be Mr.Fletcher’s cousin leaves both daughters in Mr. Fletcher care. But, before the children were separated, they were baptized by Reverend Mr. Cotton, and in commemoration of the Christian grace of their mother, their names were changed to the puritanical appellation of Hope and Faith. Sedgwick describes Hope “being a splitting image of her mother and that Mr. Fletcher could believe that the spirit of the mother was transferred to the bosom of the child” (29).

As the story goes on, to me, both girls show huge moments of courage. Magawisca shows courage by stepping in to save the Fletcher boy, Everell. Mononotto says “I will pour out this English boy’s blood to the last drop, and give his flesh and bones to the dogs and wolves.”  He then motioned for him to prostrate himself on the rock, his face downward. In this position Everell could not see the descending stroke. Even at this moment of dire vengeance, the instincts of a merciful nature asserted their rights.  Magawisca actually saves Everell, and takes his place in the striking by her father which results in losing her arm (96/97). The part where I found that Hope shows her courage is when Magawsica comes to speak to her about her sister Faith. Wanting to know where her sister was, she learns that her sister is now married to Magawsica brother Oneco. When Hope hears that Magawsica that she will be able to see her sister again she replies, “When and where?” But, before when she tells her when and where, she makes Hope promise her that she will not tell anyone that she saw her or will be seeing her again.”  Hope replies “I promise.” Thinking that she is going to be betrayed by Hope, she asks her “You would not betray me? Oh, more than ever entered into thy young thoughts, hang upon my safety?” Hope’s reply actually shocked people because I thought that Hope would say yes, I will betray you because you haven’t told me when I will see my sister again. Her reply was actually “But why any fear for you safety? Why not come openly among us? I will get the word of our good Governor that you shall come and go in peace. No one ever feared to trust his word” (196- 198). Both Magawsica and Hope show traits that they are not classified as damsel in distress and two strong female characters.

Do I think that the book should had been called Magawsica instead? No, I believe that the book should had either been called Early Times in the Massachusetts or a title that reflected on both Hope and Magawsica, something called A journey of courage.


Sedgwick, Catharine Maria. Hope Leslie Or, Early Times in the Massachusetts. Reprint ed. Penguin Classics, 1998. Print.


One thought on “Change the title?

  1. VERY informing piece. I like that not only someone from our class would understand what you are talking about, but any random person who comes across your post is given enough background information about Magawisca to understand Sedgwick’s novel as a whole. I thought it was a great writing technique how you concluded your post, having the reader deeply invested to find out whether or not Hope Leslie is a fit title for the work because of your allusive blog post title. I also like your idea that the book should neither be titled after Hope Leslie nor Magawisca, but instead a title that does not show preference between the two very strong female protagonists.


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