Reflections on Hope Leslie

Hope Leslie vs The Indian Removal Act of 1830


The captivity narratives I’ve read prior to Catherine Maria Sedgwick’s “Hope Leslie” were all pretty clear in their message that the Native Americans were savages, and un-natural as the environment they were living in. These narratives presented the Europeans as victims of the Native Americans aggressiveness, when they were actually just invaders confused as to why people were upset they were taking over their land. The Indian Removal act of 1830  “was signed into law by President Andrew Jackson on May 28, 1830, authorizing the president to grant unsettled lands west of the Mississippi in exchange for Indian lands within existing state borders. A few tribes went peacefully, but many resisted the relocation policy. During the fall and winter of 1838 and 1839, the Cherokees were forcibly moved west by the United States government.”, basically saying move where we want you to peacefully, and don’t complain, or we’ll just move you ourselves.


When reflecting on Hope Leslie which was published in 1827, I feel the novel could have been written both in support of removal of the Indians, and against the proposal of this act, thought I believe it was ultimately against it. When reading the text there is a strong sense of feminism, these female characters take charge and aren’t useless, they all have their own perspective in the story, not just the Europeans but, also Magawisca who in my opinion plays the most important part in whether we interpret the text is against or in support of the Indian Removal Act. Having a character such as Magawisca who isn’t incompetent, and is a character that makes a presence, and is determined in what She believes in can be a form of showing Sedgwick was against removal, because these narratives weren’t often given to the Natives, and were often written off as just enemies. Sedgwick’s portrayal of Magawisca sacrificing her arm in order to save Everell from her own family is a powerful moment because Magawisca saves Everell not because she is against her family or in support of Europeans, but because she has her own values, and doesn’t agree with the capture.

This novel could also be read as in support for removal, if we view the text in the sense that Sedgwick portrayed Magawisca as the exception, that She was not like the others. One example could be when Magawisca tells Hope that her sister is married to her brother and that She is now Catholic, and is not the same person. This is followed by Hope speaking with faith, and her not knowing English anymore. I feel this can be seen as a portrayal of painting the Native Americans in a negative light, almost like everything that happened to faith was against her will. Also in an Essay titled “Designing the Future: Hope, Magawisca & Their People’s Struggles for Dominance in Colonial America” by Kate Porter, She argues “However, when Hope and Everell marry, leaving Magawisca to make her own way in the world, Sedgwick leaves us with the sense that the future of the American colonies does not include both the Indians and the settlers–the settlers will prosper while the Indians fade slowly out of existence.”, I agree with this and also think this can be an example of being in support for removal, because its another way excluding the Native Americans.









One thought on “Hope Leslie vs The Indian Removal Act of 1830

  1. What is the purpose of removal? When we are removing certain features that makes things as they are…then what makes anything valuable or have some sort of meaning? We get rid of unique pieces because it will help us to find an enriching fulfillment but we have had that relevance from the beginning. As time went on we no longer trusted what we already had because it became old or turned into something we could no longer find meaningful.

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