Reflections on Hope Leslie

The Heroic Efforts of Magawisca: Why She’s A True Girl Boss

Although the character of Hope Leslie is represented as the main figure in Catherine Maria Sedgwick’s Hope Leslie, Magawisca can be seen as the star who stands out most. Magawisca is a Native American girl; the daughter of Chief Mononotto. She is captured after her family is massacred, and sent to live with and serve the Fletchers. She actually becomes friends with Everell. When Magawiscas father comes to seek revenge and rescue his children, we see the true character of Magawisca come through.

Magawisca uttered a cry of agony, and springing forward with her arms uplifted, as if deprecating his approach, she sunk down at her father’s feet, and clasping her hands, “save them—save them,” she cried, “the mother—the children— oh they are all good—take vengeance on your enemies—but spare—spare our friends—our benefactors—I bleed when they are struck—oh command them to stop!” she screamed, looking to the companions of her father, who unchecked by her cries, went pressing on to their deadly work. (62)

Magawisca respected her father, and understood why he was going after the puritans, but she still had compassion for the Fletcher family. She recognized that the women and children were innocent bystanders in a terrible situation. Not everyone was at fault for the slaughter of her people. The most beautiful quote Magawisca says is “I bleed when they are struck”. It demonstrates how connected she was to the family, even under the circumstances of her being a prisoner of war, you might say. She felt every blow, and a loss was a loss to her if she cared about the person, whether they were one of her own, or a puritan.

An image of Pocahontas saving John Smith’s life, found in the Project Muse section on John Hopkins University’s website.

Magawisca demonstrates her heroic efforts once more when Everell’s life is at stake. Her father had attempted to behead Everell, however Magawisca bravely jumped in between her fathers ax and Everell. She unfortunately loses an arm in the process, but she saves
Everell’s life. Magawisca greatly reminds me of Pocahontas. Both women were from Native American tribes, and both women displayed acts of bravery, and pure hearts with good intentions. They both cherish life and protect the ones they love, no matter what their background is. Reading this scene with Magawisca losing her arm, I can picture it looking very similar to the image above of Pocahontas saving John Smith from being killed.

In a scholarly article written by Amanda Viana, entitled Daring Deeds: Independent Moral Thought and Action in Hope Leslie, Magawiscas actions are described as feminine and womanish. This can explain why she was written off when she cried and pleaded with the Pequod tribe to spare the innocent Fletcher lives. Although we see Magawiscas character as strong, confident, and able, she is written off by her tribe because she is a women. That is something that all people, whether they were Native Americans or Puritan settlers, shared in common. The women were always disregarded. Their opinions did not matter and they were seen as inferior. However, Magawisca changes the game when she turns her begging and pleading into physical action, and jumps in front of the blow meant for Everell. We immediately gain respect for her, and deem her strong.

Again, we see Magawisca shine throughout this entire novel. Her strength, dedication, and power show us that she was not one to be messed with. When Beyonce said “Who run the world? Girls!” I’m sure she had Magawisca in mind.


3 thoughts on “The Heroic Efforts of Magawisca: Why She’s A True Girl Boss

  1. Nice reflection! You chose a great quote from Magawisca (I bleed when they are stuck). It really shows the passion she had and connects to the argument of being a noble savage. Magawisca was a compassionate young woman who understood the differences between both groups, yet still had a realistic idea about how things should be. Sedgewick did a good job using this character to portray this modern idea. I like how you added a scholarly article too, which shares a good point about Magawisca femininity. However, I don’t think she is being girly by standing up for the Flecthers. In fact, I think its extremely brave that a woman would do such a thing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I totally agree with you, Magawiska is the true heroine of Sedgwick’s novel! Your post is well put together and uses great examples. I especially like your comparison of Magawiska saving Everell to Pocahontas saving John Smith; there are some clear parallels between the two scenes, and I think Sedgwick did that on purpose. Since Pocahontas and her story were popular during Sedgwick’s time, she probably alluded to the famous scene in her novel to appeal to her audience and provide a more accurate historical feel. Your incorporation of the picture was a nice touch to tie in your comparison of Magawiska and Pocahontas. Great job!


  3. This is a great article that highlights why Magaswica is a strong feminine hero versus the usual stories we see. It is great that how Magaswica takes action rather than the backseat when it comes to saving the people she cares about. I definitely agree with you when everyone respected her after sacrificing her arm for Everett’s life. Even though she is a woman, she displays many qualities that separate her from the typical “victimized” figure. I love the title as well! It suits Magaswica well!


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