Reflections on Hope Leslie

A Failed Attempt

Narragansett, Native American Cultures

“We are now about to take our leave and kind farewell to our native land, the country that the Great Spirit gave our Fathers, we are on the eve of leaving the country that gave us birth…. It is with sorrow we are forced by the white man to quit the scenes of our childhood… we bid farewell to it and all we hold dear.”  These were the words uttered by Vice Chief Charles Hicks, Tsalagi (Cherokee) on the Trail of Tears on August 4, 1838.  The Trail of Tears was the forced relocations of Native American nations in the United States after the Indian Removal Act of 1830.  These people suffered from exposure, disease, and starvation while on route, and more than four thousand of them died before reaching their final destinations.  Prior to these relocations there was a series of tense relationships between these groups that ultimately led to the Act.   Hope Leslie, a novel written in 1827 by Catharine Maria Sedgwick gives us and insight to these tense relationships among these groups and the author’s strong feminist overtones and ideas of equity and fairness toward Native Americans.

Sedgwick’s novel reveals various subjects of great concern and importance, such as the Indian captivity narrative, cross-cultural friendship, and historical romance. In my opinion Sedgwick adopted the historical fiction of the “Indian” and applied it to Hope Leslie to argue about the racial differences in the United States during the time. My guess is that Sedgwick was limited to write about anything that produced a positive outcome for the Indians. I don’t believe that Sedgwick wrote Hope Leslie in support of the removal of the Indians from their native lands, she rather almost wrote it with a secret message to produce a new kind of authority with moral and political value of feelings.

Both female characters in Hope Leslie Magawisa and Hope, are passionate of their beliefs, attributes, and culture. They both stand to defy the norms of the new world and the old world in their own lives. Despite the massacre the English brought upon her tribe, Magawisca still defies her father in a heroic and noble act to save Everell, a white man. Even after she stated she will never betray her father, “That which I may speak without bringing down on me the curse of my father’s race, I will speak…” (Hope Leslie, pg. 40) This heroic act shows Magawisca is a kind noble woman. Another similarity they both share is, both being in love with Everell. However, although they possess many similar traits, it is obvious they are both from different races. Magawisca is Indian and Hope is Anglo American, which gives her the righteous advantage in marrying Everell. After the conflicts for both Magawisca and Hope seem to finally settle, Magawisca and her Indian society was the one who lost the most. The Indians continued to get massacred and were driven out of their native lands under the Indian Removal Act of 1830, signed by President Andrew Jackson. Hope and Everell in the other hand marry, and have the promise of thriving under the Anglo American government community. As she was taken prisoner, Magawisca stated “My people have been spoiled – we cannot take as a gift that which is our own – the law of vengeance is written on our hearts – you say you have written rule of forgiveness – it may be better – if ye would be guided by it – it is not for us – the Indian and the white man can no more mingle, and become one, than day and night.” (Hope Leslie, pg. 349)

Sedgwick found a way for these two cultures to sympathize leaving the reader with a possibility of hope that the both societies could ever conjugate together. Not even Magawisca’s nobility, heroic and free spirited traits could save the Indians from their doom.




One thought on “A Failed Attempt

  1. Hey, awesome blog post! While I do absolutely agree with your entire post about Sedgwick not supporting the Indian Removal Act, I can’t help but play devil’s advocate here. Personally, as I read the quote of what Magawisca stated as she was taken prisoner, I couldn’t help but feel the sense of giving up. There seems to be a sense of hopelessness in her words, and even as Magawisca departs and Everell and Hope constantly tell her not to leave and such, it’s Magawisca who continues to fight against them saying that she has to go because of the impossibility of the merging of the two cultures. It’s even written in the title of the novel, Hope Leslie, possibly a play on words as the name is pronounced much like “hopelessly”. It seems much more like a novel that gives up on the fact that Native Americans and Anglo Americans can get along, so the Indian Removal Act would seem beneficial to both cultures, at least in the eyes of the readers who were reading the novel when it first came out.


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