Reflections on Hope Leslie

Hope Magawisca



In the novel Hope Leslie Magawisca severed arm represents, the physical manifestation of her inner turmoil between her loyalty to her tribe, and her feelings for the kind  Fletchers.

Magawisca was captured by the American settlers, when they had attacked her tribe, and killed her brother. Magawisca eventually became a servant for the Fletcher’s. The Fletcher’s however were very kind to her, and treated Magawisca with respect. The family trusted her fully, and she trusted, and cared about them. When Monotto Magawisca’s father attacked the Fletcher’s, and the American settlers for revenge, and to liberate his children. Magawisca became very conflicted, she knew in advance, that her father would attack. Magawisca didn’t know if she should stay loyal to her father, and remain silent, or warn the Fletcher’s. Magawisca ultimately decided to stay silent, her reasoning being that “She would have done anything to avert it anything but betray her father (58).” For the reader Magawisca silence feels like the ultimate betrayal, because Everell had trusted her fully, and refused to believe she would betray him, or his family.

Magawisca severed arm while trying to save Everell unfortunately had to happen. All the reader has to go on that Magawisca truly cares about the Fletcher family, is her own word of mouth that she would help them in anyway, other than betraying her father and getting him killed. Words don’t mean anything to the reader; they need to read Magawisca feelings for the Fletchers by her actions. When Magawisca lost her arm, getting in the way of her father’s attempt to chop off Everell head, she became a sympathetic character to the reader. Her betrayal of the Fletcher’s by not telling them of the attack could be forgiven. Magawisca proved she cared about the Fletchers; she just couldn’t bring it upon herself, to get her tribe members killed, by forewarning the settlers of the attack.

The main character of Hope Lesie should have been Magawisca. Magawisca is a fully developed, complex character, that receives a lot of character development; for a Native American during this time period. In the nineteenth century Native American characters usually fell into three stereotypical categories. The bloodthirsty savage, the noble savage, and the half breed. The bloodthirsty savage was a brute that commits murder and rape. The noble savage although pure hearted, is a character that was less intelligent than whites, so it was accepted for that character to become expendable so the whites could survive. The half breed was an Indian that was converted, into the white dominant culture. “That Indian would only be interested in supporting the white protagonist in the story. If a choice arose between siding with the tribes or the whites, the half breed was expected to choose white dominant culture (54-55).”

What makes Magawisca special is that she does not fit into any of these three stereotype. We know from her confliction that her first instinct, is to stay loyal to her tribe not the settlers. When Magawisca chose not to warn the settlers of the Natives attack, she lost any status of being a half breed character; she couldn’t turn on her father. The fact that Magawisca could still remain sympathetic to the reader, while not being a typical stereotype suggests Magawisca should have gotten a evaluated role in the novel.


Works Cited

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




One thought on “Hope Magawisca

  1. I really like that you took on this topic for your blog post as not many others paid so much attention to the symbolic meaning of having Magawisca’s arm severed I love what you said about actions being more important than words. In just about every case, it’s the smartest way to go about anything and it definitely shows in this case. In the time period everyone who was reading this had only a certain level of empathy for the Natives. Some were probably never on their side for a moment but like Uncle Tom’s Cabin this book was written to help the prejudiced white man realize that all Natives aren’t “uncivilized” or “savage”; some are just honestly good, caring people. Glad you brought it up. Magawisca is a star in this book who should have her name on the title!


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