Hope Leslie

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Hope Leslie
Author Catharine Maria Sedgwick
Original title Early Times in Massachusetts
Language English
Publication date

Hope Leslie or Early Times in the Massachusetts is a novel written by Catharine Maria Sedgwick. The book is considered significant because of its strong feminist overtones and ideas of equity and fairness toward Native Americans, both of which were rare at the time the book was written, in 1827. The book is a historical romance, set mostly in 1643. A number of historical figures appear, including Puritan leader John Winthrop, Puritan heretic Samuel Gorton, and the Pequot Indian Mononotto.

Character List[edit]

William Fletcher - in love with Alice but cannot marry her, marries a woman named Martha and their son is Everell. Eventually raises Hope and Faith, Alice and Charles's daughters.

Alice- in love with William Fletcher, mother of Hope and Faith, wife of Charles Leslie

Hope Leslie- main character, daughter of Alice and Charles Leslie, sister of Faith. Eventually marries Everell Fletcher.

Faith Leslie- daughter of Alice and Charles Leslie, sister of Hope. Later marries Oneco and becomes a Catholic who decides to no longer speak English.

Martha Fletcher- woman married to William Fletcher, has his children, she and her infant son are killed in an attack from the Native Americans

Magawisca- Chief Mononotto's daughter, sister of Oneco and Samoset, enslaved/servant to the Fletchers

Oneco- Chief Mononotto's son, brother of Magawisca and Samoset, enslaved/servant of the Fletcher's, later marries Faith Leslie

Chief Mononotto- Chief of the Pequot, wants revenge for the beheading of his son Samoset in the Pequod war and the enslavement of his other two children, Magawisca and Oneco.

Everell- William Fletcher and Martha's son, eventually engaged to Esther, and then marries Hope Leslie

Digby- guard of the home, very close with Everell and eventually Hope Leslie

Cradock- Hope's tutor. She is his superior though.

Nelema- Believed to be a witch by most Puritans, a healer, causes a lot of suspicion

John Winthrop- founder of Massachusetts Bay Colony, English Puritan Lawyer,[1] diplomatic towards the Native Americans, lets Hope Leslie live at his home

Esther Downing- the niece of Mr. Winthrop, becomes part of a love triangle between her good friend Hope Leslie and her crush, Everell Fletcher.

Sir Philip Gardiner- [2] "corrupt seducer" of Hope Leslie, royalist trying to subvert the Puritans' community

Roslin/Rosa- page of Sir Philip Gardiner, dressed as a man when first introduced and then revealed as a woman, an old lover of Sir Philip's

Mr. Gorton- known as a Puritan Heretic

Mrs. Grafton - Aunt of Hope and Faith Leslie, Materialistic, Fashionable, Devout Anglican

Plot summary[edit]

The story begins in England with William Fletcher, a young man in love with a distant relative, Alice, whose father has forbidden her marriage to Fletcher on account of religious difference. Alice's father forces her to marry Charles Leslie instead. In despair, Fletcher decides to leave England and relocate to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In the Bay colony, Fletcher marries an orphan girl named Martha although he is still in love with Alice. After living in Boston, Massachusetts for a while, William moves the family to the newly founded Springfield, Massachusetts and calls his home Bethel.

While there, Fletcher receives a letter that says Alice died while voyaging to the new colonies in New England. The Fletcher's adopt her two children, Hope and Faith. Governor Winthrop procures two Indian servants to help Mrs. Fletcher with the increased domestic workload. The two servants are a sister and brother, Magawisca and Oneco, who are the children of the Pequot chief Mononotto.

Mononotto is out for revenge. After attempting peace with the Englishmen, they killed his people, enslaved his family, and beheaded his son, Samoset. Mononotto and two Mohawk warriors attack Bethel. Mrs. Fletcher and her infant son are killed, and Magawisca and Oneco are reunited with their father. Everell and Faith are taken captive. When Mononotto attempts to execute Everell in retaliation to the wrongs he has suffered, Magawisca intervenes by throwing herself between the axe and Everell's neck. Her arm is severed and Everell escapes unharmed.

The next scene opens with a letter Hope has written seven years later to Everell who is studying in England. She writes of an episode where Cradock gets bitten by a rattlesnake while climbing Mount Holioke (later renamed Mount Holyoke). Nelema stops by and does a treatment and he is cured. Jennet calls it witchcraft and Nelema is made to stand trial. Hope frees Nelema from jail and Nelema promises to send her sister Faith to her.

Hope is sent to live with the Winthrops in Boston for a while. Everell returns to America and stays with Mr. Fletcher, who now lives in Boston. Esther Downing, a niece of Mrs. Winthrop’s, becomes good friends with Hope. She seems to be everything that Hope is not: faithful, prudent, and studious. She is also kind. She tells a story of how Everell came to her death bed and her ensuing recovery. Esther is infatuated with Everell, which saddens Hope greatly. Everyone hopes Esther and Everell will marry, except Mr. Fletcher, who hopes to match the two children he raised.

The Winthrops want to pair Hope with Sir Philip Gardiner, a stranger who arrived in town on the same boat as Everell, and who has developed an interest in Hope Leslie. Sir Philip's page, Roslin, seems very odd indeed. It is later revealed that Roslin is Rosa, a former lover of Sir Philip's whom he has disguised as his male page. One evening, Hope and Esther attend a lecture pertaining to the case of Mr. Gorton. Uncharacteristically, Hope appears quite anxious. We later learn that Hope had that day received a visit from Magawisca, whom she had made plans to meet in the cemetery at 9pm that night. On the way home from the lecture, Hope impatiently leaves her escort, Sir Philip, and takes a detour to the burial ground. Hope briefly meets Roslin, who tells her that she must not trust Sir Philip. Unknown to Hope, Sir Phillip follows her and overhears the conversation with Magawisca that night. Magawisca explains that Faith has married Oneco and tries to warn Hope that her sister is very different from the sister she remembers. Nelema managed to tell Magawisca that Hope had saved her and wanted to repay her with a visit from her sister. Magawisca also explains that her sister is now a Catholic.

To facilitate her meeting with Faith, Hope arranges for the party to stay on an island belonging to Winthrop, of which Digby is the guardian. While there, she implies to all present that Everell and Esther are going to get married, and puts their hands together. She never notices that Everell longs to be with her. Sir Philip comes, too, and she tells him that she never intends to marry him. Sir Phillip is upset by this.

Everyone else agrees to leave the island and Hope goes out to meet her sister on the shore. Hope embraces Faith and tries to talk to her only to realize that Faith no longer speaks English. Magawisca must interpret for them. Hope tries to get her to come home with her, but to no avail. As they are meeting, a trap is sprung upon them by Sir Philip. Magawisca and Faith are taken by English soldiers. Magawisca is imprisoned. Hope is taken captive by Oneco and meets up with Mononotto.

Mononotto is struck by lightning as Oneco is trying to get away. He stops to take care of his father and while he does so, Hope escapes, but then runs into a group of sailors who chase her. She gets into a boat and the Italian sailor Antonio believes first that she is the Virgin Mary, and later that she is his patron saint. Hope does nothing to disabuse Antonio of this belief, and convinces him to row her to shore.

Sir Phillip goes and visits Magawisca in jail. He gives her tools to escape with a promise that she take Rosalin with her. She refuses. Sir Phillip gets choked by Morton, whom he had claimed to be visiting. Sir Philip's true nature is momentarily revealed.

Everell attempts to save Magawisca, but fails. Hope takes Cradock with her to the jail and cleverly disguises him to look like Magawisca. She is so pleasant that the guard, Barnaby Tuttle, doesn’t notice the deception. Hope and Magawisca escape from the jail and Everell meets them on their way to the river where Digby is waiting in a boat to take Magawisca anywhere she wishes to go. They say their goodbyes and Hope gives Magawisca the necklace that Everell had made for her while he was away so the Magawisca will remember them both. Magawisca gets away safely. The Winthrops all realize that Hope is gone. Everell returns Hope to her home in what he believes will be the last time he sees her.

By the end of the novel, Esther has realized that Everell and Hope love each other and she decides to return to England for a few years and remain unmarried. As if to right the original wrong of separating William Fletcher from Alice, their children, Everell Fletcher and Hope Leslie, are finally united.


’’Hope Leslie’’ surfaces amidst a time of conflict, rivalry, and hatred; however, the tale embodies a thematic scheme of love, honor, and trust despite the aura of negativity. The story also positively promotes the rights of women in a time when women had no rights by giving them the ability to form and state opinions without fear of unjust criticism. An example of this happens when Mononotto says "when women put down their womanish thoughts and counsel like men, they should be obeyed" (1019, Norton Anthology). Normally, fiction written during this time did not have the fairytale ending which makes this story a pleasant, welcome surprise in that the ending is satisfying to readers because of the element of the unexpected. Within the realm of the unexpected, the characters are developed to represent entire nations and the beliefs of these nations despite the fact that they will all not portray the characteristics set as the "norm." For example, the first half [Magiwisca’s History of the Pequod War] reveals Digby as the Puritan population as a whole, whereas Everell can be seen as part of the outcast population. Digby, or most of the Puritans, showed no compassion towards the Native Americans solely based on the color of their skin, thus weaving the story within the story to show the problematic discrimination present during the time but with a satisfying "twist." ’’Hope Leslie’’ is definitely a story that can be seen as containing a “big picture” which revealed the author's ability to both perceive and correct an uncomfortable situation yet allow the reader to realize that the situation was a part of the lifestyles of the people of this time.

The second half [Magawisca's Farewell] of the story actually simplifies the entire evolution of the Puritan/Native-American conflict into perspective. The author, Catharine Maria Sedgwick, really presents the reader with an eye-opening experience through Magawisca's recollection of the what happened to Everell revealing that love has the potential to conquer hatred despite the odds being stacked against it in all situations. The contradictory interactions between the two groups caused so much mayhem that it seemed that the situation was impossible; however, ’’Hope Leslie’’ is a story of reform and divulges the true power of friendship and progressive morality. ’’Hope Leslie’’ instills that "love is blind" and what it means to abide by the Golden Rule of loving one's neighbor as himself..

The willingness of Hope, Digby, and Everell to risk their own acceptance into the Puritan community by taking part in the rescue of Magiwisca, is an honorable act of its own. But, given the diction used by Sedgwick, "Everell and Hope remained immoveable, gazing on the little boat till it faded in the dim distance; for a few moments, every feeling for themselves was lost in grief of parting for ever from the admirable being [Magiwisca], who seemed to her enthusiastic young friends, one of the noblest of the works of God--a bright witness to the beauty, the independence, and the immortality of virtue,"[3] it is obvious that there is a saintliness bond between Everell, Digby, and Hope towards Magiwisca that contradicts the hatred they had once been taught to practice. The ultimate theme of this story is independence. Each character portrayed the gain of independence in his/her own way. The most obvious is Magiwisca's ability to escape and literally sail away towards her freedom. Hope, Everell, and Digby all gained independence by ultimately escaping from the ways of their people. They were all irrevocably given the chance to "escape" from their ideals and gain the knowledge to define themselves at their own discretion, thus each represented the author's opinion of how each nation should have acted under the same set of circumstances even though they did not.

Themes, Motifs, and Symbols[edit]

There is an obvious overall theme of "Love conquers all". This is shown throughout many trials in the story and between many different people. There is first the love of William Fletcher and Alice. In the end, their love comes back around to their children, Everell and Hope. Also, there is the marriage of Faith and Oneco. They constantly have to protect their marriage by convincing people it was for love, that even their religious and racial backgrounds couldn't keep them apart. Then there is the love between Hope Leslie and Magawisca. This love is a beautiful friendship and you see this displayed mostly when Magawisca takes a huge risk to come and tell Hope about her sister's marriage and how Faith has changed. Magawisca is thrown into prison for this but once again displaying their love, Hope risks everything to set her free.

Aside from the obvious theme, there is another underlying theme that centers around the character of Hope Leslie herself. She represents the pioneer woman of the 17th Century. The theme that she represents is "fighting for what she believes in". Obviously, there would be no story if Hope Leslie had not been such a protector and confidant for the Native American's she came into contact with. She risked her life for Magawisca and also became friends with Rosa/Roslin and protected Nelema's reputation.

Motif is any recurring element that has symbolic significance in a story.[4] The motif of Hope Leslie goes hand in hand with the theme of the story. The recurring symbolism in Hope Leslie overall is love. There are acts of love between lovers, friends, and family within this story. There is the action of Magawisca sacrificing herself for Everell and getting her arm cut off. Magawisca also takes a risk when she is communicating with Hope Leslie when she is not supposed to be. Then there is the sacrifice of Hope Leslie to break Magawisca out of jail. The plan she uses also calls for the risk of Everell and Digby and their possible banishment from their lives and community if they are caught.

The smallest symbol in the story but perhaps the most significant in retrospect has got to be when Mr. Samuel Gorton comes in.[5] He is known as a Puritan Heretic. As soon as he is mentioned in the plot then the entire story begins to unravel. This is when all of the major sacrifices for love begin to happen, when Magawisca and Hope Leslie meet up, when Sir Philip Gardiner is revealed as corrupt, when Rosa warns Hope and when everyone risks their lives for one another.

Race Relations[edit]

Catherine Ann Sedgwick's "Hope Leslie" uses personal information and the narrator's perspective to depict national American history. The story emphasizes dynamic changes in relations between Native Americans and Puritan settlers by combining the personal tales with the issue of American race relations. "Hope Leslie" illustrates Native American relations with settlers through stories about romances, and therefore becomes both a historical and sentimental novel. Using both characters' personal stories mixed with narrative viewpoints, the novel offers a mostly sympathetic view of the plight of Native American displacement and removal. However, this sympathy does not include the integration and cooperation between Indians and the settlers. Even within the context of sentimental fiction, the novel's romantic storyline emphasize integration was still considered to be unachievable in the 1820s due to significant differences in race and culture. Native American heritage and culture serve as the basis for much of "Hope Leslie". By using historical reference from a Native American perspective, the novel paints a very sympathetic view towards Indian culture. In many instances the narrator implies that English settlers committed crimes against the Native Americans, and portrays the religious teachings of the Puritans to be hypocritical with regards to their practice and application.In this regard, the novel is very critical of the history of America, while showing its foundation consisted of trying to destroy the Indian tribes. The novel uses Magawisca's very personal and traumatic story as an example of the general mistreatment of Native Americans by the English settlers. The romantic storyline between Everell and Magawisca reinforces the belief that there can be no integration between the English settlers and Native Americans. While the novel does show Oneco and Faith's relationship as loving and nurturing, this is clearly an excetpion rather than the norm, and the romance is never developed or fully explored by the narrator. The reaction from Hope shows that this interracial relationship was seen to be a violation of the cultural norm, especially since Hope is shown to be sympathetic to Native Americans as well as very open-minded for her time. While "Hope Leslie" shows that there may be some possibility for interracial relations to develop, there is still a huge divide between whites and natives, both racially and culturally, as interracial romances were still considered to be taboo. While the novel does show Native Americans in a favorable light, "Hope Leslie" clearly defines the boundaries between Puritans and Pequods through its romantic storylines. With the union of Hope and Everell, it is evident that "Hope Leslie" adopts a much more progressive stance towards the advancement of American society.

Captivity Narrative[edit]

Even though the Indians and the Puritans enjoyed many years of peace, fights over land rights between the whites and the Indians and among different groups of settlers became more common by the 1670s. These disputes were made worse by the deaths of John Bradford and Chief Massasoit. When the settlers captured the Wampanoag chief, Wamsutta, in order to make him give up more land, the chief fell ill and died while in captivity. Although Wamsutta's brother, the new chief Metacom (Philip), agreed to the demands, fighting broke out after the Indians were accused of murdering a converted Indian, John Sassamon. American Literature includes the Indian captivity narrative. In these stories, women are usually kidnapped and held captive by American Indians. The women who are taken captive are white women and of European descent. These captivity narratives help define what a "proper woman" should be and do. Women in these narratives are not treated as women "should" be—they often see the violent deaths of husbands, brothers and children. The women are unable to fill "normal" women's roles, are unable to protect their own children, are unable to dress neatly and cleanly or in the "proper" garments, and are unable to restrict their sexual activity to marriage to the "appropriate" kind of man. They are forced into roles that are not common for women, including violence in their own defense or that of children, physical challenges such as long journeys by foot and manipulation of their captors. The fact that they write stories about their lives is stepping outside "normal" women's behavior! The captivity stories used stereotypes of Indians and settlers, and were part of the ongoing conflict between these groups as the settlers moved westward. In a society in which men are expected to be the protectors of women, the kidnapping of women is viewed as a challenge to the males in the society. The stories serve as a call for retaliation and caution in dealing with these "dangerous" natives. Sometimes the narratives also challenge the racial stereotypes. By depicting the captors as individuals, and as people who also face troubles and challenges, the captors are also made more human. In either case, the Indian captive narratives serve a directly political purpose, and can be seen as a kind of political propaganda.

Role of Puritan Women[edit]

During the era of an earlier modern English society, Puritan women were not seen in its entirety as equal to men. They were often referred to as “powerless and unheard”. In male written literature of this period, women lacked the due credit that they should have received. This theme is so evident in many stories of this time period including Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Minister’s Black Veil. It is said here, that he often references to women as “my sweet pretty mistress”, “an old woman”, “the most innocent girl”, “a superstitious old woman”, “the bride”, and “good women gossiping”. The women were most importantly considered the back bone of the family. They were seen to only be knowledgeable in the areas of the “home life” in dealings with the family and children. Women were taught from almost birth how to cook, how to mend clothes, how to clean, and last but certainly not least how to be a wife to a man at a very young age. The author Catharine Sedgwick openly challenges the role of women in Hope Leslie based on her expressed ways of writing of how the woman should be equally treated.

Sources: Anderson B.S. and J.P. Zinsser. A History of Their Own: Women in Europe From Pre-History To The Present: Volume II. Harper Perennial, New York, 1989.

Religious Tolerance[edit]

The dramatic description of Catharine Maria Sedgwick's Hope Leslie seemingly to be a romantic novel is true. However, most seem to overlook the compelling thought of Religion and how it ultimately changes the story in the smallest way. Earlier pronounced in the novel, the character William Fletcher is forbidden to marry his distant cousin Alice, on account of religious difference. The era and place where these characters lived there was no religious toleration. When William left England, he moved to Massachusetts and started a home city. Naming the city "Bethel", he had in mind the Biblical Israelites. In England, the pronounced religion of choice was Protestant. Obviously there were others who were of other denominations, but did so in secret. After William is banned to marry the love of his life, he chooses to move to the New World, where there they were open and tolerant of different religious backgrounds. This opening act of the story sets the tone and begins to paint the bigger picture of the different problems that initially began the Puritan movement to the Americans.

Sources: American History Through Literature, ©2006 Gale Cengage


  1. ^ Wikipedia. "John Winthrop". Retrieved 27 February 2012. 
  2. ^ The Norton Anthology of American Literature Volume B Seventh Edition. New York, London: W. W. Norton & Company. 1820–1865. p. 1023. ISBN 978-0-393-92740-5. 
  3. ^ Sedgwick, Catharine."Hope Leslie". The Norton Anthology ed.7 Volume B, 2007, p. 1027
  4. ^ "Motif (narrative)". Wikipedia. Retrieved 27 February 2012. 
  5. ^ "Samuel Gorton". Wikipedia. Retrieved 27 February 2012. 

levine, Robert S. The Norton Anthology American Literature. New york: Norton and Company. pp. 1010–1028. ISBN 0-393-92740-7.