Hope Leslie Summary and Study Guide
SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 34-page guide for “Hope Leslie” by Catharine Maria Sedgwick includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 15 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 15 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Religion and Racism.
Hope Leslie is a fascinating novel that, according to many critics, deserves far more attention that it receives. Catharine Maria Sedgwick, in fact, is noted as being one of the founding authors of American literature. Her work, however, including tales like Hope Leslie, is often relegated to the sidelines in favor of her male counterparts, such as James Fennimore Cooper. With Hope Leslie, Maria Sedgwick not only shows a counterpoint to the male-dominated literature of the day, she provides readers with a daring tale that both portrays early American life and highlights the role of women in building the early American republic.
The novel itself is set in seventeenth-century New England. As a critique on prevalent ways of thinking during this period of time, Hope Leslie addresses several plots. One example is the novel’s interesting challenge to the traditional view of Indians. Additionally, the novel addresses interracial marriage, as well as cross-cultural friendships.
One of the main thrusts of the novel, and where the author’s critiques are most evident, is in the role of women in building the republic. This theme is played out in the relationship between two of the novel’s main characters, Hope Leslie and Magawisca. The women are friends, yet very different in their approach to life and their views on the role of women. There are other women in the novel, including Esther and Rosa. Esther fills the role of the traditional Puritan woman. She is timid and subservient. Rosa, on the other hand, dashes traditional roles. She actually dresses up as a man to follow her lover to America, and when she is rejected, enacts a terrible revenge.
Hope Leslie is a bit of an enigma: She is a highly independent thinker who lives in a repressive Puritan society. As such, she champions the rights of Indians and even defends the independence of women in general. These passions are exemplified in acts such as Hope helping to free imprisoned Indians and even refusing a suitor that she does not want.
Magawisca is also passionate about her beliefs, but is the daughter of a Pequot chief. She is portrayed as angry, and with good reason, for Magawisca is also one of the few Pequot survivors of a massacre. In her own way of asserting herself, Magawisca openly defies her father’s wishes by helping to save a white man. Moreover, she risks her own freedom when she tries to help reunite Hope Leslie with her sister, a girl who was captured by her tribe as a child and is now married to Magawisca’s brother.
Maria Sedgwick deftly explores the inner workings of two freethinking women in the New England of the 1600s, fleshing out their attempts at living openly and freely in repressive societies. In this way, the novel shows how even cultures and societies that are seemingly different than what one is used to can still hinder the individual soul. Whether a repressive Puritan society or a Pequot tribe, both women in the novel must overcome adversity and societal expectations, thus showing how similar their circumstances are, despite societal or tribal allegiances.
The novel is also unique for its day in that readers are introduced to, and fall in love with, a quick-witted heroine in the character of Hope Leslie. Hope, as well as her fellow female characters, navigate a male-dominated world that can seem at once bleak and hopeless for women and/or those who strive to think freely. Hope Leslie’s actions and beliefs show just how dangerous it is to go against the grain, but more than that, show how liberating and progressive people are even in the face of adversity. Additionally, Hope’s character shows how women, often the silent voice in literature and history, have had…