October 21, 2012
The Barriers of Life
In the novel, Hope Leslie, Catherine Maria Sedgwick uses personal analysis as well as historical information to create an uncannily realistic tale of romance, racial prejudice and religion. Throughout the book, Sedgwick emphasizes relations between the Native American peoples and the European Americans living in Massachusetts in the 1640’s. She is able to do this specifically with the characters of Magawisca, the Native American slave with the will of a lioness, Everell Fletcher, the handsome much wanted white male protagonist, Hope Leslie, a strong headed young woman who symbolizes modernism in the piece and Esther Downing, Hope Leslie’s literary foil. Through the relationships between Everell and each of the three female protagonists, Magawisca, Esther and Hope, Sedgwick stresses that the relations between Native Americans and Americans will never be fully amiable due to religious, societal, natural influences. The first relationship of the three relationships that are mentioned in the writing is that of Everell and Magawisca. Sedgwick uses the mother, Mrs. Fletcher, to introduce this young love between the white boy and his Native American acquaintance in a letter to Mr. Everell while he is away from their home at Bethel. “The boy doth greatly affect the company of the Pequod girl, Magawisca”, she writes,” He hath taught her how to read” (32). This action between the two children shows Magawisca gradually assimilating into the American society and thus, becoming more Americanized and less “savage” as literacy is considered a civilized ability. As Magawisca dismisses the basic principles of Puritanism, however, it is clear that there is a definitive divide between the Native American and her new family’s beliefs. As religious tenets are defining features of a person and his or her background, Magawisca can never completely assume the American ways without acknowledging the religion. Thus, the...