Hope Leslie

Race Relations

Catherine Maria 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 By using historical reference from a Native American perspective, the novel paints a very sympathetic view towards Indian culture.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.

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