The title character of Catharine Maria Sedgewick’s novel, Hope Leslie, defies the standards to which women of the era were to adhere. Sedgewick’s novel is set in New England during the 17th century after the Puritans had broken away from the Church of England. Hope Leslie lives in a repressive Puritan society in which women behave passively, submit to the males around them, and live by the Bible. They allow the men of their family to make decisions for them and rarely, if ever, convey an opinion that differs from the status quo. However, Hope Leslie does not conform to the expected behavior of women during that time, behavior that only further expressed the supposed superiority of males. Hope portrays behaviors and attitudes common in a woman today. Hope is capable of thinking for herself, is courageous, independent, and aggressive. Sir Philip Gardner describes Hope as having “a generous rashness, a thoughtless impetuosity, a fearlessness of the… dictators that surround her, and a noble contempt of fear” (211). In comparison to Esther Downing, Hope is the antithesis of what a young Puritan woman should be, and in turn, Hope gains a great deal of respect from the readers of the novel through her “unacceptable” behavior.
Hope’s most noticeable characteristics, unusual for women of the time, are that she is assertive and aggressive, bold and daring, the opposite of the passivity that women were expected to portray. Hope speaks her mind freely, despite what consequences may follow. Those around her acknowledge her unwelcome behavior, and Governor Winthrop makes note of it to Mr. Fletcher. He tells Mr. Fletcher, “you must allow, brother, she hath not… that passiveness, that, next t...
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... who exemplify the “proper” behavior for a Puritan woman, has the ability to squash her fears and put out of her mind any possible dangers, so that she can accomplish necessary tasks.
Catharine Maria Sedgewick’s heroine and title character of Hope Leslie does not convey the expected behaviors of a woman living in 17th century Puritan society. Hope Leslie is not a passive young woman that relies on the Bible for all advice and guidance. She does not stay quiet if something is on her mind. She refuses to allow the innocent to receive persecution for the wrong reasons. Hope is assertive, aggressive, courageous, bold, and quite outspoken. The characteristics that she portrays are atypical to those portrayed by 17th century women. Instead, Hope’s attitude and behavior more closely resemble that of a female from the 21st century living in an era not meant for her.
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