A night dialog between Everell and Magawisca from Chapter IV C.M. Sedgwick’s novel
Hope Leslie made me think of the movie I had watched about two or three years ago, My Name is Khan (2010). The movie introduces a story of a Muslim man, Khan and his family, which has been bulled (and Khan’s stepson even killed) on the religious ground after 9/11 in U.S. Sedgwick’s novel theme is naturally different, – it’s about Europeans (particularly English Puritans) conquering Native Americans in the 17th century. Yet I consider the main idea to be similar for both works: people can only be judged on a ground of their good or bad deeds.
Conflicts start with prejudice towards other people. In Hope Leslie Digby is suspicious about Magawisca only because she’s a daughter of tribe chief Mononotto. He tells Everell, “They are a treacherous race. They are a kind of beasts we don’t comprehend – out of the range of God’s creatures” (Sedgwick 1012). These words match very much with Puritan conquerors’ beliefs on Native Americans only due to the differences in a world view. Another reason is historical: during the Pequod war, Digby had to fight Native Americans, because of their cruel deeds explored in the end of Chapter IV.
Digby’s reaction is similar to modern Americans’ reaction to Muslims. Because there are some radical Muslims, and because the U.S. has to fight terrorism, society becomes suspicious about all Muslims. When Khan is in the airport and explains that he came to see the president, Khan is brutally checked and questioned, and later arrested only because of his suspicious belonging to Islamic religious tradition and his inability to give a wider explanation. He has to repeat, “My name is Khan and I’m not a terrorist” (My Name is Khan).
It turned out, that Khan truly wasn’t a terrorist as well as Magawisca wasn’t a spy, and they both were misjudged due to a stereotype. On the later pages of Chapter IV reader discovers how hard it’s for Magawisca to stay loyal to her father, who’s seeking revenge upon English conquerors, and at the same time not to betray Fletchers (especially, Magawisca’s friendship with Everell) who are very nice to her, despite that Magawisca and her father, chief Mononotto naturally, have very strong reasons to seek for revenge. English conquerors have destroyed their entire tribe and “served a head from a body” of Magawisca’s brother, Samoset (Sedgwick 1018).
Fortunately, Everell and Magawisca are far from that kind of prejudice, and “can honor noble deeds though done by our enemies, and see that cruelty is cruelty, though inflicted by our friends” (Sedgwick 1015). Especially Magawisca sets the example of wisdom when gives her blessing on Hope and Faith Leslie’s marriage in Chapter XIV, despite all the cruelties she has come through. As for Everell, it seems he truly had never thought badly about Magawisca, because sensed her personal noble characteristics.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about prejudice on Muslims. Neither in the movie nor in real life, has a current state of affairs appeared to be a good ground for dispelling prejudice. As well as in the novel written 200 years ago about 17th-century social conflicts, the problem of stereotyping is timely. Therefore, steps should be taken by peaceful Americans as well as by peaceful Muslims to reach understanding, while war and terror should be stopped: they are naturally bad things.
My Name is Khan. Dir. Karan Johar. Perf. Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol and Katie Amanda Keane. 2010. DVD. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
Sedgwick, C. M. “From Hope Leslie”. In Nina Baym (Ed.) The Norton Anthology of American Literature, 8th Edition, New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2011.