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If you want to figure out who the hero is in Hope Leslie you first have to understand the meaning of what a hero is. There are many possible definitions of what a hero could be. A hero could be someone who physically rescues someone, or it could be someone who assists another in a task that is important to that one person. A hero could also be someone who sticks to their principles and is a good person, worthy of being looked up to by others. This last definition is the one that I will be focusing on.

I believe that Miss Esther Downing is the heroine in Hope Leslie. She is a heroine to the Puritan people and she is what every ideal puritan woman should be. The Puritans believe that a woman should be strong, and unselfish, and caring, and rely fully on their faith in God. Esther follows those principles and is more concerned with “spiritual graces” or devoting her life to the word of God then anything else. Her goal is to live everyday by the words written in the bible and to simply be a good person.

“Spiritual graces were then, in far higher

estimation, than external charms, and Miss

Downing,. . . was always characterized by

a religious epithet- she was ?godly? . . .

without one truant wish straying beyond the

narrow bound of domestic duty and religious

exercises (pg. 136).”

Esther may not have physically saved anyone?s life, but she always stood firm in her beliefs even when being tempted to go against them. She was the Hope?s best friend and would have done anything for her. She always put Hope and her feelings in front of her own feelings. Esther also thought that having romantic thoughts and feelings were a distraction from her mind from being devoted to God.

“But though human affections were permitted,

they were to be in manifest subservience to

religious devotion (pg. 138).”

When Esther realizes she is daydreaming about Everell the author describes it as being, “awakened from a sinful dream.” All of the feelings that she has, shows that she is concerned with being a good Puritan woman and does not want to be a sinner. Her every thought is about thinking or feeling the “right” feelings.

It is pretty clear through out the book that Esther has strong romantic feelings for Everell and wants his approval. Being the strong, idealic, Puritan woman that she is, she doesn?t even let these feelings get in the way of her making the right choices. This is shown when Everell comes up with a plan to free Magawisca and break her out of jail. He asks Esther if she will help him with the jail break. Even though she wants Everell to love her and be happy with her, she fights the temptations of wrong doing put in front of her by the one she loves and turns him down.

“Esther?s affections were deep, fixed, and

unpretending, capable of any effort, or any

sacrifice, that was not proscribed by religious

loyalty; but no earthly consideration could

have tempted her to waver from the strictest

letter of her religious duty, as that duty was

interpreted by her conscience (pg. 277).”

When Everell asks her if she will help him she tells him, “that she thought they had not scripture warrant for interfering between the prisoner and the magistrates.” Most women would not be strong enough to take the side of doing what?s morally right instead of taking the side of the man who?s affections she was trying to win. She wanted to do anything to make Everell happy, but she had to follow her conscience in this case as much as she was tempted not to.

During the course of Hope Leslie Esther and Everell become sort of accidentally engaged because Hope and during the time the book was written in would have been rude to deny the claim that they were engaged so it stuck. This made Esther extremely happy of course because she was madly in love with Everell, but Everell didn?t feel exactly the same way. Though he liked Esther Downing very much he did not share in her love. He had stronger feelings of love for Hope Leslie. Well Esther picks up on many of these feelings. She also pretty much figures out that these are mutual feelings between Hope and Everell. Because she figures this out even though it is upsetting to her to decides she must do something about it. What she does is probably the strongest most admirable thing she does in the whole book.

In the middle of the night she packs up all of her belongings and with the help of her Aunt and Uncle she moves to England to live with her father. She only leaves a letter for Hope and Everell stating that she understands that being engaged to Everell was not the right thing for either of them and that he was not in love with her. She also knows about Hope and Everells feelings for each other and that she is happy for the both of them and expects that the two of them will get married because that is the right thing for everyone in the situation.

Basically Esther puts aside her feelings and dreams so that her two best friends can be happy. It is the most unselfish thing she could have done. If she wanted to have married Everell she knew that he would have gone through with it and married her, but she knew in her heart that it would not have been the right thing. Once again she does the right thing and puts everyone before herself. When Esther moved back to New England she was able to be friend with both Hope and Everell without having any ill feelings about the whole situation. She was genuinely happy for them.

In the end of the book you find out that Esther never gets married because she would rather be a strong Puritan woman and be happy alone living by the word of God then to let her heart settle and marry somebody that she was not truly in love with.

“The current of her purposes and her affections

had set another way. She illustrated a truth,

which, if more generally received by her sex,

might save a vast deal of misery: that marriage

is not essential to the contentment, the dignity,

or the happiness of woman (pg. 349-50).”

All of these things mentioned above show what a kind, unselfish, and morally strong person Esther Downing is. She is a picture of pure Puritan perfection. She uses everything the bible says and has taught her to make every decision and to govern all of her thoughts, and through it all she is still able to be happy and proud of herself. Even though she may not have jumped in front of a knife to save someone?s life, or broke someone out of jail, she can look in the mirror without feeling any guilt or remorse over bad decisions. She has achieved every Puritans, and probably every persons, goal in life.

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