Essay Sample on "The Coquette" by Hannah Foster

Published: 2023-01-23
Essay Sample on "The Coquette" by Hannah Foster
Type of paper:  Literature review
Categories:  Women Discrimination Character analysis American literature Social issue
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1187 words
10 min read

Hannah Foster's 1797 epistolary novel "The Coquette" situates a critical analysis of the politics of marriage and courtship as well as female freedom within a restrictive conventional seduction confines novel. The novel is loosely based on Elizabeth Whitman's real-life story and thus can be termed as a "symphonic" novel due to its ending with the heroine's death which transgresses from various forms of life for nothing. The main protagonist, Eliza Wharton is introduced as having a successful life, an independence-seeking heroine before eventually ending up as a seduced, a detached and fallen woman who loses her precious life while giving birth to a child who is illegitimate. Foster's fascination friction with Eliza's quest for moralistic conventions and self-determination of the sentimental genre divides the novel into three distinct thematic sections which have no apparent connection, although they reveal an eventual correlation while escalating the novel. Written decades after America's independence from the hands of Great Britain, "The Coquette" serves as an explicit allegory as it addresses social issues that are pertinent in the lives of the characters and the real world as well as their relationship with other characters. This paper focuses on examining social concerns that are addressed in Hannah Foster's novel "The Coquette."

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The epistemology novel, "The Coquette" captures the story of Eliza Wharton, a clergyman's daughter who has released from a marriage she never liked after the death of her husband, Rev. Haly who she nursed adequately in his final days. The experience forced her to look for independence and freedom. Eliza's relationship with her friends and family fastens in her new choice of life, and she is destined to embrace new dawn. However, after a short while in her friend's residence, she fell in love with two men, Major and Boyer. The infatuation never took long before Major proposes to marry her but later realized her affection to them. The relationship was distorted, and she was left agonizing in pain and distress after major marries another young girl (McCracken 253). Boyer also got married but still lingered infatuation with her. The relationship distorted the peace around the characters, and Foster asserts that Eliza was disowned before quitting her family through the help of Boyer. She died while giving birth to the illegitimate child. The relationship portrays how social life is jeopardized and distorted as one tries to comprehend his or her lost esteem as well as looking freedom always exposes one to erroneous behaviors. Eliza's community is patriarchal, and the male dominates social life. However, incidences of promiscuities expose the entire set up to significant setback. Divorce and separation are common, especially after occurrences of unfaithfulness in realized in marriages. For instance, the depression that leads to the death of Eliza was associated with having an affair with Boyer. The community never encourages such behaviors and can lead to excommunication from society.

Foster uses love for self and determination for freedom to reveal the broader particular realities between people as well as the entire social location. Interaction is based on love towards each other and any distortion tears apart the relationship to portray the position of women in the text. Boyer's marriage came to an abrupt end after the wife released his love with Eliza and could not bear the pain of unfaithfulness. Women are defined based on their role and position in their husband's life as well as the love from their family. Similarly, the life of the women in the "The Coquette" is adversely presented through their sexual attraction to men (Ball 65). The community and friends determine the future of women, and all their actions are exhibited in specific codes that must be respected at all costs. Women are forever in custody of men and are not allowed to express themselves adequate. Foster argues that women are subject to change if given opportunity and adverse freedom as well as independence. Eliza is relieved after the death of her husband, Havy, who she claimed that could lead to her life due to pressure from friends and family. Indeed, the community is used as the determinant of a woman's position in a man's life. The assumption was short lived after several incidences of divorce was portrayed form other characters. Boyer's wife could not bear the humiliation and depression that the death of Eliza will have in her family and opted for a divorce. The stern step reveals a turning point in women's lives and the prescribed morals in a male-dominated world.

"The Coquette" further reveals that women are subject to male exploitation regardless of their position in their lives. Major Sanford and Boyer are in great entanglement after the latter realized that their affair between him and Eliza. Major's and Boyer's involvement in the love triangle reveals the perception that society has towards women. In most cases, women are caught unawares on the type of decision that they can make. The society belittles them and sees them as subject to exploitation. However, the novel portrays that the existence of depression in women's life is their main turning point in the quest for freedom and independence. Foster intertwines between incidences to affirm the role of women as well as their position in a male-dominated society (Tuthill 60). Significantly, love between the female and the males in "The Coquette" are dictated by the men who explore different infatuations to dictate their future. Interestingly, Foster attests that the definition of women is determined by their relationship with people around them but dictated by the male fingers. Besides, the assumption is experiencing major setbacks as nothing worth coming could be realized in their loyalty if not depression and a feeling of melancholy.

In conclusion, "The Coquette" portrays that women must remain loyal and submissive. Their relationship with the people around then should portray an exemplary exploration of positive characteristics and attributes. Eliza's mother and friends are subject to the revamp and are caged in the preoccupied conclusion about their positions. At one point, they show concern as well as feeling depressed about the actions of Eliza, but Foster ascertain that the concern and love were restricted to a particular concept not expansive on a more comprehensive social spectrum. The jury reveals that the exploitation of women by men has exposed them to marginalized situations, and it is hard to be freed. Eliza's death and the death of the illegitimate child reveals that the actions which she did were against the norms of the community, but according to her, she was determined and thirsty for freedom and independence. The existing gap can only be filled through the exhibition of a properly outlined framework which is explicitly accommodative and vast with major concerns.

Works Cited

Ball, Molly. "The Liminal Time of Friendship: Narrative Delay in Hannah Webster Foster's The Coquette." Liminality, Hybridity, and American Women's Literature. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, 2018. 57-75.

McCracken, David. "Eliza Wharton as Psyche in Hannah Webster Foster's THE COQUETTE." The Explicator 74.4 (2016): 251-254.

Tuthill, Maureen. "Your Health and My Happiness": Sickness and Social Control in The Coquette and Female Quixotism." Health and Sickness in the Early American Novel. Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2016. 47-80.

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