The Coquette by Hannah Webster Foster Essay Example
The Coquette by Hannah Webster Foster Essay Example

The Coquette by Hannah Webster Foster Essay Example

Available Only on StudyHippo
  • Pages: 7 (1670 words)
  • Published: December 24, 2017
  • Type: Research Paper
View Entire Sample
Text preview

The Coquette by Hannah Webster Foster is a story of the life, love, relations and end of a lady who gets wrapped up in herself and her emotions. There are many themes in novel and one of the more prominent is that of slavery and freedom.

These ideas are especially related to the idea of romantic relationships. The main character Eliza, shifts back and forth between the two themes the most in the novel. She is in love with the idea of youthfulness, gaiety and always being free but gets caught in the web of actual love in relationship and her mind is clouded with both extremes.Examining her different states of emotions and decisions from the beginning of the novel to the end is an excellent example of the themes of freedom versus slavery that Foster was try


ing to show. Eliza is probably the most complex character in The Coquette when it comes to her emotions of freedom.

She is introduced into the book with a situation of slavery to her parents wishes to engage with Mr. Haly. She feels that she has an "implicit obedience to the will of [her] parents"(pg 5). When she finally is ridden of Mr. Haly and his attachments she feels extreme joy in the company of society.

She feels "youthful" and cheerful" in her new found freedom. Eliza talks about the absurdity of having "one serious lover" (pg 12) after she hears of Mr. Boyer's affections to her. She does not wish for any sort of declaration from any of her suitors because she feels so young and violate that she wishes to "enjoy that freedom that [she] so highl

View entire sample
Join StudyHippo to see entire essay

prizes" (pg 13).

Eliza refers to her own ideas of natural disposition and freedom being in contradiction of her friends wishes of marriage which Eliza feels "confine virtue to a cell" (pg 13. )A bit further in the novel Eliza writes a letter to her friend Lucy Freeman where she writes about her conversation with Mrs. Richman on her intentions with both Mr. Boyer and Major Sanford. Eliza writes that "marriage is a tomb of friendship.

It appears a very selfish state" (pg 24). She goes on to explain her feelings of marriage tearing friendships apart and how marriage gets consumed, refined and enslaved by the family cares and concerns. She feels that marriage confines one to the house and family which in turn dissolves all former acquaintances.She is basically telling her friend how, in her mind, being marriage is being enslaved for the rest of your life. Eliza tells Mr.

Boyer that any attachment or immediate connection that " must confine [her] to the duties of domestic lie... may render [her] completely miserable" (pg 29).

She relates marriage to having many duties and dependencies which would compromise her freedom and happiness that she so greatly values at this point. There are points in the novel that Eliza even refers to herself as a prisoner of her friends and their refined notions of propriety.She asks Lucy for her advice on certain matters throughout the novel. Lucy is getting married while Eliza goes through troubles. Lucy tells her to stay away from Major Sanford because he is dangerous and her future happiness is set in someone like Mr. Boyer who can offer her many things in


Mr. and Mrs. Richman agree with Lucy. Mrs. Richman spies and speaks boldly to Eliza about the trouble of Major Sanford. She even goes as far as to call him a "rake" and keeps informing Eliza that her friends wish to see her settled down and that freedom is a slippery path.

Mrs. Richman tells Eliza that she has the "wrong ideas about freedom, and matrimony; but she hoped that Mr. Boyer would happily rectify them" (pg 30). After many friends give Eliza these same exact advices, she "renounces [Major Sanford] entirely" (pg 59). She goes on to succumb to her friends wishes, just like she did her parents because she feels a duty and almost enslavement to them.

She keeps repeating "my friends shall be gratified. And if their predictions are verified, I shall be happy in union with the man of their choice" (pg 59).She spends the earlier half of the novel defending her freedom and youthful gaiety and her want to be social instead of tied down by just one man and marriage, but after pressure from her friends she gives in and lets go of her freedoms because she feels like she has an obligation. But after spending some time with Boyer she feels he might "seduce her into matrimony" (pg 66) but then contradicts herself and says that his "theme is not a favorite one..

. as connected with is consequences, care and confinement" (pg 66).Eliza goes back and forth from saying she has a duty and wants marriage to pushing away all talk of marriage because it compromises her freedom throughout the entire novel. Eliza becomes depressed in the second

half of the novel. There is more mention of enslavement than the first half.

When Boyer leaves Eliza when he sees her with Major Sanford and because she wont promise him her hand she starts to sadden. After losing Boyer and seemingly regaining her formerly wanted freedom she proclaims that she loves Boyer; " His merit and worth now appear in the brightest colors" (pg 99) she tells Mrs.Lucy Sumner. She keeps referring to herself as disturbed, saddened and depressed throughout the rest of the novel.

She writes that she is depressed that both Boyer and Sanford rejected her, which shows that she liked that fact that they both wanted her hand. She liked the fact that they were both prisoners of love for her and now that she doesn't have that power she has lost everything and has "come undone" (pg 105). She says she is unfit for society as well and writes about her lack of future prospects.She also proclaims that she does in fact worry that Sanford might be married as well but feels it her "duty" to worry about her relations with Boyer instead.

Another one of those duties she throws upon herself saying it was for the benefit of others. She then decides to write to Boyer, once again claiming it her "duty which [she] owed t [him] and to [herself], to make this expiation: "(pg 102). After he writes her back to tell her he does in fact love her but he is engaged she becomes even more depressed but starts to turn her affections and tears to Sanford, because she believes she must be enslaved with these feelings

for someone.She calls him a " pleasing companion" even though she realizes it was her affection for him that caused her to lose Boyer. She refers over and over to how she does now not know what her destiny will be and her resolution is fluctuation and that she doesn't know how it will end. It sounds like she is torn between her now found feelings of love and getting settles and her pervious want for freedom.

This feeling is her master in the second half of the novel.Her friends wish her to return to that youthful and gay Eliza in the first half of the book even though they criticized her actions in the past. Lucy Sumner writes to her and asks "Where is that fund of sense, and sentiment which once animated your engaging form? " (pg 107) They all wish for her to not be so depressed and feel so set in her depression. When Sanford finally gets married Eliza slinks back into the same depression that she felt when she lost Boyer. Its basically a trap or enslavement she puts on herself with her feelings.She becomes depressed then decides she must tell the suitor how she feels.

But before this cycle can finish like it did with Boyer, Sanford confesses his own love to Eliza even though he is a married man and she admits that " this interview has given me satisfaction" (pg 120). Eliza knows that she has changed in the second half of the novel. She claims she labors under depression of spirits, which [she] renders [her] company rather painful than pleasing to [her] friends" (pg 123). She

takes on these feelings like its her job and duty instead of just a choice and just feelings.

She takes her feelings on as a burden, as a slave would take on their life. Eliza gives up writing because she finds it "not so agreeable to [herself] as it used to be "(pg 127) and that is recalls "the idea of circumstances and events which formerly occupied [her] pen in happier days, it not gives her pain" (pg 134). She finally resolves her situation and leaves her house, fleeing like a slave from a "life of guilt and woe" (pg 155). She choices to live her life out in a place among strangers where no one knows, or is interested in [her] melancholy story (pg 156).

She is in hiding. After her death, her friends say she fell victim to "libertinism...

lust and brutality" (pg 163). Julia Granby describes the mind and emotions of Eliza perfectly in her letter to Lucy Sumner when she states that "one extreme commonly succeeds another" (pg 121). Eliza was torn between being free and feeling enslaved by her choices at the end of the novel. At the beginning of the novel Eliza wanted freedom, not marriage and her friends and her suitors pushed her to feel obligated to settle down with someone.She chose monogamy and wore it was a burden because she felt a duty and even enslavement to her friends and their wishes.

When this choice didn't chose her she felt like she lost everything even though she was free again. Foster uses freedom and slavery in the form of relationships to show that even though you have something, even

it if wasn't what you wanted, everything else you once had doesn't compare and you feel emptied and ruined inside and forever enslaved by those feelings.

Get an explanation on any task
Get unstuck with the help of our AI assistant in seconds