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The Coquette

We’ve discussed the place of slavery, ideas of enlightenment rationality, and depictions of masculinity in the literature and culture of the early republic. How does The Coquette imagine the role (or multiple roles) of women in the new nation? You might think about the nature of female friendship, marriage, or some of the discussions about political participation that appear in specific letters.

4 Responses to “The Coquette”

  1. Eric Truss says:

    “The Coquette” serves to outline the paradoxical role of women in society at the time. Women were meant to be praised and raised up, yet were also expected to fall in line with either their family or their husband. Women needed to act correctly according to society’s expectations and present themselves as perfect candidates for marriage. The lack of agency and inability to make their own decisions is striking when compared to expectations for men at this time, for whom individuality and independence were championed.

  2. Margaret Cochrane says:

    As Allyson said, it seems that women’s welfare is determined by how “agreeably connected” they are. Also though, men go out of their way to express their affections and compliment women. It’s a strange balance between being treated as property and being put on a pedestal. It’s interesting too to think about this as an enlightenment narrative – Foster often brings up the concepts of reason and virtue. Women are held on a lower plane than men are during this period because they are apparently less logical and rational. In “The Coquette”, Eliza is acknowledged to have reason but only mentions it in the context that it should match her parents’ thought, while the various men who write letters talk about their movements being guided by their /own/ reason. Since this story was written by a woman, it shows how deeply these ideals were ingrained in society.

  3. Allyson Boyd says:

    The Coquette clearly portrays the preferred role of women in that society as either women who are either in a suitable marriage or pursing one. It seems that Eliza is classified as a coquette because she does not want to get married in the immediate future. Both the Richmans and Lucy Freeman warn Eliza against being too sociable or even too happy because it makes her look like a coquette. I also found it especially interesting that many of the men who were highly regarded as husbands or suitors were clergymen.

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