Comparing The Coquette And The Paroles Of Free Will In Early America

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The Saint within the Sinner: The Coquette and the Paroles of Free Will in Early American Society Through Hannah Webster Foster’s novel The Coquette, Or the History of Eliza Wharton, the letters written to, from and about Eliza Wharton (Elizabeth Whitman) during her young adulthood are combined to create a true sentimental seduction novel of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Wharton is depicted as being “gay, volatile, [and] apparently thoughtless of everything but present enjoyment,” and is immediately labeled “coquettish” by both Foster and her “friends” (Foster 7, 18). Several critics including John Paul Tassoni, whom in his article, “‘I Can Step Out of Myself a Little’: Feminine Virtue and the Female Friendship in Hannah Foster’s The Coquette,” responded favorably towards the notion that Eliza is a victim, plagued by eighteenth century trifles and stereotypes; however, her “volatile,” “unreflecting” and “coquettish” nature proves her to be impulsive and self-absorbed, while her naivety impacts her understanding of what “freedom” truly is (Foster 7). Eliza Wharton is depicted by many critics as a woman whose frame of mind was ahead of that of the time…show more content…
Many critics find that Wharton is a victim of the harsh Puritan ideals and narrow-minded viewpoints which surrounded her during the late seventeen hundreds; however, Foster purposely excludes the political and religious tension present at the time in order to depict Wharton as a self-absorbed and self-destructive individual whose search for “freedom” is akin to a rebellious teenager yearning for independence - as demonstrated by the “pleasure; pleasure [...] [Eliza feels] on leaving [her] paternal roof” (Foster,

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