Hannah Webster Foster's The Coquette

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A letter between confidants is an incredibly personal form of communication, and the epistolary form gives readers the opportunity to view Hannah Webster Foster’s The Coquette from this intimate perspective. The epistolary form offers readers multiple subjective viewpoints, and this gives readers the opportunity to dialogically come to a more complicated truth than they could obtain from a single narrator. The reflective nature of this form leaves narrators free to reveal information that may be more suitable to their own emotions or goals rather than revealing what is truthful, and this provides its own advantages and disadvantages. Overall, the deeper connection readers receive through the epistolary form offers more opportunities for empathy.…show more content…
The Coquette has a total of nine narrators, each presenting his or her own morals and opinions through the course of a letter. With each subjective viewpoint the reader is privy to, he can gain a greater understanding of the situation as a whole and draw an in-depth conclusion from this heightened understanding of the given situation. Letters XL, XLI, and XLII are a perfect example of this: Eliza, Sanford, and Boyer each give their own reflective interpretation of the garden scene in which Eliza and Sanford are caught by Boyer in a private conversation. The reader first hears about Boyer’s shock and the sense of betrayal he feels because of the event. This is followed by Eliza’s tentative intentions to marry Boyer and the feeling of loss that accompanies his angry departure. The retelling is finished by Sanford, who is happy to see Boyer leave for good and considers Eliza to be in his grasp. Hearing each character’s subjective view leaves the reader to take each interpretation and didactically arrive at an objective understanding of what really happened while maintaining a deeper understanding of each narrator’s psyche and motives. However, the order of these letters must be acknowledged; by presenting the reader with Boyer’s view first, Foster effectively creates a prejudice against the reader’s interpretation of Eliza and Sanford’s letters. Knowing what is to come, the reader is less likely to believe Eliza’s affirmation that she is finally willing to marry Boyer. The reader can therefore interpret that her interactions with Sanford are less innocent than she would like Lucy to

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