Analytical Essay: Gender Roles In The 17th Century

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Gender Roles in the 17th Century
Living in the 17th century was much different than the 21st century for women. Over three hundred years ago, there were certain traditions and standards that were in place for women. These standards were the norm for women; it was expected of them to uphold these standards. In the 17th century, it was very common for a woman’s identity and property to be connected to her father or her husband. These women were also responsible for maintaining a proper image of herself to her society. If a woman chose to break these rules, she would be subject to public ridicule. In Hannah Webster Foster’s novel The Coquette, the main character, Eliza Wharton, roams from these standards that she must follow. Because she does not follow the norms of the society, she is faced with ridicule from her friends, and fall tragically to an undesirable death. This novel portrays a true
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Shortly after Mr. Haly’s death, Eliza writes to her dear friend, Lucy Freeman, about the latest events in her life. Lucy then warns Eliza of the dangers associated with a woman who portrays coquettish behavior. Eliza feels that Lucy has written her a “moral lecture” but dismisses her warning shortly after. (Foster 109) Eliza continues to disregard any warnings she has received from her friends and continues to act in a manner that is undesirable for women in the seventeenth century. By courting two men simultaneously, she sets herself up for even more ridicule from her friends. At one point, after a dinner at the Richman’s house, Mr. Selby writes a letter to Mr. Boyer discussing Eliza. He states, “I am anxious, lest you should be made dupe of a coquette, and your peace of mind fall a sacrifice to an artful debauchee.” (Foster 147) In this passage, Eliza is being scorned for having dinner with Major
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