Enlightenment In The Coquette

790 Words4 Pages
The Coquette; or, the History of Eliza Wharton features a woman in early republican America who wants to be happy. Eliza Wharton’s fiancée dies before she is married, and she finds herself delighted at the chance to restructure her life to make her happy. Her pursuit of happiness in life is condemned and deemed immature by those around her, as well as her insistence on making her choices without input from her peers. Eliza Wharton matches Immanuel Kant’s definition of an Enlightened man in An Answer to the Question, “What is Enlightenment?” (1784) by deciding her actions “without the guidance of another.” The fact that she is a woman prevents her advance from being celebrated, and she is looked down upon for not following the advice of her…show more content…
That insistence upon her own happiness at the cost of the disapproval of her friends is not seen as simply wanting to have a nice time in her life. It is seen as Wharton wanting to flirt and waste her time with parties. Lucy Freeman, Wharton’s best friend, describes her in The Coquette; or, the History of Eliza Wharton as “[meaning] to exhibit a few more girlish airs” before she gets married (Foster 595). Freemen very strongly disapproves of this inclination, particularly when she has her own opinions about who and when Wharton should marry. Wharton only pleases Freeman when she gives in and gets engaged to the man her friend…show more content…
The word coquette is a feminization of the word coquet, which simply means wanton, and is a diminutive of coq, which means cock. To be a coquette is to display a feminized form of masculinity through flirting. Wharton is seen as a flirt who wants to make her own choices and wants those choices to result in her being happy, which is far too masculine for her to do. Being widely called a coquette rather than a flirt demonstrates the underlying reasoning behind the disapproval of those around her. Her masculine actions of making her decisions herself and focusing on herself when she makes those decisions makes her peers uncomfortable, and they twist that discomfort against her to shun her from
Open Document