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Feminism In The Coquette

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Hannah Webster Foster formulates a tale that, on the surface, appears as a novel warning women against seduction, a common theme of the times. Marriage was seen as a necessity for women who desired financial stability and status, and being sexually seduced by a man would not provide a woman with these needs. Thus, the warnings against seduction and romanization of marriage were rampant. Upon further examination however, The Coquette has strong feminist undertones calling women towards the American ideal of freedom. This new nation claimed to be built upon the rock of freedom, while simultaneously oppressing women. Foster’s novel compels women to take advantage of this new nation’s ideals and claim some of that freedom as their own, using seduction…show more content…
Foster returned the story to the front of the public’s mind, disguising her message as a call to virtue, and artfully crafting her novel to convey her feminist views. At the time the novel was written, conduct books were quite common, and this book could easily pass for that. But, while it does warn against becoming a coquette, it also brings up the idea of love and independence. Eliza chose not to marry Boyer, which while that ultimately was her demise, it also elucidates that women do in fact have the right to choose and control their own lives. Eliza refused to marry someone who would be very stable for her, because she knew there was more to life than that. She wanted real love and actively pursued that desire, proving her autonomy to all. However, this “real love” was tainted in a way she was unable to see, it was in fact seduction, not love. The seduction twists Eliza’s drive for independence and uses it against her. She attempts to decide her own fate, and society punishes her for it. The seduction ruins her name and her life, leaving her alone and with child, then eventually dead. Seduction was simply another way that society found to keep women in a submissive role, teaching them “their
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