Literature and History: The Development of American Culture to 1865

The Coquette

I’m still without the correct edition of the Norton Anthology, so I can’t give you papers.  But the novel is a series of letters, so read letters 1-41.  We will finish the novel the next week.


Professor Meyer


3 responses

  1. This had to be my favorite reading. Foster wrote a novel that many readers say related to a previous existing event, yet she slightly changed the names of the characters. The way I translated was that there was this woman (Eliza) that was at an age where she should be married. Yet the man she was suppose to marry passed away and left her to a short mourning. Being around family friends, she met to extremely different men, both fond of her. One a man of clergy and humble, the other a player with money. They both fought for her attention, and friends and family constantly told her to stay away from Sanford and to go for Boyer (he was the safer choice). Toward the end of the novel, she upsets Boyer by talking to Sanford, and Boyer backed away from Eliza. Sanford also went away around the same time and left her without a man to hold her attention. When she went to Boyer, he had already found a new love that he wanted to make his wife and wished Eliza adieu. Then she found out the Sanford had married. When Sanford came around to Eliza he still longed for her and made it clear he was unhappy with his marriage and that it was based around money. Sanford and Eliza secretly started to hook-up while he was still married. She felt this so much of a sin, that she left town where no one would know where she was going except for Sanford. Eventually her family grew weary and found in the newspaper that she had passed away after problems of child labor. Sanford later became basically bankrupt since his wife left him and had to give up everything he owned. He seemed extremely depressed by his letters, and that he wanted to be with Eliza and maybe could have prevented her death. But, that he was tied to his house to watch his belongings, so that they wouldn’t be taken away. You could tell he had guilt, but it wasn’t a pleasant ending for his life. The story was interesting and easy to read. I didn’t find it to be a page turner until the last 30 pages. At first, i didn’t like the fact that it was stated in the beginning what was going to happen in the ending, but toward the end I was curious as to how exactly it was going to play out. I was a little let down by how brief key things that happened toward the end were discussed.

    November 8, 2011 at 11:19 pm

  2. jacquibonaventure

    This story gives good insight to how complicated relationships were during that time. The goal of the family was to marry their daughters and sons off to family’s that matched well financially. Both the man and the woman being arranged were opening up beneficial doors for their families. During this time marriage was like a business deal, not about finding your soulmate. This becomes complicated because people were completely ignoring the fact that the material benefits of a marriage do not completely outweigh the fact that emotions are very much apart of a marriage too. Naturally a human being is going to yearn to be with someone they actually love and not someone they are told to love. Though woman and men were brought up to bury those desires and to put family first and respect the wishes of their parents, Foster is an example of plenty of women and men who struggled with such a reality. She wanted to give her family a good name and do what was asked of her, but when her arranged spouse dies before she can marry him, her future is in her hands and she is surrounded by loved ones trying to influence her life decision. Professor asked if her friends were actually real friends when trying to tell her what to do, even if they knew it’s not what she wanted. I think it just stems from the time period again, that these women really did want the best for foster, they really did want to help her and in fact probably believed their advice was the help she needed. They were just women who also were brought up to do what was best for the family name, not brought up to do what made them happy and so for the time, this was a woman with those loyal and reliable friends, even though they should have been more concerned about her happiness, during this time that would have been wrong. Ultimately this is a sad struggle she endured, but i’m sure it was a common one.

    November 11, 2011 at 5:29 pm

  3. jlblakely

    This piece of literature felt like an old-world soap opera. I thoroughly liked that the novel was in a series of letters. This allows the reader to get a personal point of view from each character and how they feel about every even presented to them. In class, we related The Coquette to young America and its loyalty to England. We agreed that Eliza represented America and Major Sanford represented democracy. Eliza, like Amercia at this time, yearned to be from any power keeping her down, independence was key to Eliza and America. In this way, the novel was trying to express that democracy is seductive and will ruin you, as reflected from Sanford’s character. Another main point we brought from the novel was that it expresses the notion that there is such thing as bad freedom or too much of it, as reflected by Eliza’s freedom and how her life results in tragedy.

    December 16, 2011 at 6:33 am

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