Literature and History: The Development of American Culture to 1865

Eliza Wharton

October 28,2011

After reading the story of Eliza Wharton I was at first as we discussed on class on the side of Eliza close friends , siding with her marriage to Mr.Boyer as a good idea.But with the discussion we had it’s easy to see all the reasons why she wouldn’t want to marry Mr.Boyer.Eliza I believe had a very modern mindset for a women.She enjoyed her freedom she enjoyed her power in her choice and wasn’t in search of being parked with someone because it made sense.Which is why I feel she is more strongly attracted to Mr.Standford. Other then the more realistic connection they share and conversation and likeness, he’s not pushing her into marriage. He doesn’t even mention the idea, until much later in the novel and only to his friend.I feel as a first time reader you are influenced by the pretext and the insight to everyones real story and say,but when relating on a human level you can see the real honest in Eliza’s choices.
I also strongly agree with the statement said in class that referring to her as a coquette is an unjust term.Considering the time the novel was written if a women in the least bit had her own mindset and opinion or defiance in commitment or marriage at a young age she was assumed to contain this characteristic . Or behavior of this manner,so maybe the various voices in this novel are also a misrepresentation of Eliza’s true character as well, not to the full extent but might be a bit exaggerated.I couldn’t help but think how if Eliza had been in this situation in today’s time how much of an insignificance this would hold against her , and how different her outcome might have been.But that’s also the major part of the enjoyment of reading this text for me personally.Allowing my self to read and imagine myself or the life of people during this age especially women and how the smallest things in my life or my choices or views would and could have such a huge affect on my stance in society.It also makes me really appreciate not being born during such critical times.

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2 responses

  1. chessicarose

    Eliza Wharton was a woman of the 1800’s, but she possessed the mindset of an independent modern woman. She believed in freedom of choice, something she was correct to value, but she should have thought more carefully on this subject concerning men. Eliza came from England to America with Mr. Haley, her elder fiancée. Their engagement was set up by her parents. Her visit to America is prolonged with the expected death of Mr. Haley. Eliza morns his death while residing with Mrs. Richman, a family friend who becomes a sort of care taker. Eliza is now ready to move on with her life. She plans to spend her time going to lavish balls, meeting new people, and engaging in intellectual conversations. Eliza does what she planned but in the process she is confronted with thoughts of marriage and entertainments of two men, Mr. Boyer and Mr. Sanford. Her friends have tried to persuade her decisions, telling Eliza who she should chose as a possible husband. Eliza feels she has earned the privilege of choosing a mate for her self because she is finally free from parental restrictions and obligations.

    Mrs. Richman introduced Eliza to Mr. Boyer and they begin a modest courtship based on friendship. Most women of her time would have more than likely settled for Mr. Boyer. Mr. Boyer was a clergyman of good personality but he was dull, and lacked spontaneity. Eliza writes to her mother about Mr. Boyer saying “But his situation in life! I dare not enter it. My disposition is not calculated for that sphere”. Eliza asks “Are there no others who maybe equally pleasing in their persons, and whose profession may be more comfortable to my taste?” Mr. Sanford on the other hand appeals to Eliza’s spirit. He is her vice for independence. Having a major, a man of his status as an option must have been pleasing to her. She enjoyed having something other than the safe option of Mr. Boyer. Mr. Sanford satisfies her thrust for life: He is intriguing, seductive, and wealthy. In Eliza’s eyes he is a better mate but she is taken aback when she learns of rumors about Mr. Sanford’s seductively misleading character.

    The coquette is a term used to describe Eliza’s misunderstood virtue. People witnessed her enjoying the courtship two men, thus creating an image of an inappropriate woman. If Eliza were a woman of the 21st century she would not have been judged for taking her time in finding the right person to marry. Had she lived in our time and witnessed our society, would it be the sort of freedom she hoped for? Would she suffer the same fate? No matter the generation or time, there will always be someone who is self centered, charismatic, and misleading. If history has taught us one thing, it is to beware of the charmer. There will always be someone who is stubborn, naive, and young. It is up to us to use our knowledge of people and the world to keep ourselves safe.

    Although, the biography gives away the ending of Eliza’s story, the novel keeps me just as intrigued, as if I had no knowledge of the ending. The format and writing style remind me of how some of todays writers structure their work. In a chapter book a reader may see the point of view of each character for every event. It helps the reader understand each character’s traits, thoughts, and helps us predict what will come next. The veil of time that separates us and keeps us far removed is irrelevant in Eliza’s case. I felt a special connection to this reading assignment because I could envision Eliza as a woman of today. Her story helps us connect to the lives of some peoples of the time.

    October 30, 2011 at 5:30 pm

  2. cynthiaqiu

    As a woman of the 21st century, I agree that the term “coquette” is not what one should describe Eliza as. She has done her duties by getting engaged to a man her parents wished she would and I believe now is her time. She did not plan for the death of Mr. Haley nor did she plan for the unsuccessful marriage. After all these events, she should be entitled to take time to find another significant other.

    She is merely a woman with the notions from the 21st century and so, she was born at the wrong time. She may not be the strongest woman or one who is always decisive but when it comes to choosing her significant other, she is considering all her choices. In her time, she is a flirt because everyone expects her to choose one person right after Mr. Haley passed away and all she wants to do is to make friends. How can she know what she is getting herself into, yet again?

    Speaking of that, how can a man and a woman get to know each if they are not allowed to be friends at first? Does a relationship begin when one asks for another person’s hand? Then again, it is quite interesting because one does not hear much about divorce like today and people date today!

    I wonder, if people are not so uptight about choosing another man to begin another relationship with, what other men may have stepped into her life? How would her story change? I think that would be most interesting.

    November 4, 2011 at 1:31 am

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