The Blame Game: An Essay on The Coquette
The Coquette is an epistolary novel written by Hannah Webster Foster, published in 1797. The main protagonist is a young woman named Eliza Wharton, who is a smart yet flirtatious person. The antagonist is a man called Major Peter Sanford. He is a man that takes liberty with the emotions of the women he goes after. However, sometimes it seems to be Eliza herself who is both the protagonist and her own antagonist. After reading this novel, I concluded that Eliza is the person to blame for her own unhappiness and death.
The first thing I noticed while reading this novel was how Eliza seemed to be cheerful that her recently deceased betrothed had died. She says she was relieved to be released from her obligation to marry Mr. Haly. Nobody wants to marry someone they don’t love, and Eliza is no exception. I believe this started the coquettish personality in Eliza, along with her leaving her mother’s house and entering “society”. She now feels free to do as she wishes. Eliza writes to her friend Lucy: “I believe I shall never again resume those airs, which you term coquettish, but which I think deserve a softer appellation; as they proceed from an innocent heart, and are the effusions of a youthful, and cheerful mind” (7). So even her friends can see her flirty nature, yet she believes she is doing nothing wrong.
As time goes on, she meets Reverend Boyer and Major Sanford. They are total opposites, and Eliza is distraught over who she likes more. Therefore, she decides to “play the field” so to speak, and flirt with both of them. Major Sanford sees what she is doing, and decides to follow her lead. “But I fancy this young lady is a coquette; and if so, I shall avenge my sex, by retaliating the mischiefs, she meditates against us” (18). In this way, Eliza has really started her own unhappiness by toying with her lovers emotions.
Eliza refuses to ignore the flirtatious behavior of Major Sanford in favor of the proposals of...