Eliza's Responsibility for her Own Downfall in Foster's The Coquette

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A coquette is a woman who flirts without a sincere affection to gain the attention of the man. Eliza Wharton does her fair share of flirting in Hannah Webster Foster’s novel. She is stubborn and refuses all the advice she is offered. Eliza misses things right in front of her and doesn’t realize her mistakes until it is too late. Eliza Wharton was responsible for her own downfall.

From the beginning of The Coquette Eliza Wharton is a headstrong, freedom-seeking woman. Having escaped her impending marriage with the death of her fiancé, Eliza is determined to enjoy herself, regardless of the consequences. Eliza disregards the warnings she receives from those around her, she disregards Major Sanford’s past, and she disregards the societal impact her actions will undoubtedly have. Eliza is reckless with her reputation and virtue and she pays the price.

Eliza meets both Boyer and Sanford in the beginning of her tale. Mr. Boyer is a respectable man from a rich family. He is studying to be a reverend. Everyone likes him and he would be a very suitable husband for Eliza. However Eliza is enamored with Major Sanford. Sanford is a supposedly rich man with a reputation of being trouble. Eliza is warned of Sanford’s reputation but chooses to ignore the warnings. Eliza even tries to rationalize her feelings for such a troublesome man by telling her best friend Lucy “A reformed rake makes the best husband,” (Foster 47). Eliza also states that she wants advice from her mother about what to do, but will only follow the advice if it concurs with what she already plans to do.

Eliza’s blatant disregard for the concern of those around her contributed heavily to her demise. Had she listened to her friends and family when they told her to marry Mr...

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...good man, which she ruined by running away with Sanford. Eliza made her own choices and caused her own demise.

In her final letter to her mother, Eliza admits her wrong doings. She tells her mother she ignored all the things she was told. All their advice fell on her deaf ears. She explains that she had fallen victim to her own indiscretion. She had become the latest conquest of “a designing libertine,” (Foster 894). She knew about Sanford’s reputation, she knew his intentions, and she knew that he was married, yet she still started a relationship with him. And her blatant disregard for facts and common sense caused her unwed pregnancy and premature demise. Eliza Wharton had nobody to blame for her situation but herself. She ignored warnings, advice, common sense, and other options available to her. She chose her ill fated path and had to suffer the consequences.

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