Saturday, August 3, 2019

Violations of the True Woman in The Coquette Essay -- The Coquette Ess

Violations of the True Woman in The Coquette  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚        Ã‚   In her article, "The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860," Barbara Welter discusses the nineteenth-century ideal of the perfect woman. She asserts that "the attributes of True Womanhood . . . could be divided into four cardinal virtues-piety, purity, submissiveness and domesticity." Furthermore, she adds that "if anyone, male or female, dared to tamper with the complex virtues which made up True Womanhood, he was damned immediately as an enemy of God, of civilization and of the Republic" (Welter 152). In Hannah W. Foster's The Coquette, the characters Major Sanford and Eliza Wharton violate True Womanhood condemning them both to wretched fates. Major Sanford continually violates the True Womanhood with his systematic seduction of women. Due to his assaults against female purity, Major Sanford is rejected by society for being devoid of virtue. Well aware of this reputation, Mrs. Richman warns Eliza that he is a "professed libertine" and is not to be admitted into "virtuous society" (Foster 20). Upon her acquaintance with him, her friend Lucy Freeman declares, "I look upon the vicious habits, and abandoned character of Major Sanford, to have more pernicious effects on society, than the perpetrations of the robber and the assassin" (Foster 63). Major Sanford's licentious past dooms him to a future of lechery; there is no possibility for him to evade his reputation. Eliza's assaults against True Womanhood are violations of the virtues submissiveness and purity. When Eliza refuses to ignore the gallantry of Major Sanford in favor of the proposals of Reverend Boyer despite the warnings of her friends and mother, she disregards submissiveness in favor of her own fanc... ...ind of happiness" (Foster 166). In the end, both are severely punished for their debasement of the True Woman. One might question if Eliza really had any choice in her situation. Early in the novel she declares, "What a pity . . . that the graces and virtues are not oftner united!" (Foster 22). While Sanford possessed all the suavity she desired and Reverend Boyer all the integrity, she could find no companion who possessed both. This lack of options seems to be what truly destroys Eliza. It may have been within Eliza's power to be a True Woman, but due to the societal constraints imposed upon her, it does not seem at all possible for her to have been a happy woman.    Works Cited Foster, Hannah W. The Coquette. New York: Oxford UP, 1986. Welter, Barbara. "The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860." American Quarterly. Vol. 18 (1966). 151-74.   

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