The Coquette

The Coquette

by

Hannah Webster Foster

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The Coquette: Letter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Miss Eliza Wharton writes a letter to her dear friend, Lucy. Eliza’s fiancé, Mr. Haly, has recently passed away, and she has suffered some depression because of it. Mr. Haly was “a man of real and substantial merit,” and his death has been “deeply” mourned, but Eliza did not love him. She only agreed to marry him due to her “implicit obedience to the will and desires of [her] parents.”
Eliza’s arranged marriage is evidence of her oppression as a woman in eighteenth-century America. She has little control over her life (including whom she marries), and she has little room to protest. Eliza is “implicitly obedient” in her social position, which her parents and broader society have instilled in her.
Themes
Women and Society Theme Icon
Marriage and Social Mobility Theme Icon
Eliza does not, however, “rejoice in [Mr. Haly’s] death.” She felt for him “the sincerest friendship and esteem,” but now that he is gone, she wants to enjoy life and have fun. Eliza feels “pleasure”—an “unusual sensation”—at leaving her parents’ home and visiting friends in New Haven. Happiness is the only emotion she “wish[es] to cultivate.”
Eliza’s “unusual sensation” of “pleasure” again reflects her oppression. As Eliza’s feelings are rarely considered in decisions affecting her life, she has had rare occasion to feel pleasure in the past. Now, in her new freedom, Eliza wants to preserve this feeling for as long as possible. 
Themes
Women and Society Theme Icon