The Coquette

The Coquette


Hannah Webster Foster

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The Coquette: Letter 27 Summary & Analysis

“Every woman is at heart a rake,” Mr. Selby writes to Reverend Boyer. Selby assumes that all women must be rakes to “account for the pleasure which they evidently receive from the society, the flattery, the caresses of men” like Major Sanford. Mr. Selby attended the assembly last night and became suspicious of Eliza’s relationship with Sanford. He wants to believe that Eliza is as virtuous and good as her reputation suggests, but her behavior suggests otherwise. Selby begs Boyer not take offense at his candor—he simply does not wish to see his friend “made the dupe of a coquette.”
Selby’s letter amounts to little more than eighteenth-century slut-shaming, and it plainly illustrates his sexist nature. He believes Eliza to be promiscuous simply because she is a woman and therefore can’t control herself. Other than the fact that this claim is utterly ridiculous, Eliza has done nothing to warrant this charge, other than visit socially with Sanford, and this reflects the rigid standards of their patriarchal society.
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