The Coquette

The Coquette

by

Hannah Webster Foster

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Coquette can help.

The Coquette: Enclosed in the Foregoing Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
“I take this method of bidding you a final adieu,” Boyer writes Eliza. He writes Eliza “not as a lover” but as a “friend” who is concerned for her “happiness,” “reputation,” and “temporal and eternal welfare.” He encourages her to “fly Major Sanford,” a man he considers to be “a deceiver.” Quitting Major Sanford is the only way for Eliza to preserve her virtue, Boyer claims, and as a friend, he implores her to see reason.
Like Eliza’s female friends, Boyer uses friendship as a means to insult and degrade Eliza. He implies that she is immoral and lacking virtue, and that she is risking eternal damnation. Eliza has done nothing to warrant such harsh censure, but as a woman, her virtue is considered extremely fragile and can’t survive even a hint of promiscuity.
Themes
Women and Society Theme Icon
Sex and Virtue Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Further acting in the role “of a disinterested friend,” Boyer informs Eliza that “there is a levity in [her] manners” that is “inconsistent with the solidity and decorum becoming a lady,” and that “there is also an unwarrantable extravagance betrayed in [her] dress.” He tells Eliza this not “from resentment” but “from benevolence,” so that she may “renounce” these faults. “I wish you to regard this letter as the legacy of a friend,” Boyer says in closing. 
Boyer’s continued insults are wholly unnecessary and are indicative of his own jealousy and perceived shortcomings. He knows that he doesn’t have enough money for Eliza’s taste, so he implies that taste is sinful. His mention of her clothing is also unnecessary, and the fact that Boyer also sent this letter to Selby is damning, as well. Boyer could have simply told Selby he broke up with Eliza and left it at that; instead, he shares with Selby the intimate details of their separation, including Boyer’s unnecessarily harsh treatment of Eliza. Boyer’s treatment of Eliza does more than avenge her behavior—it encourages Eliza to conform to accepted notions of proper eighteenth-century womanhood, and as such, it serves to uphold and reinforce oppressive patriarchal ideals.
Themes
Women and Society Theme Icon
Sex and Virtue Theme Icon
Marriage and Social Mobility Theme Icon
Related Quotes