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Self-Reliance in The Coquette Hannah W Fosters The Coquette written in 1797 takes place in a time period and social arena where a womans primary role consisted of finding a suitable husband and becoming contently married Forced into a narrow confine of her role from her early childhood a girl became caught in a world where she lacked any true power Controlled by her society it was difficult for a female to find her own voice and thoughts without even displaying that self to the world A woman rarely remained true to herself Yet The Coquettes main character Eliza Wharton lives the life of a young woman struggling to be self-reliant within the constraints created by her society In this context the word self-reliant refers to its definition in Ralph Waldo Emersons philosophical essay entitled Self-Reliance In his essay Emerson defines self-reliance as the ability To believe your own thought to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men Emerson 23 In general self-reliance refers to the ability to remain true to oneself Specifically Eliza accomplishes self-reliance by not immediately accepting Reverend Boyers marriage proposal as all of her peers believe is proper This means not entering or conforming to a community where she knows she does not belong Moreover Eliza diligently remains consistent with her ideas throughout the course of the novel She even openly rebels against the fact that men in her community enjoy far more social freedom than the women In spite of this fact even the male characters in The Coquette were punished for leading improper lifestyles In Elizas society women lived in a very confined role one that was not part of the outside world The cult of domesticity said that a womans world was strictly limited to that of the household Davidson 15 Raising children and taking care of the home may lend the woman some power within her
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