Hannah Webster Foster’s The Coquette, published in 1797, has long been regarded as a sentimental novel with little literary quality. Though The Coquette was a best seller at publication and remained in print for most of the 19th century, critics gave it little attention other than to ridicule the novel. Not until 1978 with the publishing of Walter Wenska’s The Coquette and the American Dream of Freedom did Foster’s book receive critical attention and praise. Since then, other literary critics have given their attention to The Coquette for critical analysis and praise. These critics have focused on facets of the novel that were completely ignored until the last twenty years. The themes critics discuss include the injustices of patriarchal culture, societal attitudes, the depiction of an economy of vision, treatment of language and the role of the female circle. It is obvious modern critics have delved below the surface of the sentimental novel to extract meaningful themes and information written by Foster.
In her book Revolution and the Word: The Rise of the Novel in America, Cathy N. Davidson includes The Coquette in the historical chronology and criticism of the American novel. Davidson concentrates her writing about The Coquette’s theme as it “does not openly challenge the basic structure of patriarchal culture but instead, exposes its fundamental injustices through the details and disasters of the plot” (144). The novel opens with Eliza Wharton expressing both her sadness and relief over the death of Mr. Haly. Davidson points out the injustice of Eliza submitting to an arranged marriage out of obedience to her parents which contradicts the supposed…
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… by the aforementioned writers must emphasize the depth of Foster’s novel.
Baker, Dorothy Z. “Detested by the Epithet!”: Definition, Maxim and the Language of Social Dicta in Hannah Webster Foster’s The Coquette.” Essays in Literature 23 (1996): 58-68.
Davidson, Cathy N. Revolution and the Word: The Rise of the Novel in America. New York: Oxford, 1986.
Hamilton, Kristie. “An Assault on the Will: Republican Virtue and the City in Hannah Webster Foster’s The Coquette. Early American Literature 24 (1989): 135-151.
Pettengill, Claire C. “Sisterhood in a Separate Sphere: Female Friendships in Hannah Webster Foster’s The Coquette and The Boarding School.” Early American Literature 27 (1992): 185-203.
Waldstreicher, David. “Fallen Under My Observation: Vision and Virtue in The Coquette.” Early American Literature 27 (1992): 204-218.
Jack Kerouac’s On The Road – The Spiritual Quest, the Search for Self and Identity
The Spiritual Quest in On the Road
A disillusioned youth roams the country without truly establishing himself in one of the many cities he falls in love with. In doing so, he manages with the thought or presence of his best friend. What is he searching for? While journeying on the road, Sal Paradise is not searching for a home, a job, or a wife. Instead, he longs for a mental utopia offered by Dean Moriarty. This object of his brotherly love grew up in the streets of America. Through the hardships of continuously being shuffled from city to city, Dean has encompassed what is and what is not important in life. While driving back to Testament in the ’49 Hudson, Dean propositions Sal through an appeal to emotion. In passing on his philosophy, Dean eloquently states, “Everything is fine, God exists, we know time” (Kerouac 120).
After the war, America achieved the status of economic success through the provisions of the assembly line in industries and manual labor in civil services. The 1950’s became an evolution from skilled craftsmanship to mindless mechanical work in factories. The goals in life included working in a fixed position, having a home, and providing for the wife and kids. However, with the threat of the Cold War looming over their heads, the youth of this generation grew disenchanted with the so-called American Dream. They realized life is ephemeral and that there is more to life than punching in a time-card. The concept of individuality was more important than conformity. It became a “culture acting out the true Self and true spontaneous desire” (McGeory 21). As an author and member of the younger generation, Jack Kerouac embodies this notion of estrangement throughout his novel, On the Road. Allen…
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…notion that their quest is a spiritual one” (Goldstein 61). Once we reach the ideal inner peace is when we are truly able to understand the band of friendship that surrounds us. If we are able to maintain this philosophy, no trouble can exist to deteriorate our well-being. We will be able to enjoy life more and discover what our fears are hiding.
Birkerts, Sven. “On the Road to Nowhere: Kerouac Re-read and Regretted.” Harper’s Magazine July 1989: 75.
Ginsberg, Allen and Gregory Corso. “Ten Angry Men.” Esquire. June 1986: 261.
Goldstein, Norma Walrath. “Kerouac’s On the Road.” The Explicator Fall 1991: 61.
Kerouac, Jack. On the Road. New York: Penguin Books. 1955.
McGeory, Heather R. “On the Road to Upheaval.” New York Times 12 June 1993, late ed.:21.
Will, George F. “Daddy, Who Was Jack Kerouac?” Newsweek. 4 July 1988: 64.