Hannah Fosters “The Coquette” and Olaudah Equiano’s “ The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano” both give a insight to the constrictions of life in the 18th century. Freedom is an underlying issue with both authors that affected life not only during the 18th century but in modern times as well. They see freedom, or the lack thereof, in both similar and contrasting lights. Hannah Fosters “The Coquette” is a dramatic and tragic story of a woman who is torn between two men. The woman-Eliza Wharton-is based on a fictional account of the poet Elizabeth Whitman. The entire book is a series of letters between Eliza and her friends and family that chronicles her life of despair in the midst of courting two men at the same time. One is Major Sanford who is captivating but insincere-the other is Reverend Boyer who is characterless and attracted to Eliza’s vibrant personality. She carries this out as long as possible while not being able to choose one or the other as a suitor. She is more attracted to Sanford but Boyer would make a better husband. In an instant she is abandoned by both men who marry other women and that is when the tragedy begins for her. By entering into an adulterous relationship with Sanford, she becomes pregnant then dies at childbirth. This is a surface level account of the book. However, there is so much more symbolism and relevancy to real life that I will discuss later on.
Olaudah Equiano’s "The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano" is
all about the his life as a slave in the 18th Century. In 1755, he was 11 years old and was
kidnapped from his home on the African coast. This land is now called Nigeria. He was
one of more than 11 million who was captured, enslaved, marched to the coast and sold
to European slave traders, and survived the Middle Passage across the Atlantic Ocean.
Although many slave narratives have arisen by many whom suffered this type of fate, this
one was one of the most remarkable. Equiano’s uncanny ability for literature, his diverse
talents and work capabilities, and his intelligence, has made his narrative one of the
greatest piece of works of all time.
What makes "The Coquette" stand out is the display of Eliza as one of
the first women in American fiction to emerge as a real person who is facing a true
dilemma in her life. It begins with a death and rebirth. Her elderly husband passes away
thus allowing her to be the independent, free-thinking woman she is by nature. The
problem lies within the societal values that surround her and the notions of how a woman
should live her life that constrain her and ultimately cause her death. Her confidants are
her mother, Lucy Freeman, Julia Granby, and Mrs. Richman who encourage her to
comply with the standards of culture from that day and age. Her decision between the
two men may seem like an easy one but it is much more complicated than that. The way
that political and societal culture was in the early American republic dictated the way life
should be lived. This was especially true for women. The philosophical and political
basis for this novel is how one is to negotiate their new found freedom within the
gendered constraints of virtue and propriety.
Olaudah Equiano’s narrative deals with the inhumane business of slavery and
slave trading. It is a personal account of the cruel business that results in misery for a lot
of human beings. He is lobbying for the abolition of slavery but is also looking to
eliminate the myths that are current of 18th century England. One of those was that
Africans were not fully human or an undeveloped branch of humanity and that they did
not deserve the basic human right and their European counterparts. Equiano did this and
showed the world that he is capable of writing an extraordinary book describing one who
took advantage of opportunity regardless of their racial background. But this narrative