Early American Novel (Cont.)
Part VI: Final assesment
The Coquette Test
Please read the following selections and then answer the questions that follow.
LETTER XIV TO MISS LUCY FREEMAN.
From The Coquette
- I HAVE received, and read again and again, your friendly epistle. My reason and judgment entirely coincide with your opinion; but my fancy claims some share in the decision: and I cannot yet tell which will preponderate. This was the day fixed for deciding Mr. Boyer's cause. My friends here gave me a long dissertation on his merits.
- Your letter, likewise, had its weight, and I was candidly summing up the pros and cons in the garden, whither I had walked (Gen. Richman and lady having rode out) when I was informed that he was waiting in the parlor. I went immediately in (a good symptom, you will say) and received him graciously. After the first compliments were over, he seemed eager to improve the opportunity to enter directly on the subject of his present visit.
- It is needless for me to recite to you, who have long been acquainted with the whole process of courtship, the declarations, propositions, protestations, entreaties, looks, words and actions of a lover. They are, I believe, much the same, in the whole sex, allowing for their different dispositions, educations, and characters. But you are impatient I know for the conclusion.
- You have hastily perused the preceding lines, and are straining your eye forward to my part of the farce; for such it may prove after all. Well, then, not to play too long with the curiosity, which I know to be excited, and actuated by real friendship, I will relieve you. I think you would have been pleased to have seen my gravity, on this important occasion.
- With all the candor and frankness which I was capable of assuming, I thus answered his long harangue, to which I had listened, without interrupting him. Self-knowledge, sir, that most important of all sciences, I have yet to learn. Such have been my situations in life, and the natural volatility of my temper, that I have looked but little into my own heart, in regard to its future wishes and views.
- From a scene of constraint and confinement, ill-suited to my years and inclination, I have just launched into society. My heart beats high in expectation of its fancied joys. My sanguine imagination paints, in alluring colors, the charms of youth and freedom, regulated by virtue and innocence. Of these, I wish to partake. While I own myself under obligations for the esteem which you are pleased to profess for me, and in return, acknowledge, that neither your person nor manners are disagreeable to me, I recoil at the thought of immediately forming a connection, which must confine me to the duties of domestic life, and make me dependent for happiness, perhaps too, for subsistence, upon a class of people, who will claim the right of scrutinizing every part of my conduct; and by censuring those foibles, which I am conscious of not having prudence to avoid, may render me completely miserable.
- While, therefore, I receive your visits, and cultivate towards you sentiments of friendship and esteem, I would not have you consider me as confined to your society, or obligated to a future connection. Our short acquaintance renders it impossible for me to decide what the operations of my mind may hereafter be. You must either quit the subject, or leave me to the exercise of my free will, which perhaps may coincide with your present wishes.
- Madam, said he, far is the wish from me to restrain your person or mind. In your breast I will repose my cause. It shall be my study to merit a return of affection; and I doubt not, but generosity and honor will influence your conduct towards me. I expect soon to settle among a generous and enlightened people, where I flatter myself I shall be exempt from those difficulties, and embarrassments, to which too many of my brethren are subject. The local situation is agreeable, the society refined and polished; and if, in addition, I may obtain that felicity which you are formed to bestow, in a family connection, I shall be happy indeed.
- He spoke with emphasis. The tear of sensibility sparkled in his eye. I involuntarily gave him my hand, which he pressed with ardor to his lips. Then rising, he walked to the window to conceal his emotion. I ran the bell and ordered tea; during, and after which, we shared that social converse, which is the true zest of life, and which, I am persuaded, none but virtuous minds can participate. General Richman and lady returned with the shades of the evening. The penetrating eye of my cousin traced in our countenances the progress of the cause, and the smile of approbation animated hers.
- Mr. Boyer asked the favor of my company to ride tomorrow morning, which was granted. He tarried to supper, and took his leave. I retired immediately to my chamber, to which I was followed by Mrs. Richman. I related to her the conversation, and the encouragement which I had given to Mr. Boyer. She was pleased; but insisted that I should own myself somewhat engaged to him. This, I told her I should never do to any man, before the indissoluble knot is tied. That, said I, will be time enough to resign my freedom. She replied that I had wrong ideas of freedom, and matrimony; but she hoped that Mr. Boyer would happily rectify them.
- I have now, my dear friend, given you an account of my present situation, and leave you to judge for yourself concerning it. Write me your opinion, and believe me ever yours.
From "Women and Feudalism" by Frances and Joseph Gies, Women in the Middle Ages
- Feudalism, born in France in the ninth century, spreading throughout Europe in subsequent centuries, and introduced to England by the Norman conquest, brought a reactionary shift in the status of women. A system by which a lord granted land to a vassal in return for services that were primarily military, it produced a society organized for war, an essentially masculine world. Pre-feudal society was already male-biased and military, but by linking landholding to military service, feudalism meant the further disfranchisement of women. Feudal estates usually passed intact, with their military obligations, to a single male heir. Only in the absence of male heirs could a woman inherit.
- Even if not an heiress, a woman under feudalism spent most of her life under the guardianship of a man — of her father until she married, of her father's lord if her father died, and of her husband until she was widowed. The lord pocketed the income of his ward's estate until she married, and she had to marry a man of his choice or lose her inheritance. The practice was universal, and continued into the later Middle Ages.
- The lord could also "sell" his ward's marriage, exacting a price from a suitor for the privilege of taking over control of the heiress's estate, as well as to compensate for his own loss of income. Wardships, indeed, were regarded as a normal investment, and were bought and sold like securities. In 1214, King John of England succeeded in dealing his first wife, Isabella of Gloucester, whose marriage to him had been annulled in 1200, to Geoffrey de Mandeville, Earl of Essex, for the huge sum of 20,000 marks. The earl died in a tournament in 1216 before he had time to pay, leaving the debt to be settled by his successors.
- Yet despite all the disabilities implicit and explicit in feudalism, women did not lose all their legal rights, status, and economic power. A man who married an heiress :mdash; the daughter of a well-to-do peasant, or a lady who had inherited her father's lands in default of male heirs — could not sell his wife's property without her consent. IF a husband defaulted in administering his wife's land, she could go to court and defend her title. Married or single, women could hold land, sell it, give it away, own goods, make a will, make a contract, sue and be sued, and plead in the law courts.
- Blackstone described the status of [married] women under English "common law" as a legal nonexistence:
By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in law; that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband; under whose wing, protection, and cover she performs everything.… A man cannot grant anything to his wife, or enter into covenant with her: for the grant would be to suppose her separate existence.…
- The modern system of courtship based on free choice and personal attraction could hardly develop in an age when the social institutions and customs that provide environment for such courtship did not yet exist. Parents might pay some heed to their children's feelings, but love was not an accepted motive for marriage.
Questions on fiction selection
Multiple Choice (3 points each)
1. In paragraph 3, what words help you understand the meaning of the word "courtship?"
2. The word "approbation" in paragraph 9 matches which of the following dictionary definitions of the word: approbation
3. The main idea of paragraph 8 is
4. An antonym of the word "indissoluble" in paragraph 10 is
5. The best summary of the passage is
Questions on non-fiction selection
6. What is the main idea of the passage?
7. In a feudal system
8. Women spent most of their lives
9. Why does Blackstone say women are legally "nonexistent?"
10. The theme that both passages share is
Open Response (10 points each)
- Who is responsible for Eliza's death? SUPPORT YOUR ANSWER WITH EVIDENCE FROM THE TEXT.
- What freedoms does Eliza have compared to women in the Middle Ages? SUPPORT YOUR ANSWER WITH EVIDENCE FROM BOTH TEXTS.
Essay (25 points)
Please write a one-page essay explaining how personal freedoms are important to you. Include allusion to The Coquette, as well as an example or connection from at least one other literary work.
Assessment Keys and Rubrics
Part I: A Novel Idea Quiz Answers
- Responses will vary, but should be no more than 40 words and contain the idea that Eliza has to choose between two men, one of who is exciting but engaged, and the other who is boring but respectable. Despite the pleas of her friends, she chooses the exciting one and dies after giving birth to his baby.
- Responses will vary, but should include the ideas that a novel is of considerable length, is prose, is fiction, and contains a story.
- Responses will vary, but should include that she becomes pregnant or is otherwise robbed of her virtue and ultimately dies.
- Answers will vary, but should contain seven ideas from the slidedeck.
- Answers will vary, but must include two multiple choice questions with at least four answer choices, and one short answer question that is above the level of knowledge and comprehension.
All rubrics for other components are included with the assignments.
Part V: Final Assessment Key
Note: The Final Assessment has 75 possible points.
PBS offers an appropriate extension for teachers with additional time or as an extension for gifted/talented learners. The video itself should be edited as necessary in accordance with local district policy. The lesson is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Midwife's Tale.