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Spectator

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Throughout centuries, society has not only characterized but also distinguished the male and female population by means of intellectual, social, and psychological standards. Males are conventionally accepted as rational, unfluctuating, and perceptive beings, while females are often designated as emotional, fragile, lethargic creatures. In this way, society confines these two distinct groups of population to isolated areas, where each serves a peculiar purpose within the confines of the orthodox behavior. As time progresses, society also establishes various means to enforce these traits in order to ensure no one individual deviates from the accepted path. One form of this reinforcement exists in written literatures. One author, Joseph Addison, chose to illustrate the abiding ideals of his time in his satirical newspaper, The Spectator. From an examination of The Spectator No.275 and The Spectator No.281, the reader can gain insight into the society’s sentiment of proper decorum for both sexes during the 1700s as Addison depicts the Beau’s head, the Coquet’s heart, and the evident contrast between the two. These works portray not only the society’s sentiment of proper decorum for both sexes during the 1700s through evident dichotomous contrast, but also a lucid examination of the psychological aspect of human relationships.


Characterized by narcissism, vacuosness, and unscrupulousness, the Beau is by all means the paradox of the ideal figure of 1700s courtship. First, Joseph Addison metaphorically described the Beau’s skull is composed of cavities which encompass not substantial substance, but thousands pieces of little mirrors. Unlike average modest individuals who chose to reflect upon other occasions and care for other individuals, the Beau has eyes only for himself. Furthermore, the thousands of mirrors serve as entrapments which confine the Beau in a state of self-denial. An individual who cannot escape from the limited space of his own ideas will be forever attenuated into that specific place and oblivious to everything around him. Next, the Beau’s tongue is described as devoid of any passage to the brain, which defines the vacant state of the individual. While men are often rational and take great care with planning, this specific individual speaks without first taking heed of his own words. In addition, both the Beau’s thick-skinned and disengaged eye elevator muscle mark his sense of immorality, for he could experience no shame due to his ignorance of chastity that can only be brought forth by firm religious ethics. Through his depiction of the Beau, Joseph Addison degrades those who display similar attributes to that of the Beau and disencourages the general public who may wander into that path.


Whereas the Beau is portrayed sardonically by Joseph Addison, the Coquet is delineated in a more sympathetic light. Having been the victim of many trials of difficulty, the Coquet’s heart grew a protective case which defends itself from future daggers. Although some cavities of her heart encompass numerous frivolous objects that symbolize the female’s superficial aspect, her heart in general is complex and contains intricate fibers in which these dictate the female’s actions. Perhaps such description reveals the essence of the female psychology. Whereas males are predominantly directed by rational ideas from that sprang from their minds, women tend to be more attentative to their hearts. Finally, the most startling aspect of the Coquet is represented in the central core of her heart which contains an imprint of the image of the Beau. Ironically, the Coquet, who dallies with multiple males, becomes, in fact, enamored of the pompous and vain Beau. Furthermore, this preserved image of the Beau restores a sense of good within the Coquet, for one who has the ability to etch the image of another in her heart cannot be completely vain. In the Coquet’s description, Joseph Addison seems to impart some sympathy to individuals similar to the Coquet as he hints almost for her to be the victim.


Indeed, Addison’s selection of the Beau’s head and Coquet’s heart as symbolic objects to depict characteristics inherent in both sexes was certainly not arbitrary. Since males tend to be guided by rationales through their actions, the Beau’s head was an apt entity for the description. On the other hand, since females were thought of as emotional creatures, they were more inclined to follow intuitions of the heart. Furthermore, Addison highlighted one aspect of relationship prevalent amongst males and females in society: for centuries, males have been placed upon a hierarchy of higher social standings than females, and were disposed to feel a certain degree of self importance. Females, contrastingly, have been offered as pillars of support for these males and have fewer tendencies to replace their needs with those of their male counterparts. In this way, while both may have been in a relationship, the Beau’s mirror reflects only himself, whereas the Coquet’s heart has the Beau’s image etched in its heart.

Joseph Addison’s two works brought readers much insight into the society’s sentiment of proper decorum for both sexes during the 1700s through the depiction of the Beau’s head, the Coquet’s heart, and the evident contrast between the two. These two pieces convey not only the society’s sentiment of proper decorum for both sexes during the 1700s through evident dichotomous contrast, but also a lucid examination of the psychological aspect of human relationships. Detailed analysis reveals that some characteristics can be found not only in the hearts of individuals in the 1700s, but also in individuals today.





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