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Moll Flanders Essays | GradeSaver
`Tis but the truth in masquerade" Lord Byron (1) Moll Flanders, a potent character of Defoe's, is haunted by her past, and as such, is driven to tell her story.
In Daniel Defoe’s “The Fortunes & Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders,” the central female character, is driven by a lust to rise above what she has been born into, but through a series of unfortunate events and gender norm, she is forced to step out of social norms to achieve the life that she believes that she deserves....
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Of course, there were many noted male English novelists before Jane Austen's time. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) dabbled in novels, and some have suggested that he was an influence for our Lady, but (also, see , , and .) In this context, I should also mention Daniel Defoe (1659-1731), Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), , and (1707-1754).
All of those men were of Jane Austen's grandfather's or great-grandfather's generation. One is struck by the fact that severe rivalries and dislikes existed among the male writers. Swift and Defoe didn't much care for one another, and both Richardson and Fielding made unkind remarks about the other. The first case may have been a natural consequence of religious difference; Jonathan Swift was Church of English clergyman and Daniel Defoe was a dissenter, a Presbyterian. The later rivalry may have been a reflection of class differences; Samuel Richardson was working class and Henry Fielding was privileged. Fielding enjoyed lampooning Richardson's novels and Richardson expressed a good deal of moral outrage over Fielding's. If you will read the biography of only one of these men, choose Daniel Defoe - born of a poor father, he was a short-term insurrectionist, long-term government spy, a man of letters.
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Moll was married five times and was a mistress on several other occasions. Her first and last husbands died but the other marriages ended when the couple came upon financial difficulty and the partners were forced to separate. Divorce was talked about, but the trouble was never taken; so, we can wonder about the legality of the later marriages. Moll wondered about that herself, but never let herself get depressed about it. Those were different times. You may know that Benjamin Franklin had illegitimate children; but, you may not know that he never actually married the woman we call his wife. In fact, she was married to someone else who had abandoned her. The folks in Philadelphia just considered the Franklins married and that was good enough. Benjamin Franklin treated his illegitimate children the same as his "legitimate" and always did his best by them. (His illegitimate son, William, was selected by the British to be the Governor of New Jersey, remained a loyalist during the Revolution, and ended his days in England.) Remember that story as you try to get perspective on Moll Flanders's "marriages."
The first three-quarters of the book describes Moll's relationships with men, while the final quarter describes her life of crime; she was a pick-pocket, burglar, and con artist. She preferred the last mode because she was so good at it, "I became the greatest artist of my time." It was only during this last stage of her life that Moll took on the alias of "Moll Flanders." (The reference was to Holland, because many of the prostitutes and grifters in the London of that time were Dutch.) It is interesting to notice that Moll was especially adept at disguises - interesting because Daniel Defoe himself often wore disguises and assumed false identities in his second occupation as a government spy.
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Moll Flanders Summary | GradeSaver
Much later, Moll would return to Virginia, this time as a transported convict. She had been under a sentence of death but a helpful clergyman had had the death-sentence delayed and then it was commuted when Moll promised to emigrate. (The clergyman was disappointed because he thought it would have been better had Moll left this world while she was in a sincerely penitent state.) Moll had found one of her former husbands in prison, also on death row, and had persuaded him to accompany her to America. Arriving in Virginia she was pleased to take up a relationship with her son/nephew and he was very pleased to meet her. It turned out that his grandmother, Moll's mother/mother-in-law, was deceased but had given him a good estate to manage but it was entailed to Moll. That, combined with her own enterprise - honest enterprise - allowed Moll and her new/former husband to accumulate a considerable fortune and income. And so the story ends with Moll Flanders - or whatever her real name was, we are never told - near her seventieth year while comfortably retired back in England.
Moll Flanders Essays - Free Essays, Term Papers, …
" '... it was my lot to form a connection with one who in time became my wife, and the mother of Cora. She was the daughter of a gentleman of these isles, by a lady whose misfortune it was, if you will,' said the old man proudly, 'to be descended, remotely, from that unfortunate class who are so basely enslaved to administer to the wants of a luxurious people. Ay, sir, that is a curse entailed on Scotland by her unnatural union with a foreign and trading people. But could I find a man among them who would dare to reflect on my child, he should feel the weight of a father's anger! Ha! Major Heywood, you are yourself born at the south, where these unfortunate beings are considered of a race inferior to your own.'
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The book is as disturbing as is the case when reading the novels of Charles Dickens or Thomas Hardy written nearly a century and a half later. I suspect that I will think about the book for the rest of my life. There is nothing comical or heroic about Moll Flanders. She is simply an amoral if intelligent woman born with little money or position, but with a determination to use her understanding and beauty to avoid becoming a servant. And, she was determined to avoid being alone in the world without a husband. If she could only gain her needs by simulating fortune and gentility, or by otherwise misrepresenting the facts, it was done. Many of us will forgive her given the circumstances.
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I want to explore with you the way that Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding, Sir Walter Scott, and James Fenimore Cooper developed the characters of women in their novels. I do that because you may be surprised and pleased at the way that men thought about women in those days. Perhaps the treatment typical - if so, then we have been misled by the modern representations of our eighteenth-century fathers.
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