Thoughts on Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
Moll Flanders was written in 1722 by Daniel Defoe. The full title of the novel is as follows: The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders, etc. Who was Born in Newgate, and during a Life of continu’d Variety for Threescore Years, besides her Childhood, was Twelve Year a Whore, five times a Wife (whereof once to her own Brother), Twelve Year a Thief, Eight Year a Transported Felon in Virginia, at last grew Rich, liv’d Honest, and died a Penitent. Written from her own Memorandums. The full title hints at most of the story’s plot line and the tale itself was presented as a true memoir.
It is amazing to me that a novel written nearly 300 years ago had so many shocking parts to it, especially when it was dealing with a female protagonist, BUT it did. The story itself was fascinating and even the narrator, Moll Flanders herself, expressed that those of us who read it will be most intrigued by the “wicked” parts. I must say that her misfortunes are what made this a novel worth reading. Who couldn’t help but be interested in a woman who so much of the time fell into the shocking behavior for the 1700s and even now of being a whore and thief among other things. I found more than once I gasped out loud at certain scenes in the book being amazed at the outlandish behavior that was presented in a story this old. I was fascinated to say the least by this tale.
The book itself is not the easiest to read, the sentences are many times extremely long. This one impediment didn’t make it any less interesting in plot to read. Moll, herself, is not a character that you necessarily sympathize with. Even though her life is difficult, she often states that in much of her life she was prideful and looked for the easy way out of things. She also was not much of a mother to the many children she bore. I will admit that as the end of this book came near I was looking for a tragic ending and not a happy one and was disappointed that things all work out. I don’t know what this makes me, but it does say much about Moll Flanders as a character. Though misfortunes are abound she has much luck and that often outweighs the tragedy.
Though Moll Flanders is not necessarily a character to like, she is presented most often as a strong and many times independent woman. She is also presented in the book as intelligent and cunning, often more so than the men around her. These factors are amazing to me considering the age of the story and that the author was a man.
“I cannot but remind the ladies here how much they place themselves below the common station of a wife, which , if I may be allowed not to be partial, is low enough already; I say, they place themselves below their common station, and prepare their own mortifications by their submitting so to be insulted by the men beforehand, which I confess I see no necessity of.”
This book was an educational experience. It was written by one of the earliest English novelists and had a shock value that would put many other books to shame. It has also been placed on the banned books lists for the content it contains.
Moll is not a likeable character at all times, but she is a memorable one. This will be a hard book for me to forget.
“… my course of life for forty years had been a horrid complication of wickedness, whoredom, adultery, incest, lying, theft; and, in a word, everything but murder and treason had been my practice from the age of eighteen, or thereabouts to three-score; and now I was engulfed in the misery of punishment, and had an infamous death just at the door, and yet I had no sense of my condition, no thought of heaven or hell at least, that went farther than a bare flying touch like the stitch or pain that gives a hint and goes off.”