View Full Version : Moll Flanders

05-24-2005, 06:07 PM
One must remember that Defoe is not only writing a story about an 18th Century woman, he is also creating the genre of the novel. Until this time, there was no such thing. There were short stories, epic narratives, and news stories, but there was no such thing as a long fictional narrative of any type until Defoe wrote Robinson Crusoe and then, Moll Flanders. If the story seems disjointed, this is likely why - Defoe has not worked out the idea of chapters, transitions, and other devices. His character is however, quite fascinating, and it is discouraging that many people see her only as an immoral person and prostitute. It might be wise for anyone who plans to read the book to brush up on some 18th century English history with regards to the lower classes, and especially women's position in society, before<br>forereading this book. This is not so much one woman's story. Moll represents all women of the lower classes in England at this time. Readers think that this is a story of immorality and is meant to teach a lesson to the reader, but this is not really true. The story is meant to illustrate the precarious life of an unmarried woman with no "fortune", and it is meant to draw attention to the immoral society Moll lives in, not Moll's lack of morals. A woman with Moll's birth and background had very little to look forward to in life except poverty and, if she is fortunate, unending labour. This is a society<br>ruled by men of wealth, power, and self interest. A woman had to have a man to support her - usually a husband, but it could be a brother or uncle etc who was willing to take on the expense of supporting her if she had no husband. Moll is alone. No mother or father or relative. Her only choices in her world were considered to be marriage or service. An independent employed woman was extremely rare - evidence her "nurse's" reaction when Moll says she wants to support herself rather than go into service. Only a very few women were able to do so - mostly through sewing or tatting. Living "in service" was close to slavery and women were not hired in the industry and manufacturing sectors. If a woman married, her property/money automatically became her husband's. Moll starts out well considering her disadvantages. She falls in love but quickly learns that love does not conquer all when she is faced with her lover's desertion and a choice between a loveless but "good" marriage, or poverty and starvation.<br>Women did not prostitute themselves because they lacked morality. They did so because they lacked opportunity and means to support themselves. Moll did what she did to survive - was caught in her own web and unable to break free from the security and the thrill of risk that accompanied the life of a thief. Moll has lived the only life she could in a society that denied her the means and opportunity to support herself through honest means.