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Moll Flanders–whore, thief, liar, and polyandrist.

 

 

 

 

 

11moll

*****SPOILERS*****

In order to get a full(er) view of Moll Flanders, I think it’s necessary to quickly and without additional research (based off of pure faulty memory) look at English Literature as a whole.  Please be warned, however, I’m no expert, and I shouldn’t be used for reference–only for mockery.

It so happens my lit class offerings went something like this:

Chaucer ( I assume this was the super old English stuff; they never offered it when I could take it.)

17th Century lit.  (This was almost entirely plays, poems, and non-fiction prose.)  This class, of course, covered 1600-1700, because that’s not confusing.

Shakespeare (Also 17th Century, but deserving of special attention.)

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Some other English class.  I never took it, and can’t remember what they called it but I assume Defoe and the earliest English novels could be found here. There were a some other novels in even earlier centuries like Le Morte D’Arthur.  But we’re talking a FEW.  Like 10.  So Defoe was literally one of the first English language novelists.  EVER.

English Romantic Lit (This is Jane Austen, etc.)

Victorian Lit. (This is the Brontes, Dickens, Trollope.)

So, that was a long explanation to lead up to a second side thought.  When I took the Early American Novel class, we read The Last of the Mohicans.  At the end of that book, what’s-his-name walks into the sunset.  Trite right?  Stupid?  Over-done.

Except, then our teacher pointed out something we were too dumb to get on our own.  When you’re the dude who FIRST wrote the scene where the hero walks into the sunset, you aren’t trite.  You’re awesome.

And what I mean to lead up to here, is that by its very nature of being among the first, Moll Flanders is amazing.  Especially when you look at how uptight England was then, how you could get hung for stuff you can’t get jail time for now, that you were literally ruled by upper classes.

This was before America as we know it people.  We were just a colony in Defoe’s Moll Flanders.   A place to dump criminals and get tobacco.

And during that time when Defoe was spying against the Scottish, worming his way up the class system, and changing my life forever by helping to create something that has ruled and enriched my life–the novel–he wrote a book about a chick who was just plain…bad.

To give you an example, I started to keep track of her lovers and got bored with it.  I mean, she sleeps with the son of the house who took her in, marries his brother, marries again–loses that husband not by death, but just LOSES him.  As in, she assumes he died soon after for the rest of her life–never knowing if he did–and never really caring.  She’s a long-term mistress of another.  Marries a dude, moves to American, realizes he’s her brother, comes back to England, marries two dudes within months of each other.  At the end of the book, she’s referring to her current husband as her Lancashire husband.  (that’s out of order and could be missing a dude or two.)

She has to DIFFERENTIATE her husbands, to herself, by location.

DUDE.  Dude.  Duuuuude.

Then there’s the kids.  She makes out like she’s this loving mother when she meets her son/nephew at the end of the book but, come on.  How many did you leave by the wayside?  A dozen?  The only reason I can see as true for meeting this last son is to get the money her mother/ mother-in-law left her.

But I think what I object to most is how Defoe describes penitence.  At the end of her life of crime, having built a good plantation using the money she and her husband stole, she describes herself as being committed to a life of penitence.  And I’m thinking, yeah it’s easy to be penitent when you’re rich and at death’s door.  And I got sooo mad.  I mean penitence, to me, means not just NOT doing the crime, it means making restitution.  Trying to atone for what you have done.  Yet, all Moll does is tell her Lancashire husband the truth (some of it), spend some time with her son (always getting her payday), and move back to England where she is no longer a thief.  Why would she be?  She’s rich and old…

And throughout this whole book, I wasn’t loving the way the novel was told.  It was a reflection on her life, which is after all over done.  Oh but wait, not when Defoe was doing it.  And then I realized, Moll had right pissed me off.

Bravo, Defoe.  Bravo.

Because you sucked me in and got me angry with your character.  That’s some killer writing.  And you weren’t even learning from those who went before.  Plus you squeezed in a description of wigs at the end.  And we know you loved them.  defoe

As evidenced above by the snazzy, snazzy wig.

Do I recommend Moll?  Sure.  But be warned that you might find it a little familiar. After all, the rest of us novelists have been copying him, and been inspired by him for centuries, and we probably don’t even know it.

~Amanda

ps I have a desire to read these other early English language novels.  **be warned**

pps if you’re joining in the reading (DAD) you should be warned my random selections are made by  books I’ve felt guilty for never reading or for some reason I already own through Audible.  So, the astoundingly weird next choice is….

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Please.  I’ll tell you when I feel like it.

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