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Moll Flanders, the full title is
"The fortunes and misfortunes of the famous Moll Flanders who was born in Newgate, and during a life of continu'd variety for threescore years besides her childhood, was a Whore, five times a wife (whereof once to her own brother) twelve Year a thief, eight year a transported Felon on Virginia, at last grew Rich, liv'd Honest and died a Penitent) written from her own memorandums."
That's quite a title eh??
Published in 1722 when the writer Daniel Defoe was 62 this novel was way ahead of its time. The writing is exceptional, the dialog, the settings and the characters are all exceptionally real and honest and brought to life by Defoe's wonderful writing style.
The character who takes the title role of Moll Flanders is a girl left alone in the world. She was brought into the world by a mother who was imprisoned and spared the noose by "pleading her belly" when her baby was born she was sent to Virginia and her baby was left. Luckily for Moll she was taken in and cared for by a loving family where she stayed many years and grew to be a hansom, clever and polite young lady. However it does not end well when both the sons fall in love with Moll. This dose not go down well with the rest of the family because although they loved moll they felt their son's should marry to their advantage not marries a penniless orphan. However after an affair with the elder brother he convinces her the only way forward is for her to
marry his younger brother, this shocks moll, and she tells him she doesn't want to be one brothers wife and the others whore so they agree that they will no longer be together and moll marries the younger brother even though she doesn't love him. Moll is widowed very early into the marriage and sees this as a way out of a life she never wanted, so she leaves her children with her in-law's and moves away to pass her herself off as a rich widow in the hope of finding a rich husband.
She does this and finds a man she really truly loves however after they marry she finds out he was tricking her in to marriage because he has no money either. He leaves her with best wishes to go and do well for herself if she can and Moll is left to try the same thing again.
This time she meets another man who she loves but his business is out in Virginia and they have to leave England. When they move out there they have a happy life out in virgina and have two children. Moll has a great relationship with her mother in law and loves to hear the stories of her turbulent life. It is when listening to these stories that moll hears something terrible. Her mother in law had a baby in Newgate prison and she left her behind when she was sent to Virginia. With this and other details moll discovers that her mother in law is actually her own biological mother and she is married to her own brother who she has had two children bye. She resolves to move back to England and leave her husband/brother and children in Virginia.
Moll soon commits herself to another man, however he is married but is seeking divorce so moll tells him when he is divorced she will marry him, in the meantime she meets again her second husband who she loved and for old times sake they "lie together" the next day leaves to on his way and moll soon discovers she is pregnant. She knows that she can not marry the banker when his divorces comes through if she is with child so when a helpful midwifes offers a safe home for her son at a reasonable price of only £500 a year moll agrees and the baby is taken to a good home. Moll is now free and marries the banker but he die s and leaves her in financial ruin after five years.
Desperate, she begins a career as a thieve. This works well for moll and she finds she is very skilled at it and so contniues in the trade for years (she dose it with gulity feelings, and trys legal employment, but crime pays.) It is eventually in this trade that she is found and sent to Newgate prison.
It is here that she reunites with her 2nd husband who she had always loved. He is also jailed for his robberies as a highwayman. She is found guilty and sentenced is death. she manages to convince a minister of her repentance, and with her Lancashire husband is sent to the Colonies to avoid hanging, and happily are together. So clever and beautiful is she that even talks the captain into not being with the convicts and not being sold upon arrival, and they stay in the captain's quarters.
Once in the colonies in virginia again, she learns her mother has left her a plantation and her own son (she had by her brother) is alive, as is her brother but he soon dies and she never sees him. With the money from the plantaion and her husband and her new found son she lives a happy life in vigina.
Aged 69 (in 1683), they return to England to live "in sincere penitence for the wicked lives we have lived".
Moll Flanders provides gives us a great insight into a realistic part of the eighteenth century. although it was a very taboo subject Dafoe gets through it by constantly apologising for the content and stating that it is only written from moll's memories and so he is only re telling the tale and is not to blame for the controversial issues such as religion, prison, abortion, capitalism and marriage.
The best thing about this book is the happy ending, although Moll did some terrible things she only ever did it out of necessity and never out of greed and she always felt bad for the wicked things she had done in her life so when she again meets her true love and gains her money and land lives happy I felt content that she deserved the happy ending after the most unhappy beginning.
Moll is a strong woman and this book made me question what i would have done in the situations.
This has also been made into a TV drama where Moll was fantastically played by Alex Kingston and also a film which was very disappointing where Moll was played by Robin Penn. If you get the chance I really recommend the TV drama. Please let me know your opinions