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Daniel Defoes Novel The Famous Moll Flanders English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1150 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The theme of the pursuit of economic success exerts great influence on Daniel Defoe’s works; this may be considered as a consequence to Defoe’s obsession for money and love to trade, which, he thought, could make him a wealthy and honourable gentleman. He carries that understanding away to his characters. It’s highly depicted in the story The Fortunes and Misfortunes of

the Famous Moll Flanders.

The social and economic world in Moll Flanders presents a different glance of achieving aims. The heroine’s ingenuity and determination to survive draw readers into her divergent view how to do well. She is willing to sacrifice moral principles in order to prosper, Moll Flanders desires to “sell herself” at the highest price possible: marriage.

You may ask why this glance is different. From what does it differ? Well, why do not we compare the book of Moll Flanders and that of Robinson Crusoe and make an appraisal? The novel Robinson Crusoe also brings forward the striving for economic success. Nevertheless, the shipwrecked sailor is driven by a dream of building a self-made Utopia and being completely self-sufficient.

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Moll Flanders is an excellent story about one woman’s evolution from a birth into poverty to the status of a gentlewoman. During this period, her fortunes rise and fall a number of times but the ambitions to rise above poverty stay firm. The heroine used her meticulous cunning in order to survive in the 18th century. She marries five men and has three separate lovers. And every time she is flattered at men’s attention not because of something else but their wealth. Yes, she marries for money. Truly, in Moll Flanders, money makes the world go around. Hardly a page goes by in the novel without a mention of money. It gave me a bit of a jolt, indeed, that sexual relations have a monetary dimension and even human relation can be quantified (Mother Midnight’s bills)

The adventures of Moll Flanders move her from place to place and from one social environment to another in an effort to survive. And none of the heroine’s many marriages satisfies her material ambitions. When her beauty fades and she does not attract the attention of men any longer, truly miserable she chooses to begin a career of wily thievery to survive. It would be by no means easy for Moll to make a living doing honest work, but she grows rich rapidly as a pickpocket.

“As covetousness is the root of all evil, so poverty is, I believe, the worst of all snares.” Moll finds her key to success, her way to escape from that evil. However, her success is accompanied by loss of identity. As a result of her greed, Moll sacrifices her personal virtue, moral value and her own comfort. Because of her social and economic success, Moll sacrifices her soul. She steals, she seduces, she marries if necessary. I guess it will not be a surprise if I mention that Moll usually does not seem to think about God much. It appears that all days of her life are like devoted to the sin and almost none to the salvation.

Another novel by Daniel Defoe, more positively received in the literary world than Moll Flanders, is the adventure tale about the self-made man (The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner: Who Lived Eight and Twenty Years All Alone, in an Uninhabited Island on the Coast of America, Near the Mouth of the Great River Oroonoque). Through the character of Robinson Crusoe, Defoe treats the theme of economic growth in a different way – in the absence of trade, money and prices.

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In his isolation from the rest of the world, Crusoe discovers an economic system of value based on an item’s use. Having overcome his despair, despite not having previous knowledge of tools, Crusoe is determined to survive. It is obvious that Crusoe’s strategy distinguishes from Moll’s. The man stuck on the deserted island fetches arms, tools, and other supplies from the ship. He hunts, grows corn and rice, learns to make pottery etc. He learns: “This tree I was three days in cutting down, and two more cutting off the boughs”. Thus while making his island comfortable, the self-sufficient Englishman frequently observes that the money is worthless on the island, especially when compared to his tools: “I had, as I hinted before, a parcel of money, as well gold as silver, about thirty-six pounds sterling. Alas! There the sorry, useless stuff lay.” We become aware that Crusoe’s experience on the island represents the inherent economic value of

labour over capital.

The castaway embodies the optimism for human’s future. Among the uninhabited island he discovers his capabilities and achieves a spirit of happiness away from human society. In the virgin nature Robinson builds his own world of abundance and felicity, where he refers to himself as the “king” of the island because his unceasing labour refinds and creates material wealth, even though already known in the civilized society. His will and inventive skills help Robinson Crusoe to master nature for his own needs. And he lives in harmony with its laws: “It was now that I began sensibly to feel how much more happy this life I now led was than the wicked, cursed, abominable life I led all the past part of my days”. Even though solitary, Crusoe has self-confidence of a successful man.

Among the salvaging needful things from the ship that Robinson Crusoe takes in is also the Bible. The entire book is filled with religious aspects and shows how Robinson becomes closer to God and thanks him for his fate in which nothing is missing. This belief and the apparent superior morality of Crusoe (as he feels unjustified in holding the natives morally responsible for cannibalism) are at complete variance with the moral of Defoe’s heroine.

The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders and The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe are truly significant novels of Daniel Defoe, which illustrate two characters both striving for material prosperity and proving that hardships of life prompt us how to survive. Still Moll Flanders and Robinson Crusoe are not all that similar. The first stands to me as a negative image because of her moral degradation and greed for money while Crusoe is the positive image seeking just for everyday necessities and absolution.


1) Electronic source: www.e-notes.com

2) Electronic source: www.online-literature.com/defoe/crusoe

3) Electronic source: www.wikipedia.com

4) Defoe D. 1989, The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll

Flanders Classics Books

5) Richetti, J.1992 Popular Fiction before Richardson, Oxford


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