Moll lives several different lives even before she starts to use a disguise. From the beginning, she is a whore to one brother and a wife to another and throughout the book, she remains obsessed with who she is to others, to the extent, perhaps, that her true identity ceases to be.

Attitudes to Moll Flanders vary. It is not an uncommon attitude to take that Moll's repentance is true. Reading Roxana in contrast, many (including G.A. Starr) take the view that Moll's repentance is shown by her final happiness on earth, while Roxana comes to a sudden and unknown downfall. David Blewitt, editing the Penguin Classics edition of Moll Flanders, writes in his introductory essay that, "Moll's spiritual rebirth as a penitent marks the beginning of a new shows that rebirth may be the means of return and of completion". Yet he acknowledges that there may be irony in the text, not accepting the view of Ian Watts in The Rise of the Novel that Defoe's use of the episodic structure is merely the narrative flowing, "spontaneously from his own sense of what his protagonist might plausibly do next". L. Davis' Factual Fictions; The Origins of the English Novel (New York, 1983) also suggests of Defoe's novels that, "there is not enough art about them, no dazzling plots, not much in the way of form - just a kind of dogged attention to the cumulative details, to getting the story down on record". If we believe that Defoe was simply a careless writer (and the accusation is unsurprising considering the number of works which have been accredited to him at one time or another), then Moll's repentance may be believed. If, however, Defoe's preface is to be taken seriously, we must, "Know how to read [the story]". We must understand the subtext of the author, not just follow the story of the unreliable narrator.

One example, perhaps, of what Defoe would most definitely have seen as a reader not knowing how to read his tale, is the edition brought out to support the film starring Kim Novak (no relation to Max!) in the 1960s. The blurb advertises the book as raucous and sensationalist and the editor suggests that the reader will look at Moll and think, "You sure pulled a fast one". Evidently Defoe's warning is not always heeded.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.