With Dissenters and Defoe's ability to satirise a position and convey a serious message through use of fiction.
Ian Watt, one of the most influential critics in the study of the beginnings of the novel, suggests that, "... the novel could only begin its study of personal relationships once Robinson Crusoe had revealed a solitude that cried aloud for them". It is this idea of examining humans as individuals and human relationships that has placed Defoe in the centre of the beginnings of the novel; despite the faults his characters may have, they demand a sympathy from the reader because the story told is completely their own.
4. -"Just as history does not embody all forms of moral truth, fiction need not violate truth." (Max Novak). How does Defoe seek to justify his fictions and make claims on the reader?
Look at the contemporary definitions of the question terms. Johnson's 1755 Dictionary gives three definitions of 'fiction': "1.The act of feigning or inventing, 2. The thing feigned or invented, 2. A falsehood, a lye".
For Defoe, fiction was a lie. In order for his fiction to be taken seriously and for it to have some value (moral and literary), it had to have the status of history. This is the reason he distances Moll Flanders from contemporary novels. It's a good idea to have a look through some of these (if you can get hold of them!). Some of Eliza Haywood's novellas have been published recently (Masquerade Novels of Eliza Haywood, NY 1986) and show some of the sensationalist fiction of the time. On the other side of the coin, Penelope Aubin wrote severely moralistic fiction, using similar scenarios to those used by Haywood, but one after another demonstrating virtue. Her preface to Aubin's Madam de Beaumont (1739) outlines the aim of the story as, "pleasing, and at the same Time encouraging Virtue in [her] Readers". In order to do this, the circumstances of the book, "make the Truth of this Story doubted; but since Men are grown very doubtful even in those Things that concern them most, I'll not give my self much". There is no desperate claim for truth, merely a throwaway 'believe it if you will'. The fiction of Aubin is less valuable than the knowledge that it existed, so too the idea that fiction may have value and that it need not be justified.
An interesting point which could be considered at some length is the justification of Bunyan that his Pilgrim's Progress, although a fiction, is acceptable, because of the parables of Christ, compared with the statement in the third book of Robinson Crusoe (rarely known, let alone read) that a morally edifying fiction is justified because of the parables in the Bible and because of the Bunyan's use of allegory (see Themes: "Fiction"). Does fiction, at this point, start to take on some of the authority that it previously sought from moral grounds?
Through his use of fiction, Defoe begins to reach an ambiguous truth, towards which the reader to directed and asked to interpret. You might also want to consider Defoe's use of a fictional persona in his satirical works, in which fiction is again used to convey a serious point of view.
|Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.|