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 MOLL FLANDERS QUESTIONS

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عدد المساهمات : 47
تاريخ التسجيل : 31/01/2012
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مُساهمةموضوع: MOLL FLANDERS QUESTIONS   10/2/2012, 10:48 pm









How would you characterize the narrative voice in Moll Flanders?

The whole of the story is told by Moll Flanders .we see the action solely through her eyes; we hear her, as it was, talking to us, telling us what is happening .we are involved as she conveys her emotions to us. We sense her anxieties and fear, her moment of contemned, her assessments of her position, her weighing up of the future, her care for her finances, her horror and disgust at the various situations in which she finds herself or to which she has brought herself through her own actions.

Defoe’s use of Moll as the sole narrator gives her story credibility. She tells us the details of her life and this make them seem authentic. She speaks as someone like her would have spoken. She is not an intellectual figure; she is painfully – spoken, she is vigorous and direct in her approach, and she conveys very clearly her obsessions with making money and with achieving gentility and the security of family life

Defoe uses Moll to narrate his story. Thus he uses the first person .the first page is full of the word “ I ” and later pages as well. Only the preface gives us an objective view of her. Defoe does not employ the device of having other characters talking or writing about moll to any extent, so we are constantly watching her and her actions through her own eyes.

This has a number of benefits for Defoe, and one or two disadvantages .the first benefit he derives is immediacy .we hear Moll talking and feel her feelings and even live her thoughts.

The second benefit is credibility and authentic. Defoe is able to perform his tasks as a novelist far more easily because he can appeal directly to Moll’s consciousness of herself. Through her he can immediately give a guaranteed authentic picture of what his heroine thinks and feels at any given stage.

The third benefit Defoe derives from Moll’s first person narration is what we might call “ False Authenticity “. We know that Defoe, anxious about the status of fiction, dressed up his novels as true stories; naturally, Moll’s story somehow seems true, although it is not, because we have the illusion that she is telling it herself.

Defoe also gains, through his use of Moll as a narrator, an opportunity to present the particularity of the story, to depict then with vigor, with frankness and with immediacy. He does, however, also supply some passages in her story, which are more reflective, which point out the moral implications of the story. Moll’s words represent Defoe’s own reflections upon life, and so she is often made to attribute these comments and ideas to someone else, or to state them in a more objective, more orderly, and detached, prose than Moll normally uses.

In his novel, Defoe puts speech into the mouth of his characters which has the same liveliness .it may not be elegant or beautiful; it is not fine writing; but it is convincing and it leads the reader on hiding behind the persona of Moll, Defoe doesn’t need to be too concerned about writing beautiful English, about the balance and structure of sentences and paragraphs. Hence, there is no interesting vocabulary, no figures of speech, and above all no balance or symmetry. Nevertheless his narrative style is easy and flowing; one thing leads to another in a convincing way, the reader’s attention is captured and held .We notice that there is a considerable economy in this direct and immediate narration. Defoe saves pages of possibly tedious dialogues and we are at once masters of the situation.

The disadvantages of Defoe’s style have been mentioned or hinted at in the last part of the book. Defoe is debarred from a number of literary possibilities that might help him; he can’t transcend the limits of Moll’s mind, above all, he can’t refer to some apt quotation or story that comes from outside the world of the novel .As a result, his novel seems rather flat and mundane, and cut off from the main stream of 18th century cultural life. Moll Flanders seems strangely alien beside the work of Swift, Pope and Fielding, Moll herself is unable to get perspective on society as a whole, and Defoe is prevented from achieving a coherent moral attitude; it is in the end perhaps true to say that Moll Flanders is as interesting novel in detail but that is overall purpose and significance remain unclear.

There are two narrative voices in Moll Flanders .The first is Moll’s voice which is heard when moll recounts her adventures .The second is Defoe’s which generalizes, comments on the action, moralizes and discusses the wider implications of the actions we witness. This objective voice contradicts Moll’s subjective voice .The gap between the narrative voices makes the reader feel Moll speaking spontaneously to us and that her words represent Defoe’s own reflections upon life, and so she is often made to attribute these comments and ideas to someone else, or to state them in a more objective, more orderly and detached, prose than Moll normally uses.

2-Moll Flanders is a victim of circumstances. Discuss.



Defoe was deeply interested in the details of the life about him, partly because he wanted to present a convincingly realistic picture of that life, and partly because he had – no doubt because of his interest in trade – an intense curiosity about the cost of things.

Defoe was also interested in the isolations of Moll, which is always being abandoned. In the first forty-eight years of her life, she is abandoned, or has to abandon: her mother, the gypsies, the elder brother, Robin, the draper husband, her half-brother, the Bath gentleman, the banker, her Lancashire husband, and so on. Moll is also not always left penniless, but she is usually left alone and friendless.

Defoe, for all his respect for hard cash and hard facts, lived in a period when literature was expected to deal with moral issues from a largely Christian point of view, and he was not able or willing to ignore this expectation. Defoe is a realist, which means that his fiction aims to convey a credible impression of daily life. Not surprisingly, then this picture has world in which he lived. So he presented the life of Moll in the way it was. Moll lived in the time when the laws against stealing were at their hardest stage. The law had never been soft on the thieves. It has been estimated that during most of the 18 century, there were some hundred crimes for which hanging was the appropriate punishment as well as a number of crimes for which the punishment was to be burnt at the stake. The principal reason for this brutal legislation, was that society didn’t know what else to do with its criminals. In the 19 century, society preferred simply to get rid of the troublesome elements, and death is obviously the quickest way to achieve this. It was a heartless and cruel world by our standard at least for such as Moll who could not afford to be sentimental.
This crueler world is, of course, the natural basic ground to the novel. Another aspect of Moll world that is worth noticing concerns the value of money. These two aspects lead Moll to become the victim of the cost of living at that time. The presence of the great gap between the basic cost of daily survival – which seems extremely cheap – and the cost of anything luxurious or gentlemanly – which seems extremely expensive – led Moll to be victimized.

In Moll’s time, the gap between rich and poor was immense; and with no pensions, trade union or serious security, it was an insecure world in which lack of money was not only immediately obvious, but devastating fortune, which could only be acquired by inheriting or marriage. To be without the expensive out ward signs of gentility was to be excluded from civilized society and, indeed could mean been left to starve. The astonishing thing is how Moll, although an orphan, a servant, a prostitute and a thief, is consistent in her desire to be “ a gentle woman ”. She has to make do with some middle-class husbands and lovers, but she is happiest either at the bottom end of society, where her sum of money can keep her going for a long time, or at the top, riding about in a coach with a fine gentleman beside her.

The picture of the society that these points give us is one of radical isolation. The cruelty of the time indicates a lack of human warmth and sympathy. The financial precariousness of life is such that each man has to look out for him either stealing or trying to get married under a false identity. Moll is a woman who, from the earliest possible moment, had to dispense with the care and skill of assisting hands and fend for herself when young, can use her looks as a commodity which she sells in exchange for security, a husband, protection, food and drink. Later in life, impoverished and no longer marketable herself, she must turn to theft; she never really wants to sell herself or steal, but sometimes she admits that she enjoys the things she basically regrets doing.

At the center of the market, a place of the 18 century life stood marriage .a husband was an almost certain protection against poverty and want, and it was essential for a girl to get a husband at all costs. Marriage was a permanent institution involving the transfer and inheritance of property and was perhaps the major economic act most people’s lives. This was particularly true of the aristocracy and the rich, but it applied to the merchants and middle classes, too. In the case of Moll Flanders, we feel acutely the sense of insecurity of the bourgeois when poverty threatens. Moll herself learns early enough that, although it may be unromantic, marriage is generally regarded in an economic light, will love playing small pant. Moll is always trying to get money or to pretend that she has money, in order to attract men, and this even before her beauty has faded. Moll’s marriages are so closely bound up with her finances. Moll wants, literally, to have the best of both worlds. She wants her stolen wealth, safety to enjoy it, and time to repent so that she will be saved.
Necessity drives Moll to be immoral, she wants to repent and she expresses Christian horror at her own immorality. The best thing is to get rich and then avoid sin. Above all, a life of sin is insecure, guilt makes Moll unhappy and her life of crime is dangerous and uncertain, both in this world, where it leads to the gallows, and in the life to come, where it leads to hell. Everything, therefore, points to getting rich and then leading a secure, moral, guilt, free life. Moll only reaches this heaven at the very end of the story. Moll tries to secure herself both in this world and in heaven.





3-Discuss the relationship between the theme and structure in Defoe’s Moll Flanders.

The novel traces the life of Moll Flanders over seventy years. It is a picaresque novel, which follows the sequence of the events, good and bad, fortunate and unfortunate, in Moll’s life. The novel is a sequence of episodes in the form of series. These episodes are connected together by phrases such as “ in short ” and “ in a word ”. The episodes or adventures dealt with in this novel tend to be continuing in the same manner. Moll Flanders is a novel in which Moll is telling the story, her story, in consistency where she tend to react to situations in the same way throughout the novel because there is little development in her character throughout the novel. Moll Flanders operates on the surface level rather than on the deeper levels. It is a novel of immediate social questions, adventures and morals rather than a novel of psychological depths, broad social issues and personal development. Therefore, coincidence plays a large part in the sequence of the novel and story of Moll Flanders and this is clearly shown in the variety of themes presented in the novel. But however the major recurrent theme in the novel is that the greed – agreed which lead Moll to prostitution, thievery and moral disintegration – Moll sees people as commodities, her relationships with them as business transactions. For example, she is in love with the elder brother; she has few qualms about taking money from him. She then accepts a bribe from him to marry his brother Robin. She easily can sign her children to the care of their grand parents and considers herself lucky. She chooses husbands on the basis of their affluence or social class. She takes money for prostitution. She steals from children and from people in distress. It appears that Defoe consciously manipulates the reader to view Moll as a covetous individual. In fact, at nearly any point in the book, the reader is able to approximate what is Moll’s economic standing.

A very important theme in Moll Flanders is that vanity is the force that prevails over virtue. Moll’s vanity facilitates her seduction by the elder brother. It is also a strong motif, which runs through Moll’s five marriages and numerous lovers. It is a factor that precipitates her decision to steal rather than remain poor and exist only by the honest labor of her needle.

The theme of repentance is a recurring one in Moll Flanders; she constantly entertains the desire to repent. Lacking true moral persuasions, this repentance is until the end half-hearted and insincere. She lacks moral strength. Moll’s repentance seems more like regret for having underestimated her chances for a better arrangement. Moll has very shrewdly calculated the course of her life. Moll fears not for her spiritual state but for her physical being. Even during her stay in Newgate, Moll does not appear to really repent until quite some time after her talk with the pastor; the very fact that she insists on possession of earthly goods has much deeper meaning for Moll than does the acquisition of spiritual well being. The tears Moll weeps from time to time are merely an emotional release rather than a sign of true repentance.

Another theme is that of hardening. The question as to whether Moll ever really becomes a hardened criminal is an interesting one. We have seen that, motivated by greed, she has been able to commit the crassest of criminal act. But Defoe still reveals to us sentimental aspects of Moll’s personality that we cannot ignore. To say that she is a thief with a soul is to credit her with more depth than Defoe really shows as. We never saw the inner life of Moll. Yet it is evident that Defoe meant as to sympathize with Moll, and we are able to sympathize with her because he portrays her as a very likable woman, who despite thieving and prostitution, is well liked by her contemporaries, and seems to like them as well.

Defoe uses irony ingeniously in the passages telling us of Moll’s thoughts during her various crimes. He often portrays her as moralistic; for example, when she steals the necklace from the child in Aldergate Street, she feels she is actually doing the child a favor. Defoe didn’t want us to condone the action and condemn the parents. Through ironic humor he gives us insight into Moll’s attempts to rationalize her felonies.

Frequently Moll feels remorse, but it is a hollow one, for it neither leads her to curtail the particular crime nor prompt her to offer restitution. This is shown in her robbery of a woman whose house is on fire. Moll is shown as most compassion in her relationships with her various lovers and husbands. She seems to love truly the elder brother. She nurses her men when they are sick and loves them when they are well. Moll is an ambivalent character. She is a criminal, but a sympathetic one. Her good humor, compassion and sense of loyalty constantly color her life of crime.

The novel’s themes concern the survival of the individual in a not entirely sympathetic world. Moll lives in a period when life wasn’t easy for women. She recognizes and doesn’t seem to object to the dominant position of men in her society. She accepts the situation and works within it, she needs the protection of men, she wants to be a wife and a mother; she wants the domestic happiness she did not herself have as a child; and she wants financial security. Moll consistently wants to be considered a gentlewoman although inconsistently perhaps, she is obviously successful as a servant and, despite the terrifying risk of savage punishment, as a thief and a prostitute. This strong desire of hers for respectability reflects the nature of the society in which she has to make her way; it was one where gentility mattered, where respectability meant being above poverty and all the horror that was entailed. Defoe is telling the story of a career of crime as well as offering moral reflections upon its immorality.


4-Discuss Defoe’s success and fall in the description of the character of Moll Flanders?
Moll’s character, obviously, is the core of the novel. She narrates the entire novel and everything is presented as it happens to her or as it affects her. She reacts to different circumstances in different ways. But she remains much the same throughout the novel.

She has to make her way in the world and is often calculating and ruthless in doing so. She is determined and ingenious in pursuing her ambitions. Moll knows how to charm people and if they are nice people, the charm is genuine, but if they threaten her, she immediately starts to conceal things beneath the charm of the surface. For instance, she charms her LAN cashier husband and even manages to behave decently towards him when he reveals he is penniless. As soon as she discovers this, however, she at once conceals half her money from him while appearing openly to offer him all she has.

Moll is clever. This cleverness emerges honorably enough when she is a child but it is put to criminal use when she becomes a thief. It enables her to avoid arrest for a remarkably long time.

Moll is unfeeling except where she affords to be. She disposes children and husbands without many words of regret when it is most convenient to do so. But when, for example, at the end of the novel a child is useful to her and she can afford to stay near him, she shows signs of genuine gratitude and affection. Her attitudes toward her various husbands and her children are determined by self-interest.

Independent as she is, she is still prepared to accept the differences in the situation of the sexes and to use the protection of men even when she is herself more intelligent and efficient than they are. She is, for instance, the driving force behind the successful move to the New World.

Moll is very often faced with choices, should she marry Robin, should she take to crime and prostitution? Usually she has no option, but sometimes she hints at the bent of her own character towards a certain course of action.

Moll’s vanity and greed are the main focus of the characterization in the novel. Quite early in her life she had an all-consuming desire to become a gentlewoman. In a sense this desire throughout her life leads her into one misadventure after the other.

Moll’s gentle education is beyond her “station in life” with its concentration on music, French and writing rather than on vocational skill that could help her earn a living. To compound Moll’s problem she is excessively vain. Moll’s initial seduction is as much the result of her vanity.

Defoe reveals Moll as an avaricious woman who sees people even her own children, in economic terms. Defoe clearly reveals the difference between Moll’s recurrent but passing misgivings about her degeneration, and real her repentance. Her repeated “consideration” but continuing “adventures” shows Moll as essentially untouched emotionally and morally.

Non of the other characters are vividly portrayed in this book. They serve to reflect Moll. They are a backdrop to her actions. In fact, these characters seem rather unreal, shallow representations, often remaining nameless such as the elder brother, the “nurse”, the governess, the captain’s widow, the ship’s captain. Moll’s mother is another nameless character. Most of her husbands and lovers are known by their trades or station in life such as the draper, the gentleman at Bath, and the Lancashire husband.

Defoe by concentrating won one main character manages to keep his stories moving briskly. He was a spy, a secrete agent. As a result, he could adapt different personalities, being able to disguise himself, to assume different identities suited with his gathering of information. As an author he made use of these skills, which enables him to enter into, to play the part of, and invented character very successfully indeed. In this way he could gain immediacy, we feel the character is speaking directly to us; we also believe that the events narrated are true because the character’s actions, thoughts and reflections don’t come through an intermediary. But there is restriction upon the imaginative presentation of the material. We also notice that Moll is a static character; she is the same from the beginning to the end.

However Defoe’s achievement of characterization rested upon his ability to keep himself out of the story and to let his invented characters speak for themselves.




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