The LainiBop Challenge
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This is a book which I read back in college as part of my degree, after finding it amongst a load of books at home I realised I couldn’t really remember any details of it, so there it found itself, on my To Be Read Mountain.
Before I start this review, I must note that in the last year I attempted to read another Daniel Defoe novel, Robinson Crusoe, without much luck. I got so infuriated with the book and the character that I had to leave it unfinished. I can almost count on both hands how many times that has happened to me in my life, I hate not finishing books, but I will put them down if they do me wrong. Having said this, I was sure that I had finished Moll Flanders some years ago, so thought I would give it another shot.
Moll is the daughter of a thief who went to Newgate prison while pregnant and got a short reprieve by “pleading her belly”. After Moll was born, she was left in the care of random people it seems and spent the first few years of her life with gypsies before running away from them. She was then taken in my a young woman who ran a type of school for orphans and misfits and when the time came for Moll to leave to find work, she begged to be allowed to stay and help some more. Eventually Moll ends up working for a family who take her in. She is a servant/nanny/and surrogate daughter it seems, and has the benefit of being educated with the 2 daughters of the family. However this could not last for long, as the 2 sons of the family begin to fall in love with her. The eldest woos her with false promises of marriage, while using her as his mistress and when the younger claims that he is in love with her and wants to marry her straight away, her virtue has already been taken. And so begins Moll’s life of crime, prostitution, and even polygamy.
The life and world that Moll describes is completely alien to us now. She talks a lot of trying to find a husband for example. She wants to find a rich man to marry who will support her as she has never had much money of her own. This is not uncommon, even now, but what was strange to me is that all the men wanted was to find a rich wife to support them also. Many of the men she found, had made money from leasing land or an inheritance, and many of them didn’t work. Moll has to pretend that she is rich in order to find someone to marry her, and because she doesn’t want to be accused of lying to them, she dresses in fancy clothes and implies that she is rich, so that when they marry her and find out that she has no money, they cannot say that she deceived them. Apparently Daniel Defoe was born Daniel Foe and added the “aristocratic sounding De” to his name in order to imply rich ancestors.
Throughout her life, Moll has many husbands, and also many children. I’m not sure if it was because the author was male or simply that that’s the type of character Moll is but she abandons children all over the place, much like she herself was abandoned. She mentions her children, as in to say, “I had 2 children with him” but then we hear nothing more of them after this. We know that some of them, she had to leave for various reasons, but even one which she talked of having to find money to feed, was never mentioned after that. She travels all over the place, but never talks of all the children and where they are.
I’m not sure how believeable Moll Flanders is. As it was written in 1722, I suppose it could be realistic for the time, but there is a lot contained within the pages which defy belief. Having said that, it is a very entertaining read. You really get caught up in Molls life and the opinions of the times too, where everything is a scandal and your virtue is the most important thing you have as a young woman. We see her ups and downs, we love her then hate her, we admire her bravery then scorn her thievery. Moll is basically a woman who having lost a fair chance at a good life early on, will now do anything she needs to to survive.
Fancy a read? Find FREE ebooks below:
Project Gutenbers: Moll Flanders
Amazon: Moll Flanders
iTunes: Moll Flanders
Youtube: Film: The Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders starring Alex Kingston (1996)
(Note: NOT the Robin Wright version which is nothing like the original story at all!)