Monday, July 1, 2013

Moll Flanders

Author: Daniel Defoe
Originally published:1722
Length: 339 pages
Source: Local library
Challenge(s): 18th Century Challenge, 1001+

Personal Enjoyment Factor: 3/5

I found by experience, that to be friendless is the worst condition, next to being in want that a woman can be reduced to: I say a woman, because 'tis evident men can be their own advisers, and their own directors, and know how to work themselves out of difficulties and into business better than women; but if a woman has no friend to communicate her affairs to, and to advise and assist her, 'tis ten to one but she is undone.

I love that there is a built-in summary in the long version of the title:

The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders, &c. Who was Born in Newgate, and during a Life of continu'd Variety for Threescore Years, besides her Childhood, was Twelve Year a Whore, five times a Wife (whereof once to her own Brother), Twelve Year a Thief, Eight Year a Transported Felon in Virginia, at last grew Rich, liv'd Honest, and died a Penitent. Written from her own Memorandums.

For modern readers, this may take all the fun out of reading a novel. Back in the 18th Century I suppose it might have been great advertising.  I found it pretty captivating in the beginning, but had to really force myself to keep turning the pages near the end. Moll is a great character because you can admire her one minute, and then be horrified by her actions the next. She gets herself out of devastating situations that a woman without many options would face at that time.  It's sink or swim, and she not only keeps her head above the water, but she makes it to the finish line in first place. On the other hand, she steals from children, takes advantage of people in the midst of tragedies, and tells a lot of lies.  But overall I admired her determination.  In the 17th century, when her story takes place, she survived by becoming a prostitute and a thief, and, perhaps most importantly, managing her money well.  In today's world, she would surely be near the top of the corporate ladder, breaking glass ceilings, without having to commit any crimes.

I read this as part of o's celebration of 18th Century Literature in June.  I really would have liked to have read more.  If only I had a nickel for every time I've said that.