Be afraid, be very afraid!

 

J. Paul Hunter discusses the moralists concern for the novel rooted specifically in young women readers. He says of the lower class women in particular that their “heads might be turned and their passions inflamed” (Hunter 22). At least this was the reasoning behind the moralists’ fears, but how valid were their fears? Novelists themselves attempted to defend their writings by claiming to recommend high morals (Hunter 21).

I believe that this defense could be taken as a confession. It sounds as though moralists are afraid that novels will change these lower class women’s ways of thinking and they will no longer depend on a higher authority for their belief systems such as the church or, God forbid, the moralists themselves! Novelists admit that they write for the purpose of supporting one way of thinking over another, always what the author considers moral. Yet what happens if an author supports a “moral” way of thinking that is not directly from the moral authorities? Defoe hints at strong ideas when he suggests that a woman left on her own, “is just like a bag of money…which is prey to the next comer” (Defoe149). Defoe’s character of Moll not only directly considers the problems in the inequalities for women, but she many times experiences the very effects throughout the novel. Although Defoe considers it moral to put issues of inequality in the heads of his female readers, the moralists would surely consider it as turning heads, though not in the way they may have thought.

I say that the authorities of the time, moral or otherwise, have a valid reason to worry. Their jobs could become obsolete and the “weaker” minds of the time could be swayed against the original intentions of their superiors. Not long after this, women begin to fight for rights through legislation, especially in the next century. Feminist ideas come to a head and women begin to see the injustice of their status in society. Women, as improper as it is, begin to think about their own situation and how to better it without a man’s aid. I wonder how much the novel had to do with that. Since women may have been the majority of readers, how different would women’s rights be today without the novel (Hunter 22)?

Defoe, Daniel. Moll Flanders. Toronto : Broadview, 2005. 45-334. Print.

Hunter, J. Paul. “The Novel and Society/Cultural history. Editor John Richett. 1996. Print.

Moll Flanders – I Married My Brother?

A large part of Moll’s story is all about her marriages to different men, and how those marriages carry out over time.  All of her marriages seemed plausible until she comes to the realization that she has in fact married her brother, and that her mother-in-law is in reality her birth mother.  This situation was not expected whatsoever, and once Moll’s revelation about the truth of the situation occurs, it is hard not to stop and try to take in everything that just took place.  Being an 18th century novel, much of what the story is focused on is the plausibility of situations that characters in their respective novels are put in.  The plausibility of happening upon your brother, from your birth mother, whom you never knew anything about, and eventually marrying him, does not seem in the least bit plausible.  When Moll reveals to him that he married his sister she “saw him turn pale, and look wild,” just as any person who might have found they married their sister would react.  It is possible Defoe included the incident to show the continuous misfortune of Moll, and her bad luck in finding a suitable husband, especially in a society where being married was such an important aspect of life.

Moll Flanders is a work of fiction, but given the time period in which it was written, it seems out of place to have an event so unlikely to happen, actually take place.