How should readers interpret the seeming contradictory character that Daniel Defoe presents in Moll Flanders? Is her penitence a construction of irony? While the question of irony was prominent in the earlier criticism of the 1950s and 1960s, most scholars have moved away from that question, acknowledging the existence of various types of irony and validating the true reformation of Moll. Critics are now articulating other subtle and complex authorial strategies in Moll Flanders besides the use of irony, crediting Defoe with more of what it takes to be a “father of the novel.” Newer critical methodologies involving class and gender are also playing a role in establishing Defoe as advocate of social change.
Unfortunately, critics dealing with Moll Flanders lack as yet a truly definitive text from which to work. The best one can do is to stay with texts founded on the first 1722 edition. Texts taken from later editions, the second and third and later, may be abridged, and scholars have persuasively argued that such editions do not reflect Defoe’s intentions or revisions. Despite the short-comings in textual scholarship on the novel, recent years have seen no dearth of literary criticism.
Defoe as innovative developer of narrative technique in the novel is a considerable topic of conversation in critical circles. No longer are we hearing complaints about artificially connected, episodic writing and plot inconsistencies. Ian Watt notes a “lack of co-ordination between the different aspects of [Defoe’s] narrative purpose” (118) in “Moll Flanders•, as well as denying a conscious and consistent employment of irony, but he also praises Defoe for …
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…ect or influence the opinions of his audience? Moll’s associations with America involve corruption and incest, from which she flees and later embraces. She gains success in America only to return to England to spend her last years. Is this how Defoe depicts the correct approach to colonial existence? What further implications are there in the colonial experiences presented in “Moll Flanders•? The addressing of these questions involving feminist and post-colonial studies will likely yield enriching scholarship in the criticism of Daniel Defoe’s “Moll Flanders•.”
Defoe, Daniel. “The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders•. 1722. Ed. And Intro. David Blewett. London: Penguin Books, 1989.
Defoe, Daniel. “Moll Flanders•. Ed. and Intro. J. Paul Hunter. The Crowell Critical Library. New York: Y. Crowell Co., 1970.
Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe – Friday the Savage? Defoe Robinson Crusoe Essays
Robinson Crusoe: Friday the Savage? By definition, a savage is an uncivilized person. Friday would not fit this description because he was civilized. He was a product of the civilization that surrounded him where he came from. His appearance, behaviors, and beliefs were that of all the others in what might be called his tribe. The simple fact that he had religious beliefs is evidence of him being somewhat civilized. A savage can also be thought of as anyone or anything not European. Clearly Friday was not European, yet his features were not consistent with what would normally be considered savage. He is described as having a very good Countenance, not a fierce and surly Aspect, he had all the Sweetness and Softness of an European in his Countenance too, His Hair was long and black, not curld like Wool, The Colour of his Skin was not quite black, but very tawny; and yet not of an ugly yellow nauseous tawny, as the Brasilians, and Virginians, and other Natives of America are, and his Nose small, not flat like the Negroes, a very good mouth, thin Lips, and his fine Teeth well set, and white as Ivory (Defoe 205). When the two characters meet, Friday approaches Robinson Crusoe in a very sedate manner, Friday is terrified yet he does not lash out at Robinson Crusoe. He does not seem wild, ferocious or barbaric in any way. He uses sign language at first to communicate, which indicates knowledge of some sort of primitive language. He is quick to learn Robinson Crusoes language and is eager to learn more while Robinson Crusoe stays clear of learning Fridays language. It is apparent that Friday has religious or spiritual beliefs right from the beginning. When Robinson Crusoe saves Friday from the savages that brought him to the island to devour him, Friday is extremely grateful and he offers himself as an eternal servant to Robinson Crusoe. At last he lays his Head flat upon the Ground, close to my Foot, and sets my other Foot upon hi shead, as he had done before; after this made all the Signs to me of Subjection, Servitude, and Submission imaginable, to let me know, how he would serve me as long as he livd (Defoe 206). After it became evident that Friday was not a threat of any sort, Robinson Crusoe was grateful for his presence. Friday would become a valuable asset for the daily activities of Robinson Crusoes habitation. All that Robinson Crusoe had filled his days with before the arrival of Friday had become easier by the hands of two men rather than one. Fridays ability to work as diligently as he did is an indication of him being civilized. Along with teaching Friday to speak his language, Robinson Crusoe also made attempts to retrain his eating habits. Friday was a cannibal like those who had brought him to the island in the first place. He enjoyed consuming flesh and Robinson Crusoe made it clear to Friday that this was not acceptable behavior. With reference to the savages that Robinson Crusoe had saved Friday from, making signs to me that we should dig them up again, and eat them (Defoe 206). I found Friday had still a hankering Stomach after some of the Flesh, and was still a Cannibal in his nature I had by some Means let him know, that I would kill him if he offerd it (Defoe 208). In time Robinson Crusoe teaches Friday to eat the meat of animals rather than hmans. When asked about his religious beliefs, Friday at first does not understand but eventually he tells of an old Benamuckee, that livd beyond all (Defoe 216). After many questions, Robinson Crusoe took it upon himself to teach religion to his newfound friend. I began to instruct him on the Knowledge of the true God (Defoe 216). Friday was eager to learn. He asked questions that were not always easy to answer but at the same time he absorbed every word that came out of Robinson Crusoes mouth. Friday was a faithful and loyal companion. Defoe allowed Robinson Crusoe to remain abandoned on this island for many years before Friday appeared. There was a gradual build-up to his arrival and their meeting. Fridays deliverance from certain death was the beginning of Robinson Crusoes preparation for going back home. He was alone on this island without contact with the outside or civilized world for so long that there needed to e some sort of reorientation to civilization. The appearance of Friday was the first stepping stone towards getting reacquainted with other mankind. Robinson Crusoe needed to regain the ability to trust in those who came to the island in order for him to find his way back home.