Friday, October 10, 2008

Scandalous No More

38. Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe

Probably the most shocking element of this eighteenth century pseudo-biography is the lack of chapter divisions.

The title page reads like that of a wanted poster or freak show advertisement of the era,

The Fortunes and Misfortunes
of the Famous
Moll Flanders
Who was Born in NEWGATE (famous London prison) blah blah blah Twelve Year a Whore, five times a Wife (whereof once to her own Brother) twelve Year a Thief etc.

I'm sure the book was exciting and 'novel' at the time (there's still some debate as to whether it is a novel or not), but now it's fairly tame, there are no explicit sex scenes, no excessive drink or drugs, just a woman very determined never to work for a living, no matter how she manages it.

I can appreciate that Moll is a very complex character, with many motivations (though primarily monetary), and that Defoe represents many crucial themes of his time including capitalism and moral responsibility. It also might be funny to see it marketed to trophy wives. However, really, the sensationalist reading of the eighteenth century does not have appeal for me, neither does Moll's rambling dialect. Leave this one to the scholars.

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