MollFlanders.docx - Michaela Bergsman 12/2/11 ENG 221...

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Michaela Bergsman 12/2/11 ENG 221 Femininity in Moll Flanders The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flandersis one of the earliest novels and also one of the earliest stories about a strong woman character that defies the conventional role of femininity. Moll is a resourceful woman who knows how to adapt in order to overcome the struggles she faces in her life (mostly alone.) Moll depends on men for security, however no more than she absolutely has to, and she uses them merely as tools in order to gain opportunities for her independence.Despite her criminal deeds, Moll possesses an air of confidence that makes her endearing to the reader.InThe Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders, Defoe demonstrates his sensitivity to the conflict of the roles of women in the 18thcentury and uses Moll Flander to capture this conflict through Moll’s flexible moral codes; she is able to be a thief, a whore, a husband-seeker, and in her 70’s, a gentlewoman. Moll Flanders, as a strong woman protagonist of the 18th century, displays unusual characteristics such as intelligence, practicality, and self- sufficiency throughout the beginning, middle, and end of her story, making her tale an easily identifiable early feminist survival novel. Within the opening section, the reader is subjected to the severity of the justice system during that time.“Moll's retirement from a similarly tumultuous
personal history suggests a crude parallel between her life and the life of the nation.” (Women, Work, Rearguard Politics, and Defoe’s Moll Flanders.) The century experienced a drastic increase in crime, particularly those that were punishable by death. Moll, like her mother, is lucky; she receives a sentence of transportation to America instead of the standard practice, execution. Moll’s life is that of isolation. Her isolation begins as her being an orphan, the first abandonment in a long line of abandonments in Moll’s lifespan.Moll’s aloneness demonstrates one of Defoe’s favorite themes.Although she lives in the middle of a crowded city, she possesses very few personal relationships, and on the rare occasion that she does find true companionship, it is not dwelled on in the novel.The beginning of Moll’s life is not only solitary, it is rocky and difficult, however, her story is one of empowerment and survival. Her ability to separate herself from the band of gypsies that take her in at the age of three is a display of the heroine’s ability to steer and manipulate the events of her life. While Moll may often be at the mercy of the circumstances life hands her, her lack of companionship forces her to rely on her own opinions in order to establish herself as a gentlewoman.
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