Moll Flanders: a Woman's Guide to Survival

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Moll Flanders; A Guide to Women’s Survival

Throughout Daniel Defoe’s telling of Moll Flanders there is a persistent struggle between what is right and what is necessary. As readers we are somewhat jaded in terms of the novel’s setting; history gives us those details. However, Moll gives us an idea of what life was actually like rather than what history depicts life to be for women in the 18th century. Moral conduct, marriage, and expectation governed her existence. Today, the general population seems to feel that we, as a society, have come a long way with regard to the roles of and opportunities for women. It is important to interject here that I feel there is some truth to that. Alternatively, I found Moll’s character terribly relatable, not only to myself, but to many of my friends living in the glorious and enlightened 21st century. Those gender roles that were so adequately defined centuries ago are still very much alive and well in our world today. From the beginning, we are meant to understand that Moll is not only born into a dire situation, but that she learns quickly she would prefer something different. There is little talk of childlike naivety, but rather an understanding that there is something better out there for her. As a young girl she realizes she wants to be a Gentlewoman. Although the young ladies in her house live that life without thought, and in complete openness to Moll, her idea of what a Gentlewoman is seems to be somewhat different from what is so obviously represented to her. She seems to realize that the lives of the women in that house held no power; she knew the

Keith, page 2
difference as a child. She knew that to attain the status of an upper class woman she would have to seize it. It’s as if something clicked in the quiet confines of her small and insignificant daily life - the power of a woman lies within what she takes, not what she is given. Defoe wrote his tale during a time that marriage, by...
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