The technique and perspective of the narrative voice in Moll Flanders by Defoe
What is it that makes a reader believe some narrators and disbelieve others and why do some stories told by narrators seem to the reader lacking in part? How then does a reader interpret and respond to unreliable, fictional narrative texts? When a reader is engaging in a narrative; in this case Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders; they want to find a sense of continuity, reliability and reassurance from the narrative; so the story seems plausible; even if the content is unfamiliar or somewhat surreal. In this essay I will try to bring relevant critical response to the Wayne Booth conceptualised the terms ‘unreliable’ and ‘reliable’ narrators, which has served as a definition in the majority of narratological textbooks since 1961. ‘I have called a narrator reliable when he speaks for or acts in accordance with the norms of the work (which is to say, the implied author’s norms), unreliable when he does not.’ The reader joins Moll in her later years, and is able to appreciate the hardships that she has been through, Moll states that she has no one to advise or assist her, claiming that “by experience, that to be Friendless is the worst Condition, next to being in want, that a Woman can be reduc’d to:”. It is the narrators’ word that we take and trust in assuming that she has not a single person to turn to in her time of need. The reader is drawn into a state of feeling pity and sympathy for Moll; regardless of her previous conduct; and perhaps in doing so Defoe is premeditating the emotive responses that the reader will feel for Moll. It could be argued that in ‘setting up’ the reader in this way, Defoe is wanting to excuse Moll of some ‘yet to be discovered’ misconduct that she may be about to perform. However, from the onset of the novel, the reader has already been lied to by Moll, with the concealment of her true name, which Moll claims “is so well known in the Records, or Registers...
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