Moll Flanders

Moll Flanders as Moral Heroine

Much of the critical debate surrounding Daniel Defoe's novel Moll Flanders centers around whether the author makes good on the promise he makes in the preface that the story will be morally instructive. For instance, Ira Konigsberg writes that "One of the book's contradictions that Defoe never resolves is in the conflicting arguments for necessity and morality" (37). This seems to be a misunderstanding; for Defoe, necessity is part of morality and vice versa. It is certainly tempting to view that perspective as an indication of irony, but Defoe was not, contrary to popular opinion, writing an ironic novel. In actuality, he was writing a very realistic novel which expressed not only his own, but much of society's view that the sixteenth century had seen a tonal shift in morality, moving away from religious values rooted in the Middle Ages toward a value system based on a religious suspicion of indigence and sloth. The moral lesson contained in Moll Flanders is that she is a virtuous example of the new paradigm of the individual that Defoe envisioned as being crucial to maintaining the growth of England that was promised by the emerging economic structure of the 18th century.

That Moll Flanders is meant to...

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