Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress

Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress Metaphors and Similes

"though she haunted me like an evil spirit" (simile)

Roxana uses this simile while complaining about Susan pursuing her, comparing Susan's persistent presence to an evil spirit. The simile is significant because it foreshadows Susan's probable death later in the novel, and the violent manner of her death. In most myths and legends, an individual is likely to come back as a spirit after death if they have unsettled business or vengeance to wreak. If Susan is murdered, she would be more likely to haunt her murderer. Roxana's simile is important because she is telling this story about how she felt at the time (prior to Susan's death) at a later point, after Susan is dead. The simile thus also reflects Roxana's guilt; she feels "haunted" by Susan because of her guilty conscience. Nonetheless, the simile also shows that Roxana is frustrated and wishes Susan would simply vanish; like a spirit, she could go back to whatever otherworldly place she came from. Because Susan moves in and out of Roxana's life so randomly and abruptly, she is almost like a spirit who shows up to torment Roxana.

"after the shipwreck of virtue, honour, and principle, and sailing at the utmost risk in the stormy seas of crime and abominable levity, I had a safe harbour presented, and no heart to cast anchor in it." (metaphor)

Roxana uses this extended metaphor while meditating on declining the marriage proposal from the Dutch Merchant. This metaphor again shows Roxana's retrospective perspective; at the time, when she declines the proposal, she has conviction about what she is doing, and believes that she is making the right choice. The metaphor compares Roxana to a boat navigating the sea of life, which is fraught with many dangers and perils. She has already been wrecked once (by having illicit sex in exchange for money and financial security), and her life is now like navigating through a storm, because she is in constant peril of discovery. Marriage to the Merchant represents a safe harbor; if she was with him, Roxana would not need to be afraid or insecure anymore. However, Roxana metaphorically refuses to anchor herself in said harbor; this part of the metaphor is interesting because while anchors can keep a ship safely in one place, they also represent a lack of freedom and motion. Marriage would curtail Roxana's freedom, even if it would also offer security. The metaphor also adds richness to the text since it echoes the event where Roxana actually does experience a storm at sea (while attempting to sail from France to Holland with Amy).

“an estate is a pond, but that a trade was a spring” (metaphor)

After Roxana returns to London, she begins to work with a financial advisor named Sir Robert Clayton, who gives Roxana advice on how to invest and grow her fortune. This includes discussing the different marriage offers that Roxana receives, from a financial perspective. This metaphor shows Sir Robert's perspective on why Roxana would be better off marrying someone with a prosperous business (such as a merchant) rather than an aristocrat. Sir Robert compares an estate (owning land and making money off of the crops and rent of that land) to a pond, where the amount of water is stable but limited, whereas owning a business (a trade) was like a spring, where new water was constantly coming in and circulating around. In Defoe's time, this perspective would have been quite novel and reflects a change in overall economic system towards capitalism and business. Traditionally, the model of aristocrats owning land and living off that land without ever actively pursuing a profession would have been held out as the ideal, but both Roxana and Sir Robert recognize that Roxana stands to have more money by marrying someone who may have lower social status, but actually greater lifetime earning potential. However, Roxana will still be tempted by the status of having a title, as will be shown when she considers jilting the Merchant for the Prince, and convinces the Merchant to buy her titles in both England and Holland.

"her hair and head-dress, I forget the name they gave it," said she, "shone like the stars, there were so many jewels in it." (simile)

When Susan describes her memory of seeing the Lady Roxana dancing in her Turkish dress, she uses a simile comparing Roxana's headdress and jewels shining like stars. The simile shows how impactful and striking this vision was for Susan; she would likely not ever have seen something as beautiful and exotic as Roxana's dress, and so this memory has always lingered in her mind. The impact of this is both positive and negative: it shows that Roxana was successful at creating an image that was burned in to the brain of anyone who saw her, but as a result, her attempt to later become anonymous is much more difficult. The simile shows Susan's limited frame of reference; she has not travelled or seen much of the world, so the only thing she can compare the glitter and beauty to are the stars. It also hints at the wistful nature of her longing for her mother, and reconnecting with the Lady Roxana: stars are visible, but far away, and often associated with wishes that may or may not be fulfilled. Susan has always treasured this memory of a striking woman, but may never be able to replicate it.

“His ignorance was a cordial to my soul” (metaphor)

Roxana uses this metaphor to describe the relief she feels when she confirms that her husband, the Dutch Merchant, is not at all suspicious about the strange things he hears from the Captain about Roxana having a new daughter. These comments are hints about Susan's true identity, but he innocently assumes that perhaps Roxana is pregnant. Roxana compares the Merchant's trust and lack of suspicion to a cordial (a sort of tonic or concoction designed to improve health, and also be soothing or pleasant to consume). It soothes and comforts her, relieving the discomfort of being worried about him finding out about her fate. This metaphor reveals that the Merchant is truly a positive influence in Roxana's life and a force for good. At the same time, what soothes Roxana is not honesty, but the ability to get away with her lies.