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Moll Flanders: The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders Paperback – Oct 3 1989

4.1 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (Oct. 3 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140433139
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140433135
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 281 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #496,783 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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The recent adaptation of Moll Flanders for Masterpiece Theater is a book-lover's dream: the dialogue and scene arrangement are close enough to allow the viewer to follow along in the book. The liberties taken with the tale are few (some years of childhood between the gypsies and the wealthy family are elided; Moll is Moll throughout the tale, rather than Mrs. Betty; Robert becomes Rowland, etc.) and the sets avoid the careless anachronism of the movie version released earlier this year.

The breasts, raised skirts, tumbling hair and heavy breathing on the small screen might catch you by surprise if you don't read the book carefully (as might Moll's abandonment of her children on more than one occasion). Unlike his near-contemporary John Cleland (_Fanny Hill_), Defoe was trying to keep out of jail, and so didn't dwell on the details of "correspondence" between Moll and her varied lovers. But on the page and on the screen, Moll comes across quite clearly as a woman who might bend, but refuses to break, and who is intent on having as good a life as she can get.

E. M. Forster in Aspects of the Novel considers Moll and her creator's art in some detail. While he finds much to criticize in Defoe's ability to plot (where did those last two children go, anyway?), he is as besotted with Moll as I am. Immoral? Sure -- but immortal, and never, ever dull. We hope at least a few of the viewers of the recent adaptation take a couple hours to discover the original, inimitable Moll Flanders. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“The brilliance of Moll Flanders, and of the best of Defoe’s other novels, is that they dramatize the uncertainty that goes with the opportunism, and show us a world in which, if you can make yourself, you can lose yourself too.” –from the Introduction by John Mullan

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First Sentence
My True Name is so well known in the Records, or Registers at Newgate, and in the Old-Baily,1 and there arc some things of such Consequence still depending there, relating to my particular Conduct, that it is not to be expected I should set my Name, or the Account of my Family to this Work; perhaps, after my Death it may be better known; at present it would not be proper, no, not tho' a general Pardon should be issued, even without Exceptions and reserve of Persons or Crimes. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on March 19 2004
Format: Paperback
"Who was Born in Newgate, and during a Life of continu'd Variety for threescore years, besides her childhood, was Twelve Year a Whore, five times a Wife (Whereof once to her own Brother) Twelve Year a Thief, Eight Year a Transported Felon in Virginia, at last grew Rich, liv'd Honest, and died a Penitent" (original title page), this is the beginning of an exciting book, Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe. It is written in elevated language making it a difficult, but rewarding read. The novel is an accounting of the narrator, Moll's life. The focus is on how Moll deals with the hardships of her life and with being a woman in the seventeenth century. Defoe does an excellent job of showing how Moll's experiences change her outlook.
Moll Flanders was written in 1683, during a time in which women were considered subservient to men. Women were expected to get married and be content with the household affairs. However, money was the key, without it one would be unable to find a husband of position that would be a good provider. If a woman, like Moll, found herself alone and herself to rely upon, she discovered that there were not many options available, "I found by experience, that to be Friendless is the worst Condition, next to being in want, that a Woman can be reduc'd to: I say a Women, because 'tis evident Men can be their own Advisers, and their own Directors, and know how to work themselves out of Difficulties and into Business better than women; but if a Woman has no Friend to Communicate her Affairs to, and to advise and assist her, tis' ten to one but she is undone" (121). Men dominated the business world and women were never taught to manage their own affairs or given the skills to enable them to make it in the business world. In fact, it was illegal for most women to do so.
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Format: Audio CD
It is difficult to believe that this audacious novel was written by the same author as Robinson Crusoe, that classic among all that is definitely traditional and even somewhat staid!

Here, a very independent minded woman pretends to tell us her life story marked with bigamy, theft, incest, embezzlements, etc.

Since the overall plot is described from the start, the whole suspense lies in how what is announced will actually fit in (it does).

The novel may be read at multiple levels since the degree of truthfulness on the narrator's part is of course questionable given that she tells the reader about her life based on deceiving others.

She certainly seems completely amoral and her single motivation appears to be money. Thus, in very modern fashion, her loyalties vary according to her own interest. For much of the work, she complains that she has no friend but has no qualms time and again to abandon her own children. She does develop a very close relationship with another woman, although it seems to be somewhat unidirectional in her favour. If it was as intimate as one may deduce, it certainly would have been completely scandalous in her days. Although the author does not shy away from providing precise details in many instances, he remains elusive on this account.

This enthralling work written three centuries ago is very pertinent today and warmly recommended to all (adult) readers.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I think MOLL FLANDERS is my favorite novel of all time. The novel form was in its infancy at the time MOLL FLANDERS was written. In fact, Defoe is often called "the father of the English novel." Actually, as a novel it's very primitive. Defoe's fiction is usually a first person narrative told by an ambitious person, recounting how he got where he is today. In Moll Flanders, Defoe presents the autobiography of a woman who rises from an ignominious birth in Newgate Prison, and a childhood as a servant. Early on, Moll learns that she is beautiful and that she is attractive to the opposite sex. What's great about the book is its delicious irony. Oh there are times when she gets caught in her own traps, she's a sly one, that Moll. It's very difficult at times to think of Moll as a fictional character. But she is, in fact, the first great female character in English prose. I never cease to be amazed that the book was written by a man. There are moments in the book that I find very moving, like when she realizes that she's no longer pretty enough to attract men without resorting to makeup. "I never had to paint my face before." And of course there's that unsettling surprise she receives toward the end of the novel. This is a great and important book and hardly anyone has read it. I don't know why. I have recommended this book to probably a hundred people. To the best of my knowledge, not a single one of them has taken my advice. It's their loss. I LOVE Moll Flanders.
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Format: Paperback
It is a shame that for most Americans the only knowledge that they have of Defoe's MOLL FLANDERS is that which was taken from the various movie and television adaptions. The screen Moll focuses on the superficially glitzy part of what Defoe meant to be the edifying tale of a street trollop who uses her wits unrepentingly to enrich herself without worrying about the consequences. The transition of Moll from page to screen leaves out the feeling that life was, for her, one long debit page with the cost of an item to be balanced by its functional use.
Moll did not start out as an unregenerate guttersnipe. At the book's start, Defoe is careful to portray her as the innocent lamb cast adrift in a sea of unscrupulous men. The world of Moll Flanders, the England of the 17th century, was not one designed to harbor any illusions that innocence could long remain that way in the face of ubiquitous lechery and poverty. Moll is seduced, then abandoned, and at the ripe age of 16,must fend for herself. The only coin that she retains to provide herself with the necessities of life is the one that she sits on.
MOLL FLANDERS is unique among fallen from virtue women tales in its structure and incessant theme that to survive in an immoral world, one must be more immoral than everyone else. The novel itself is not divided into chapters. It is simply one very long series of vignettes, extending over many years, that portray Moll as the most infamous flat character in English literature. Moll's story can be summarized thusly: Moll steals, Moll eludes the law, Moll has innumerable (and unnamed) children, Moll commits incest (unknowingly) with her brother, Moll gets caught and is imprisoned. Throughout all of this, Moll changes not a whit.
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