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Penguin Classics Moll Flanders [Paperback]

Daniel Defoe , David Blewett
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 24 2003 Penguin Classics
Moll Flanders is born in Newgate prison and abandoned six months later. Her drive to find a secure place in society propels her through incest, adultery, bigamy, prostitution, and a resourceful career as a thief, before she is returned to Newgate.

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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.

Review


"A very helpful edition of Moll Flanders with its informative introduction and especially its thorough endnotes. It is an edition especially helpful for undergraduates who do not have such a broad knowledge of the 18th century laws, social problems, etc."--Judith B. Slagle. Carson-Newman College


"Excellent edition has all of the necessary 'extras': introduction and notes, both reflecting excellent scholarship."--Arline Garbarini, Dominican College


--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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

Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Assertive Adventurer 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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5.0 out of 5 stars The first great female character in English prose Oct. 21 2003
By A Customer
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Moll Sins But Does Not Repent Sept. 14 2003
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Wondrous Insight July 9 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
First off, it is surprising to me to read a male author so comfortable in the female perspective. But DeFoe definitely is comfortable and superb as he presents the 'memoirs' of Moll Flanders from the time that she is given up by her mother in Newgate through a turbulent and action packed life. He presents her flawed choices as reasonable under the circumstances in each case. And what choices they are!
The best punch is about three quarters of the way through the book when she is starting to get on in years and is trying to better her position through marriage. He, through her, chastises women who put too little value on themselves. He/She spells out certain rules to gain control in relationships with men and how to best watch for your own interests. It struck me that this would be useful information for a young girl to read today (or any unmarried woman for that matter).
If you are concerned about giving a book to a young girl that contains premarital sex, theft and a score of other things you wouldn't want her to do - don't be. DeFoe presents the memoirs as a warning, a parable if you will, and Ms. Flanders is always repentent. This is standard DeFoe style - and a wonderful story.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Wrong Order
wrongly ordered. Did not know that it was a German version as my German is very elementary to say the least
Published 2 months ago by Thomas Dickens
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating!
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... Read more
Published on July 1 2012 by Pierre Gauthier
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable
I enjoyed it quite a bit. It's a dark, sad, searching psychological novel along the lines of Roxana, also by Defoe. Read more
Published on June 13 2012 by Mark Nenadov
4.0 out of 5 stars A True Tale of the Era
I especially enjoyed this novel as an honest account of the Victorian days and a story of a woman longing to be in high society, but not born to be part of it. Read more
Published on Dec 14 2005 by Lisa
5.0 out of 5 stars Moll Flanders
I particularly loved this book. I thought it was very cleverly written. I was able to get into the character's life situations and I always wanted to see what would happen to the... Read more
Published on Jan. 24 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Controversial
Obviously, this novel is about a prostitute. The writing accompanies this woman's journey without being dry or repetitive. Read more
Published on Dec 22 2003 by Alane Fuller
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Language, Bad Plot
Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe is neither the best nor the worst book I have ever read. I have long been a lover of classical language. Read more
Published on April 21 2003 by Karen Duhai
5.0 out of 5 stars Moll Flanders could be a character of today
Moll Flanders was written by Daniel Defoe, the same author of Robinson Crusoe. Although the settings are different, we can see many similarities between the stories, like the... Read more
Published on Nov. 13 2002 by J R Zullo
3.0 out of 5 stars Moll Flanders
This book is about a woman, Moll Flanders, who was born in a prison and raised by a governess that brought her up as a "gentlewoman". Read more
Published on July 17 2002 by superbookdude
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