Moll Flanders - by Daniel Defoe (REVIEW)
First published in 1722, Moll Flanders is the first ever crime novel. Because of this ingenuity in an unknown genre, the crime depicted is not at all what we might think of nowadays. The crime is more rudimentary -- based on theft and misconceptions -- but, at the time, even smaller crimes than these were punishable by death.
Taking a more formalist route, I am going to talk about the contents (story, plot, dynamic), thinking that the work itself is self-sufficient, and while I do take into consideration the historical implications of the novel and the social-political climate of the 18th century Great Britain and the Americas, they would only provide a background for the actual storyline presented, not the main focus. This being said, as it is mentioned at the beginning of the story, this work is supposed to be an autobiography of Moll Flanders (Moll is not even her real name, which will remain a mystery throughout the plot) and I will treat it as such, albeit this is an intricate, at the time, stylistic choice of structure. Without anything more to add at this point moving forward, my review is this:
Moll is actually reliving her past life, mistakes and choices, at an older age, almost like she is writing in a journal meant to explain her actions. Even so, she seems most of the times detached of all of it, thus making her a criminal later in life only by society's standards. She starts her story as a child, a poor one but who aspires to be wealthy and feel secure. At this time, she is taken to reside in a wealthier house, there falling in love with the oldest son. But this won't last long, because of the affections of the other brother, whom she marries in the end and has 2 children. Upon his death, she leaves the house and the kids (things she will do again many times throughout her life) and finds another husband that will leave her. Moll always tries to find stability, going from man to man, bearing children, but she never quite gets what she wants. She even goes to the Colonies and has a family, but with her brother and yet this accident of fate will bring her a little fortune in the near-future. She finally meets her love but they both get into their marriage being fooled and having close to no money to sustain themselves. This provokes another break, Moll gets into another relationship but the banker, her husband, dies as well. This will get Moll on the wrong path, getting good at stealing and even once disguising herself into a man. The police, incompetent, cannot apprehend her and she escapes them on multiple occasions. A small incident will get her caught in the end and even sent to trial. Somehow, her wits and nice words will get her a ride to the Colonies with her love, whom is guilty of being a highwayman. They are somewhat set free, gather some money, Moll talks with her son (from her brother's side) and she lives happily ever after, albeit she was a criminal.
Moll is forced, in a way, to become a criminal and her intelligence saves her on many occasions from hanging. While she might not be the best mother or woman, she tries to life a happy and peaceful life. Destiny makes it that she will live that life after all the struggles.
I, for one, enjoyed the novel. It has a more difficult structure, it doesn't read as easy as other canon novels in the mystery & crime genre but I appreciate the talent put into creating a more ambiguous character, even more so if, apparently, it's recollecting its own story. For those who are interested in the beginning affairs of different genres or experiments in a new territory, I would recommend it because this book made it possible for others to improve in the crime genre.
Taken as it is presented, it is an interesting read and it evokes through the eyes of the protagonists a world of despair and unfairness and insecurity all around, something that even nowadays we can relate to.