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Moll Flanders (Modern Library Classics) Paperback – June 11, 2002

4.0 out of 5 stars 186 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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

“Defoe’s excellence it is, to make me forget my specific class, character, and circumstances, and to raise me while I read him, into the universal man.” —Samuel Taylor Coleridge
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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library Classics
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; Modern Library edition (June 11, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375760105
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375760105
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (186 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,652,456 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By mp on August 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
Daniel Defoe's 1722 novel, "Moll Flanders," remains a fascinating imaginative work, and is in many ways more interesting than his famous first effort, "Robinson Crusoe." Having seen bits of two recent film adaptations in the last couple of months on television, and being a budding 18th century scholar, I decided it was time I picked up my own copy of "Moll Flanders" and see the actual product on its own terms. A story no less about a castaway and delinquent than "Crusoe," in "Moll Flanders," Defoe attempts to set down the history of a woman with a wild and often desperate life. A character of infinitely more interiority and reflection than Crusoe, Moll gives us through a first person narrative, a look into various stations of life in 18th century England and America.
The novel begins with a tip of the hat to that fine progenitor of the novel, "Don Quixote," a Gines-like acknowledgment that Moll, as the author of her own story, cannot complete that story within the text of the novel, unless people can write when they are deceased. Amusements aside, Moll begins her story as Crusoe begins his, with an immediate acknowledgment of the instability of the modern self - the corruption of her own name. Born in Newgate prison, and having never known her mother, Moll finds herself among gypsies and landed gentry before settling in Colchester for the term of her youth. Here, she founds her sense of social ambition, unusual even for Jane Eyre in the 19th century, as one in which she figures to be a gentlewoman by earning her own living. Various mishaps and misadventures lead her through marriages, whoredom, and thievery as Moll attempts to find her place in the world as a woman of common birth.
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Format: Paperback
'Tho the plot, being interesting in the extream, must be confess'd to be well-done, and alike the characters, being well-develop'd, plausible, and even sympathetic ('tho they be theives, felons, bigamists, and worse), must be similarly confess'd, still the writing style, being as it is extreamly archaic as well in spelling, grammar, and syntax, as in punctuation, the modern reader must be foarwarn'd: if he had difficulty with the parsing of this, the principle paragraph of this review, or finds the prospect of reading a story consisting of eight and forty more than two hundreds of pages in a like style daunting, he should give the project up as impracticable.
If, on the other hand, you had no trouble with that paragraph, I daresay that you'll enjoy this book, even if, as the father of the English novel, Defoe had yet to engender the chapter break.
Also it should be pointed out this may well be the first novel in which a male author attempts to write a story in which the lead character is female, and Defoe does a surprisingly good job of it.
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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: Mass Market Paperback
An eighteenth century novel recounting the life and survival of a strong willed Moll Flanders, a woman who, abandoned as an infant, finds her way to self sufficiency, in a world then dominated by men. Through ingenius schemes she still some how always regains the illusion of imaginary high standing and good reputation throughout it all.
I found Moll Flanders to be resourceful and ingenious in her methods for securing her own survival. The book puts prostitution and premarital sex in a whole new perspective. As one can deduce from this book, life was not so simple for women in the 18th century, especially if they were abandon as children, or even if they husband died and left them without means to exist. Moll takes her position as a dependent woman and finds power in her mind to devise schemes which will allow her a secure lifestyle without compromising her self.
I found Moll to be a woman of character and repute, with self esteem, who made her own way in a world where women had no power, money or choices aside from their dependence upon men.
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