From Roguery to Gentility: Concept of Property and Social Order in Daniel Defoe’s "Moll Flanders"

By Tsai-ching Yeh.

Published by The International Journal of Literary Humanities

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Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: January 15, 2016 $US5.00

Studies of "Moll Flanders" usually emphasize its attributes of the picaresque novel, and Moll, who engages herself in dupery and the whoring trade, has long been regarded as a subversive character. Being a survivor of society, Moll is indeed an exemplar that demonstrates the possibility of social mobility, and Daniel Defoe seems to convey the ambition to transgress the existing order through the adventurous life of the female picaro. In the novel, money is a crucial element that may procure the improvement of social position. However, whether Defoe/Moll is a progressive reformer or does not deserve further investigation, since hierarchical system in a sense still dominates the life of most eighteenth-century Britons and family blood is a decisive factor for the movement among different classes. This paper examines the concepts of wealth, both portable property and land, in eighteenth-century England, while Defoe’s attitude toward social mobility is another concern. Based on the study of social and economic backgrounds of the eighteenth century, I would like to discuss Defoe’s stance of the issue of social order, for the purpose to provide a better understanding of the writer’s as well as the woman character’s position in the construction of social totality.

Keywords: Daniel Defoe, Hierarchical System, Moll Flanders, Portable Property, Social Mobility, Social Totality

The International Journal of Literary Humanities, Volume 14, Issue 2, June 2016, pp.1-8. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: January 15, 2016 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 445.934KB)).

Dr. Tsai-ching Yeh

Assistant Professor, Department of English, National Taipei University of Technology, Taipei, Taiwan