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Moll Flanders
by Daniel Defoe

Published: 1989-10-03
Paperback : 480 pages
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‘I grew as impudent a Thief, and as dexterous as ever Moll Cut-Purse was’

Born and abandoned in Newgate Prison, Moll Flanders is forced to make her own way in life.  She duly embarks on a career that includes husband-hunting, incest, bigamy, prostitution and pick-pocketing, until her ...

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Introduction

‘I grew as impudent a Thief, and as dexterous as ever Moll Cut-Purse was’

Born and abandoned in Newgate Prison, Moll Flanders is forced to make her own way in life.  She duly embarks on a career that includes husband-hunting, incest, bigamy, prostitution and pick-pocketing, until her crimes eventually catch up with her. One of the earliest and most vivid female narrators in the history of the English novel, Moll recounts her adventures with irresistible wit and candour—and enough guile that the reader is left uncertain whether she is ultimately a redeemed sinner or a successful opportunist. Based on the first edition of 1722, this volume includes a chronology, notes on currency and maps of London and Virginia in the late seventeenth century.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

Editorial 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.

Excerpt

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Discussion Questions

Suggested by Members

Would Moll still be a penitent if not for her financial success in latter life?
by [email protected] (see profile) 05/13/16

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  "Looking Out For #1"by [email protected] (see profile) 05/13/16

Has there ever been such a life? You have to love Moll! She's a survivor!

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