Literature / Moll Flanders
Describe Moll Flanders
Well, we don't really need to, given that the entire story is revealed by the full title: The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders, Etc. Who Was Born In Newgate, and During a Life of Continu'd Variety
(*takes a breath*) 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. Written from her own Memorandums
. (*breathes*) Whew.
Outside that, all you really need to know is that it's a novel published in 1722 written by Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe
, and that it received several adaptations, including a 1965 film starring Kim Novak
as Moll, a 1996 film starring Robin Wright
as Moll, and a TV miniseries also from 1996, starring Alex Kingston
Moll Flanders provides examples of:
- The Atoner: As the title says, Moll and her husband both become this in the end.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Moll, after a life time of hardships, not only becomes genuinely repentant of her actions, but is Happily Married, reconciled with her son, and a wealthy gentlewoman by legitimate means.
- Based on a Great Big Lie: Claims to be based on a true story, as was normal of novels at the time, as fiction was considered taboo so writers would get around this by claiming their stories were based on real events.
- Birds of a Feather: Moll and her husband from Lancashire.
- Brother–Sister Incest: Though to be fair, they didn't know they were siblings at the time.
- Diabolus ex Machina: Constantly.
- Direct Line to the Author: "Written from her own Memorandums".
- Driven to Suicide: Moll's third husband after he learns he's her long lost brother. He survives, though.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Almost everyone of Moll's husbands, her wet-nurse, her best friend, her mother...
- Even Evil Has Standards: Even when she's a master thief, Moll can never bring herself to murder anyone.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: And what a rather long tin it is.
- Foregone Conclusion: Thanks to the title.
- Gold Digger: The Book.
- In a hilarious fashion, she marries a supposedly rich Catholic man, who turns out to be a Gold Digger himself. Naturally, they split up.
- Guile Hero: Moll.
- I Was Quite a Looker: Moll makes it clear often enough.
- Long-Lost Relative: Moll's mother is... her mother in law.
- Long Title: We don't really want to type it all out again...
- Missing Mom: Moll's mother abandoned her and Moll herself is a missing mom for most of her children.
- No Name Given: Almost all characters.
- Outlaw Couple: Ironically, when they reunite at the end of the novel she and her husband both become repentant of their crimes.
- Picaresque: The genre of the novel.
- Rags to Riches: And to rags again and to riches again, and so on and so forth.
- Redemption Earns Life: Moll's finally becoming genuinely repentant for her actions, and the steps she takes to do so, ultimately save her life from the gallows.
- Settle for Sibling: Moll is seduced by her young master but marries his younger brother.
- Spoiler Title: The (full) title gives away all the major plot twists.
- Surprise Incest: Moll finally discovers her long-lost mother. Unfortunately, Moll's mother is also... her mother-in-law. Oops.
- Unreliable Narrator: This is an early case of a narrator who is unreliable on more than one plane. Superficially, Moll puts herself in the best possible light no matter what, either by glossing over the enormousness of her crimes or by blaming the victims, but her story is also logically inconsistent and ahistorical. She leaves her purportedly well-loved children in Colchester in the 1640s - in other words, in a war zone - to traipse off to America on a whim. Her "older brother", with whom she inadvertently commits incest and has a child, must be younger than her if her mother's story is true. Despite living in London in the 1660s, she does not recall the Plague, the Dutch invasion, or the Great Fire.
- The Vamp: Oh, Moll.
- Villain Protagonist: For a portion of the novel when Moll is a master thief.
- Wealthy Ever After
Adaptations provide examples of:
- Dawson Casting: In the 1996 miniseries, 33-year-old Alex Kingston played Moll from the age of 18 onwards. (She hardly looks any older when she gets transported: at that point, Moll is 61 in the novel, and so far as the miniseries' chronology makes sense, she ought to be about 50.)
- Setting Update: The 1996 miniseries shifts the setting, just a few decades into the Restoration period. The novel ends in 1683, from which one can work backwards and see that Moll is born in 1614, first goes to London in the late 1630s, and is transported in 1675. In the early scenes in Colchester, the miniseries does look as if it's set in the early-to-mid 17th century - but it turns out that's just due to Colchester being a backwater. The moment she goes up to London, everybody's dressed in Restoration finery, and she attends a performance of The Country Wife, first staged in 1675; shortly before being transported, she goes back to the theatre to see The Way of the World (1700).