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Compare the ways in which crime is presented in Moll Flanders and Roxana? Assess how far these criminal episodes have a continuing appeal

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Oladayo Shomuyiwa St Thomas More R.C School Candidate no. 7160 Center Number: 12632 Compare the ways in which crime is presented in Moll Flanders and Roxana? Assess how far these criminal episodes have a continuing appeal Furbank and Owen have recored more than 600 works by Defoe they have concluded the more famous titles are Roxana and Moll Flanders. Coleridge himself stated that ' Roxana and Moll Flanders stand among the few great English novels which we can call indisputably great'. These two novels explore the lives of women in the early 18th century and how crime was often a woman's key to survival. The novels are set and centered in different locations in the world the 1720's. The geographical settings and mobility of the characters express their personal ambition to be known, respected and to have the finer things in life. First and foremost, before looking into the criminal lives Moll Flanders and Roxana both led, their reasons for engaging into crime has to be considered. Moll Flanders was a child born into poverty, she was born in Newgate prison, it is ironic that she tells her reader that she was 'born into a jail cell', here it seems as though Moll Flanders life is predestined, that crime was her path in life. Moll Flanders, a street educated woman thrived upon crime as a way to escape the jagged teeth of poverty and also to live a lavish lifestyle. Roxana is a well-educated and well-bred woman, but her life of crime begins when her husband abandons her and she is left with five children. With the encouragement from Amy, her maid she turns from a virtuous woman to an immoral whore. Defoe sympathizes with woman in these times, as they were powerless in terms of marriage. Women were condemned if they had children, without being married and more to the point women were ignored and not protected by the government.


The relationship between crime and identity has to be explored. For example Moll's name is a common slang term in these times for a woman of low repute, often the girlfriend of a professional thief, Flanders was a term to describe women in prostitution. In Roxana where Roxana leaves her lavish life momentarily, she takes up Quaker dressing. This way of dressing is a drastic change from her lavish gorgeous dresses, which emphasis the change from her high life and erotic encounters to a simple way of living. Roaxna Turkish dress reveals her criminal identity as a courtesan. It interesting as their names are clear indications of their true identities and purposes. Roxana and Moll Flanders hide away behind their names and costumes to protect their identity, however their hidden identities explain that they don't want to accept who they and are afraid of who they are and how people will react to them like in Robinson Crusoe. Defoe creates characters similar to how he felt about himself as he even changed his name from Foe to Defoe. Crime is presented by the association with the devil's works in both of these novels. Firstly it has to be considered that crime in the 16th century was seen either as the work of the influence of the devil, considering at this period people tended to be very superstitious. In Moll Flanders, Moll believes the crimes she commits is caused by her devil, it says in the text 'She had enough to work on but the devil sends her out unto the streets'. It is interesting as Moll describes the Devil as a person Moll also refers to herself as a 'busy devil'. The language used here is very interesting as the word busy often refers to hard work or a dedication to work, whereas the word devil contradicts the word busy as devil associates with evil or negative works, which causes an overall effect of irony.


It seems as though the boat incident could have been a sign trying to encourage them to leave their immoral lifestyle. This is similar in Dr Fasutus written by Christopher Marlowe, where Faustus is given countless opportunities to give up he corrupt lifestyle but refuses. This has a continuing appeal, as the audience is puzzled and literally frustrated at Roxana for not giving up her life of crime. Another crime Roxana commits against herself, besides selling her body is even when she reaches her preferred status, as she is highly respected through Europe her crime is being not able give up her life of vice even when she is living comfortably. In comparing how crime is presented it is worthwhile considering how both the stories end. It is ironic despite the fact that Moll committed a lot of crimes she still has a happy ending. It is almost as if that if she didn't commit those crimes she wouldn't have not gone to prison in Virginia, which again is ironic as her mother was also sentenced to death for theft, but she lucky leave the prison with her new lover. It gives the impression that an at times crime does pay. Whereas in Roxana she pays dearly for her life of crime, she falls into heavy sickness and dies. Defoe may have did this to express his personal feelings that those who do not have any reason to indulge in crime should stay away from crime, it could be argued that Roxana necessarily didn't have to indulge in crime as she was highly educated and could have gained wealth in any other way. The overall appeal of both of these novels to modern day audience is the suspense, intrigue and tension that are built when the reader asks them self 'will they be caught'. Concluding to this Roxana is a woman fatally torn between the dull virtue of middle-class respectability and the evil attractions of the beckoning city lights. Moll Flanders is woman who is strong in determination and saw crime as her only option to live well as many other women.

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