My first book was Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe. I have to admit I was a bit shocked at the seemingly cavalier attitude of the main character towards both criminality and immorality. Yes Moll would have preferred to be able to live a respectable life, but seemed to think it a matter of course to change her morals to fit her situation. She almost seems like a cross between the Marquis de Sade and Jane Austen or perhaps Thomas Hardy: wanting to life the moral life propounded by Jane Austen, but realizing that her morality would get her nowhere fast when it came down to it. She fared much better for herself by adjusting her morals accordingly than by staying on the steady, moral path she would have preferred. I suppose her literary opposite would be Tess of the D’Urbervilles who basically ruined her mortal life by striving to maintain a high moral standard in an attempt to save her mortal soul. The Marquis de Sade would have been thrilled to see Tess die an early death by law where Moll lived out the rest of her long life in comfort and ease.
As for the book itself, it was fairly easy to read. The story was simple and straightforward yet still gives glimpses of life from many different perspectives. It also shows how quickly fortunes could be made or lost during the times which helps the reader understand why the characters act and react as they do. Moll’s ups and downs, poor and rich times and the shock of some of her actions kept me engaged. It’s a difficult book to reconcile to oneself to because Moll is a likeable character on the one hand, but on the other does not act as one would wish her to. Her repentance becomes questionable as time goes on because she shows again and again that she will always return to “her evil ways” without much prompting as soon as her circumstances change for the worse. She looks on it as a requirement and as no other alternative is offered to her in the book, the reader gets sucked along in the belief that Moll is doing what she must to survive. This may be so in context of the times, but the author leaves it up to the reader to judge for himself instead of making a judgement within the book.
All in all, and interesting and engaging read that provides plenty of food for thought.