Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Reading Period 13: Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe: Supplemental Posts / Lessons

Here are some of the assignments and discussions from our Google+ community:

1. READING THE PREFACE: What do you think Defoe was trying to accomplish in the preface? It almost seems like he's trying to deflect an argument that he anticipates or counter an attack that he expects to come -- what would that be? 

2. Here's a critical passage that's a little hard to understand. Anyone want to take a crack at paraphrasing it? 

"Thus I gave up myself to a readiness of being ruined without the least concern and am a fair memento to all young women whose vanity prevails over their virtue. Nothing was ever so stupid on both sides. Had I acted as became me, and resisted as virtue and honour require, this gentleman had either desisted his attacks, finding no room to expect the accomplishment of his design, or had made fair and honourable proposals of marriage; in which case, whoever had blamed him, nobody could have blamed me. In short, if he had known me, and how easy the trifle he aimed at was to be had, he would have troubled his head no farther, but have given me four or five guineas, and have lain with me the next time he had come at me. And if I had known his thoughts, and how hard he thought I would be to be gained, I might have made my own terms with him; and if I had not capitulated for an immediate marriage, I might for a maintenance till marriage, and might have had what I would; for he was already rich to excess, besides what he had in expectation; but I seemed wholly to have abandoned all such thoughts as these, and was taken up only with the pride of my beauty, and of being beloved by such a gentleman. As for the gold, I spent whole hours in looking upon it; I told the guineas over and over a thousand times a day. Never poor vain creature was so wrapt up with every part of the story as I was, not considering what was before me, and how near my ruin was at the door; indeed, I think I rather wished for that ruin than studied to avoid it." 

3. When Moll was a child, she was trying at all costs to avoid having to go "into service" and work as a drudge for a cook or maid. It's surprising to our modern ears that an 8 year old would be expected to get a job and earn her own food, but in the 18th century child labor was the norm, and into the early 20th century it was still common practice in England and America, and even now it is still a horrific problem around the world. Take a look at this article about domestic servants. Moll would have been taken on as a scullery maid. Look through the list of duties for each type of servant, and leave a comment saying which of these tasks you have at some point performed. 

4. Women in Moll’s time could either be a wife, a mistress, a servant, a criminal, or a prostitute. Given these choices, do you blame Moll for participating in prostitution, thievery, and strategic marriages? Really think about your answer, because it's easy to say "No, I don't blame her!" But do you really? Didn't she have alternatives? Was she really without options?

5. Watch this second episode of Harlots, Housewives and Heroines, a documentary about women in the time of Moll Flanders. There are five videos that show us this episode -- they're labeled 1/5, 2/5, etc. Watch all five and answer these questions: HHH: At Home 1/5

6. WEEKEND CHALLENGE: Watch a movie version of Moll Flanders. The one that seems to stick closest to the actual plot is a Masterpiece Theater production called "The Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders" and stars Alex Kingston as Moll Flanders. The theatrical one with Robin Wright Penn and Morgan Freeman seems to have departed a long way from the original story. So let's look for this one: The Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders

7. In three words, describe the tone of the novel, Moll Flanders, in the parts where Moll is supposedly telling her own story.

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