Narrative Polyphony in "Moll Flanders": An Appraisal of Ian Watt’s Critique and Beyond

By Rabiya Aamir.

Published by The International Journal of Literary Humanities

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Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: August 22, 2014 $US5.00

Daniel Defoe’s narratives have been discussed in a variety of ways. Walter Allen called Moll Flanders (1722) “a sociological novel dealing with the making of a criminal” (Watt 1993, 42). Ian Watt, on the other hand, calls it “a characteristic product of modern individualism in assuming that she owes it to herself to achieve the highest social and economic rewards” (Watt 94). Elsewhere, he categorizes her as an “economic individual” (Watt 1993, 94). She is also discussed as a “social climber” (Gonzalez 2002, 169) and as an embodiment of “the explosion in the literary representation of criminals during the early eighteenth century, and particularly during the 1720s” (Gonzalez 2002, 167). Moll Flanders has also been discussed as a character pursuing untrodden lands of the newly discovered America (Vania 1998). The connotations of the word Moll have also been explored in some studies. This study assimilates the peculiarities of narration as sought and experimented by Defoe through the single character of Moll Flanders. As a result, in the genre of 18th century fiction, it adds an impetus to criticism provided on this genre by one of the pioneering books, Rise of the Novel (1957) by Ian Watt. The following study is not only an endeavor to explore Ian Watt’s critique, but it also explores the peculiarities and distinct features regarding this novel’s polyphonic aspects. The genre of novel was at its infancy in the beginning of the eighteenth century and this study brings out the polyphony in the narrative as expressed by Defoe. It further probes as to where this narrative leads, especially for the reader or the receiver; what inferences are to be drawn from it in the contemporary world; how to recapitulate the course of one’s life; and whether to capitulate or not the precious jewels of our lives. It also analyzes different choices one has to make and explores the reasons why it is a terrible thing to live in fear. This study, therefore, traces the polyphonic or dialogical text and discusses the final contemplation as to whether it was societal pressures or inner demons of the character of Moll Flanders that surged in the peculiar narrative.

Keywords: Novel, Moll Flanders

The International Journal of Literary Humanities, Volume 12, Issue 2, January 2015, pp.1-10. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: August 22, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 607.402KB)).

Rabiya Aamir

Lecturer, Department of English Language and Literature, National University of Modern Languages, Karachi, Pakistan