Irony Moll Flanders
I love but hate, I laugh without a smile, I am ridiculous and respected, hypocrite and honest, a nonsense with reason , a convict and a gentleman. Isn't that the world we live in ? He is using a subtle form of humour by saying things that he does not mean. This situation is odd or amusing because it involves a contrast. Irony kills, laughs, denounces, argues but is hidden behind words to look not so politically incorrect. Daniel Defoe was one of those who wanted to denounce society's incongruities. He used his character, Moll Flanders, as an archetype of 18th century England society depicting the cruelty and the immorality of the time. In this autobiography (the novel is written in the first person) Moll's life seems to be fill of contrasts and ironic situations, but is that not interpretation? This essay will discuss the irony in the novel Moll Flanders taking examples from the book to prove whether or not it should be considered as a ironic novel. Let's have a look at the interpretations that one may have.
As a preliminary, it must be noted that Moll has a basically bipartie structure, the first part containing Moll's sexual adventures, the second her life as a thief, her imprisonment, and her transportation to America. The difference here, however, is that Defoe has effected an organic rather than a merely schematic relationship between the two halves. The episode of the two brothers, an episode which is crucial to our understanding of the novel's irony. Moll is seduced by the elder brother of the family in which she is a maid, then is persuaded by him to marry Robin, the younger brother, who loves her and proposed to her. She is a bewildered, passive object in the centre of the family dispute: her position is no sooner established as the elder's brother mistress, than he suggests that she should accept Robin's offer of marriage, thus becoming his sister where formerly she was his whore later affirming: " I shall always be your sincere friend, without any inclination to nearer intimacy, when you become my sister" . He presses her hard, and the traumatic effect the affair has on Moll is symbolized in her near-fatal illness. Not surprisingly, after her marriage she succumbs to incestuous fantasies:" I was never in bed with my husband but I wished myself in the arms of his brother; ... I committed adultery and incest with him every day in my desires, which, without doubt, was as effectually criminal in the nature of the guilt as if I had actually done it" . Robin dies after five years, and there is an interval consisting of two main episodes, in one of which Moll marries a gentleman-tradesman who, faced with financial ruin, leaves her "a widow bewitched; I had an husband and no husband" ; and in the second of which Moll helps a young lady avenge herself on a captain who regarded her as too easy a conquest.
The notion of revenge on the male, and the fact that it is Moll who is taking the initiative, and not members of the opposite sex, are indicative of a radical change of character. It is indeed ironic, then, that by making the initiative Moll should soon land herself in a situation which strongly resembles her earlier one with the two brothers: she now courts and marries her own brother.
She discovers the truth only when she is on her husband's plantation in Virginia and his mother narrates her life story. As she listen to it, Moll gradually gathers " that this was certainly no more or less than my own mother, and I had now had two children, and was big with another by my own brother", following this with declaration which echoes the one quoted above from page 68 "I lived therefore in open avowed incest and whoredom, and all under the appearance of an honest wife; and though I was not much touched with the crime of it, yet the action had something in it shocking to nature, and made my husband, as he thought himself, even nauseous to me." At first she conceals