Study Questions Defoe (summer term 2017)


Please choose ONE of the following questions (600 words):

  • the story of the three work men who flee the capital to set up a community of their own is very different from the rest of the text of The Journal of a Plague Year. What is the story about and why, do you think, is it significant for the text?
  • In the whole Journal of a Plague Year, the narrator H.F. makes comments about how the people within his end of the city treat each other, before, during and after the plague. How do people treat each other in the different phases? Why does this seem significant, if we would understand the text as a critique of the social?
  • What kind of a text is A Tour Thro’ The Whole Island of Great Britain? What is significant about it? In the excerpt that we read, how is London represented?





Text No. 6 in Reader: Paula McDowell, “Defoe and the Contagion of the Oral: Modelling Media Shift in A Journal of the Plague Year”

  • what is the main argument of McDowell’s text? What is the media shif that she talks about?
  • how does Defoe, in her reading, value the different media?





This is the site for study questions and responses for the seminar. One week before the Deadline, you will find the questions for response papers. Study questions are simply meant to get most out of your assigned reading.



choose one, answer here in the reply field or hand me a printed version in class. Please don’t send me email attachments. (600 words)

  1. Economy: Try and find a text passage that deals with Moll’s experiences with money. What kind of economical system does the novel describe? How are humans configured in relation to this society?
  2. Gender: With the secondary text by Pollak, please discuss how gender is represented in the novel.
  3. Identity: the identity of Moll seems to be as elusive as the identity of the text of the novel – how are ficiton and questions of identity connected in the text?




choose one, answer here in the reply field or hand me a printed version in class. Please don’t send me email attachments. (600 words)

  1. Defoe – the “man” in the works? In our 2nd session, we discussed what kind of person seems to shimmer through the topics he wrote on and what we know about his life. What do we, historically know about Daniel Defoe’s life? What do you think about finding an author in his or her text?
  2. In class, we talked a lot about the ‘materialist psychology’ or realism via description by which we get to know Crusoe. What about the other characters in the text? Is there another character with whom we could identify in the text? If not, what about the narrative choices the text makes renders this unlikely?
  3. the “Trueborn Englishman” is Defoe’s famous satire on the hybrid heritage of the English nation. From the excerpt that we read, and your historical knowledge of England, which historical developments does the text alude to?

37 thoughts on “Study Questions Defoe (summer term 2017)

  1. Thoughts on study question 1.

    Daniel Defoe pursued a complex and intriguing life. Our knowledge nowadays is derived from the dissenter’s career and from his writings. In her paper Defoe: the man in the works, Paula R. Backscheider argues that: “our most accurate insights about writers come from cumulative experience with their total oeuvre” (2008: 6). Through analyzing Defoe’s texts, we are able to obtain a clearer picture of his historical portrait.
    As a merchant, Defoe travelled a lot and was involved in many commercial ventures, which in most cases ended in failure.
    Passionate about literature and politics, Defoe switched between his writing activities and his political life. Over time Defoe became William III’s ally and the new regime’s defender. He wrote a satire entitled The True-Born Englishman, defending the Dutch-born King against the xenophobic attacks of those who were against his reign, based on his origins.
    Defoe actually wrote from various political perspectives and at times against his own position and beliefs. For example, in The Shortest Way with the Dissenters, a particularly sharp political satire, Defoe pretended to side with the Church of England. The views he expressed in his publication were not favorable and he was therefore arrested. He was quartered in Newgate Prison and put in pillory.
    Robert Harley released Defoe from prison and employed him. Defoe’s mission was to travel throughout the country as a spy for the Crown until he finally founded and led the political paper The Review.
    In Defoe: the man in the works, Backscheider highlights that “Most people think that a writer can be found in the works” (2008: 5). It is true that for centuries, literature has permitted authors to express their ideas, their thoughts, to share some of their experiences or to convey messages, whether through novels, poems or theatre plays. The question that arises is the following, is it necessary to know the biographical background of an author in order to better understand and appreciate his work?
    First of all, by studying the biography of an author we can obtain and gather essential information about the person’s upbringing, the people that they interacted with, as well as the places which had an impact in his life. Furthermore, when reading about an author’s life, one immerses himself in the time-period of the writer and in his socio-economic and political context. This provides the reader with a better understanding of the work as it has been written from a certain critical perspective and might enable the reader, to distinguish the author’s potential influences.
    However, a “blind reading” in which I refer to a reading without obtaining and/or gathering prior information of a particular author, makes it possible to preserve some sort of surprise effect.
    Moreover, a “blind reading” stimulates the imagination of the reader to interpret the author’s work without any pre-set boundaries. The same cannot be said about readings which have been steered and controlled by obtaining external knowledge. For example, in my initial reading of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, the numerous descriptions of the wild and exotic nature, allowed my mind to escape from its monotone daily life. I did not envision and/or reflect about colonization or slavery, which nevertheless emerges from the text. The reader could therefore argue that ignorance about a work might sometimes be preferable in order to create his own ideas and to better appreciate what personally affects or makes him dream.
    The absence of an author’s life information generalizes the message of his text, which is then not hampered by chronological or spatio-temporal limits. The message becomes therefore universal.
    When we finally compare both reading possibilities, it comes to mind that the reading of an author’s biography offers crucial information and might help to better understand the work and the context the author tries to depict and describe. However, it is also possible to grasp and enjoy a story, without any prior external input, by calling upon initial reaction, our emotions, our propensity to imagine and dream, combined with our personal experiences.
    Obviously, one has to make a decision. There are indeed two modes of reading as there are two ways of travelling. The first one consists in leaving for adventure, even if it means that not all the recesses of a text or a country will be explored. The other one looks more like a carefully planned and organized trip to make sure that nothing is missed at the end of the journey.

    1. you bring up some interesting points! Especially the link between what, from a Western perspective we read as adnventure story, as providing the pleasure of reading, with colonialism on the other side of it…

  2. Question (3):
    “The “Trueborn Englishman” is Defoe’s famous satire on the hybrid heritage of the English nation. From the excerpt that we read, and your historical knowledge of England, which historical developments does the text alude to?”

    The trueborn Englishman was published in 1701 as a political statement in favour of William III of England. To fully understand why there were so many resentments against William III. of England, one has to go back in time a few decades, precisely to the Glorious Revolution.
    William had become king of England a few years earlier after having invaded the island, as he originated from the Netherlands. He did so in a very unbloody way with so few people being killed that the English, being used to much more killing, labeled this Revolution as “glorious”. William dethroned his uncle King James of England who was very unpopular, as he was Catholic. His ideas of religious tolerance were viewed very critically by the non-Catholic majority, therefore some members of the English parliament, in unusual harmony of both Tories and Wighs, looked for a king that would fit better into the political-religious landscape of Britain. They found the Prince of Orange being a good candidate, as he was not only the nephew of the British King and the husband of the King’s daughter, but also of Calvinist faith. Although not exactly a moderate faith, it was still a Protestant faith and thus much better than the Catholic one. Conveniently, William had already been building up an army to invade England, so the members of the parliament were glad he was able to help them very soon. He landed in 1688 on the English coast and convinced his uncle James II very quickly that it was a very good idea to retire. The English parliament was also very happy about it, but as James changed his mind, they wanted William to keep his troops in England, just in case. He gladly obliged, asking just for the minor favour of being crowned as new King of England, Scotland and Ireland. That way, everyone in Britain was happy with the outcome, except for the Scots and the Irish, but they weren’t asked anyway. This changed a bit, however, after Williams wife and cousin Maria II had died, as suddenly the English were confronted by the terrible fact of having a foreigner as their king. To make this even worse, he was Dutch. Of course, he had always been Dutch, but until then he had just been the Dutch husband of an English queen, now he was the Dutch king of the English kingdom. The Dutch and the English had had some bitter wars in the late 17th century, as the English were very upset about the Dutch not being politically and economically inferior to the English, although the latter had helped them during their 80 years war against Catholic Spain. It was as if Robinson Crusoe had taught Friday about Christianity and economics, just for Friday actually being more successful than his former master. This was seen as quite rude in England and as war has often been seen as appropriate reactions to rude behaviour, several wars between the two former allies. And suddenly, the former enemies, who had previously been former friends, were supposed to be friends again. This confusing, but grave moral conflict split the English society, who was also considered to be the British society, and Daniel Defoe was one of the writers endorsing William. His argument based on the fact that the English society and its nobility in particular had themselves been foreigners at some point in history. He starts with the Romans, but states that also the first inhabitants of the British Islands had been terribly uneducated barbarians. The Picts and Scots and Welsh had also had their fair share of misbehaviour, as did they obviously outlandish Saxons, Vikings and whoever wanted to land in Britain. He then continues to one of the most iconic English kings, William the Conqueror, stating that he was firstly a French Viking and secondly a bastard. So, whoever landed the latest, raped the women of the previous invaders and thus a confusing mix of all different cultures was created with none being able to know who his real ancestors had been. Even an Arab horse would have a better lineage than a trueborn Englishman, as Defoe puts it. Those events created a not so kind society and mindset that even noble people like the French Huguenots were assimilated in one or two generations. Defoe concludes that if it had worked the many centuries before, surely a protestant Dutch would also become very English in a very short time. Ultimately, Britain was just a godly landscape with devilish people in it.

  3. The “Trueborn Englishman” is Defoe’s famous satire on the hybrid heritage of the English nation. From the excerpt that we read, and your historical knowledge of England, which historical development does the text allude to?
    Back in the 17th century, the last Roman Catholic monarch of England, Scotland and Ireland was King James II who reigned from 1685 until 1688. In the largely Anglican kingdom he was highly disregarded because of his religion and furthermore of his religious tolerance. People were truly unfortunate with the monarchy in general and with their Catholic King in particular. Therefore the English parliament looked for some other king that would better fit to the political and religious principles of the kingdom. William the Prince of Orange was the man of their choice and they asked him to convince James to resign and later were prepared to help William reach this goal. William was the nephew of the British King and, even more important for the kingdom, of protestant faith, although it the less moderate Calvinist faith. William had already prepared his army forces to invade England and landed in 1688 on the English shores. James II attempted to resist William but was convinced by him to resign and let go of the crown. William even permitted James to flee the country in a second attempt as he did not want him to die of his faith and become a Catholic martyr. William of Orange was married with his cousin Queen Mary and crowned to be the new King William III of England, Scotland and Ireland. The kingdom had its protestant king, married with an English woman and everyone seemed to be glad about that coup.
    But when Queen Mary died, Britain was faced with the unearthly fact of having a foreigner reigning the kingdom. Erstwhile, he was only the Dutch husband of an English born queen but now he was the Dutch king of the English kingdom. England had helped the Netherlands during the Eighty Years’ War against the Catholic Spain but later been in war with the Dutch mid to late 17th century for economic reasons. The English resented the Dutch for not being politically and economically inferior to them, therefore former allies became wartime enemies with the Dutch coming off victorious. These former enemies who had previously been allies were now meant to be friends. After this humiliation of not being superior to the Dutch was now in the truest sense of the word crowned with the abasement of having a Dutch man as English king. This moral conflict that split the British society at that time is somewhat understandable but also a self-imposed misery. This moral misery developed into a general hatred towards anything foreign, let it be the Netherlands, France, Spain or any other foreign country in the world. This was when Daniel Defoe published his political satire The True-born Englishman in favour of King William III in 1701.
    In his satire Defoe skilfully ridicules the people’s fears of foreigners. By using personification as figure of speech, he makes clear from the beginning that it is the satire who is speaking before he demonstrates how English society and in particular the English nobility had nothing but foreign roots themselves. The first inhabitants of Britain were barbarians before the Romans, Gauls, Greek, Lobards, Sxons, Danes, Dutch, French and others invaded the Isles. Defoe, in this sense, even “decrowns” William the Conqueror, one of the iconic Kings of Britain, exposing him as some French Viking bastard. On p. 6 he appropriately states “And all their race are True-Born Englishmen.”, and later more provocative that a Turkish horse is of nobler heritage than any of the English men who see themselves superior of race to some Dutch who has unfortunately become their king. In the end he appeals to the people to let aside the ancestry and judge people by their personal virtue “’Tis personal virtue only makes us great.” (p.12).

  4. Defoe – the“man” in the works? In our 2nd session, we discussed what kind of person seems to shimmer through the topics he wrote on and what we know about his life. What do we historically know about Defoe’s life? What do you think about finding an author in his/her text?

    Ever since the study of literature not only required the analysis of the literary work itself but in equal measure, it included the consideration of the author’s life. In her work ‘Defoe: the man in the works’, Paula Backscheider pointed out that “over a lifetime, a writer’s recurring opinions about society, human behavior and relationships, and politics emerge, as does some understanding of their personality and “reality””(p.6). Accordingly, author and work are closely related and the author’s life can best be seen and understand in his/her text. The analysis of Defoe’s works helped to shed a light on him as a person.

    Defoe himself briefly summed up his life in a quote: “No man has tasted different fortunes more and thirteen times I have been rich and poor.” His life was embossed by versatileness. He worked as a spy, journalist, merchant and writer. His life was a tightrope walk between bankruptcy and prosperity and marked by ups and downs. He lived in a time of religious turmoil and experienced the Plague and the Great Fire in London. He was the son of a protestant dissenter what was the reason why he attended Charles Morton’s Dissenting Academy in Newington Green. The way was cleared for him to become a presbyterian minister. But in his mid-twenties, he abandoned his wish and became a merchant. He was a very practical person and the writing was not his life. Only his debts led him to the craft of writing. For him, this was the chance to make money, not a matter of the heart. He wrote pamphlets, satires, journals, novels, and poems. All aiming to get economical, as well as personal credit. Defoe pursued a good reputation in life. Moreover, his political interest is clearly visible in his texts, as to be seen in his first success ‘The Trueborn Englishmen’. He wrote this poem in support of King William, who was criticized of being dutch born. Later he took different political positions, for what he was heavily criticized by other writers of the time. He claimed to be “the voice of the people”, and always emphasized his goodwill. But this self-image of a moral person clashes with the reality, as one consider the various times he was imprisoned for his writings and debts.

    Backscheider points out the evidence of the historical person Defoe in his works. One now can discuss the question: Is the knowledge of the author’s biography an additional benefit to the reading experience?
    One could argue that a text should always stand on its own and talk for itself. Reading a literary work is a personal experience. In fact, what the recipient reads is always an imagination of his/her own. This would be an argument to read a literary text free from the biography of an author. By a lot of people reading is seen as a creative process. The question arises as to what extent we learn something about the literary self by knowing about the author. Or is it rather the case that this does lead to the impurity of the literary work?
    I personally do believe that time has changed and with it, the function of literary works. Defoe lived during a time when freedom of speech did not have the position it has now. This gets evident as he is imprisoned for publishing critical texts regarding English politicians and authorities. A literary work was a medium to spread ideas and opinions. To fully understand the intentions of a writer we have to consider the author’s historical background. What circumstances shaped his/her view of the world? What led him to write this text? I think a text has so much more to say as what we get through reading it in isolation. There are various levels of a text. To examine them makes the text as itself even more interesting.
    In a nutshell, it is to say that there is a strong correlation between the author’s biography and his or her works. One has to acknowledge that the author of a book is part of the literary work. There exists no literary work in isolation. To know the author’s biography leads the reader to interpret the text in line with this knowledge. Everyone has to know for himself if this is what he/she wants. As we are all individuals with different personalities and opinions, everyone will find his/her way of approaching a literary work. In the end, it is a personal decision how to do this and I think there is no right or wrong. And this diversity is what makes literary studies interesting because it opens up different paths and perspectives.

  5. 2. In class, we talked a lot about the ‘materialist psychology’ or realism via description by which we get to know Crusoe. What about the other characters in the text? Is there another character with whom we could identify in the text? If not, what about the narrative choices the text makes renders this unlikely?

    In general, readers are most likely to strongly identify with Robinson Crusoe himself. This can be explained by regarding the narrative structure of the text: While we are generally provided with a very detailed account of Robinson Crusoe, our knowledge about other characters in the novel remains limited. The limitations put upon the reader are based on Crusoe’s perspective. As the reader experiences everything from the point of view of the protagonist, thoughts on other characters beyond Crusoe’s perspective are automatically limited by the narrative structure. Given the fact that Crusoe as a first-person narrator seems to give an authentic account of what is believed to be his own life, who would we, as readers, be to make additional, perhaps even contradictory judgements? We as readers are limited to Crusoe’s perspective, both physically as well as psychologically. We do not see what he does not see and are thus quite unlikely to think beyond his individual perception.
    This limitation of the reader’s experience with a focus on the protagonist’s perspective used in Robinson Crusoe as well as in other works by Defoe can be embedded into a wider socio-historical context. Taking into account the philosophical focus on individualism and sensual perception at the time, Defoe is in good company with Jean-Jacques Rousseau (to mention but one of many thinkers of the period) who himself was an admirer of Robinson Crusoe. Seeing how Crusoe maintains himself on a lonely island as the ultimate homo economicus shows the strong individualist traits of the novel which can also be found in other novels by Defoe. Moll Flanders falls for criminality in a society where self-centredness and individualism prevail and are seen as more important than compassion and a willingness to help. Even though during Defoe’s lifetime individualism as a trend in philosophic and sociological studies has yet to appear, it is very much prevalent in society at the time. With growing use of technology, human interactions decrease. Daniel Defoe then writes a novel which lacks human interaction for the most part.
    However, after spending years on a lonely island, Robinson Crusoe gets in touch with another human: Friday. Nevertheless, the narrative structure of the text does not allow for this human to stand in a position equal to the Englishman Crusoe. Being of a different race, Crusoe treats him not with disrespect, nevertheless still with a certain air of superiority. Especially considering the fact that readers of Robinson Crusoe would typically come from a European background, identification with a non-white character seems unlikely. This is supported by the narrative structure of the text which puts a strong focus on Crusoe’s perspective and does not give much space for other character’s thoughts or impressions. Another pair of characters which we as readers would be more likely to identify with are Crusoe’s parents. Coming from the same social and cultural background as the average reader of Robinson Crusoe, the parents are rendered more likely subjects the reader could identify with. The worries Crusoe’s parents display are common amongst parents of the 18th century whose children venture on to conquer unseen lands. In my opinion, this still holds true for present-day readers as parental worries tend to be quite a widespread phenomenon independent of cultural or historical backgrounds. However, taking a closer look at the readership of Robinson Crusoe once again renders the parents’ generation quite unlikely to be the average reader of this novel.
    In conclusion, it can be said that the narrative structure of Robinson Crusoe makes the readers’ identification with characters other than the protagonist quite unlikely. The novel’s focus on Crusoe’s individual account of his own life leaves very little space for other characters’ thoughts and impressions. Nevertheless, Friday or Crusoe’s parents could be considered to have some identification value of their own besides the protagonist.

  6. Daniel Defoe: son of a Puritan family, former tradesman and 17th century writer. In Backscheider’s “Defoe: the man in the works”, Defoe is depicted as an individual that would have taken any path to become successful. He does not seem to have been an author who would dedicate his life to writing. Instead, it is probable that being an author was yet another profession beneficial to his financial situation. Furthermore, the trader is being illustrated as a person who was aware of his reputation. Accordingly, he put great effort into justifying his life choices and making sure to protect his image, which explains the publication of his „Appeal to Honour and Justice“ (1715). In other words, Defoe tried to control the story of his life. Supporting the approach of searching for relations between „Robinson Crusoe“ and its author, the idea of a person aspirating to gain control over his or her life is a topic dealt with in the novel as well. Here, connections between the author and the protagonist could be exposed. The question of who has control over Crusoe’s life is one continuously elaborated and consequently, the ability to accept his own powerlessness and leave it all to God’s Providence is repeatedly put to test. One example of Crusoe’s inner conflict on the topic of control is illustrated by his drawing a table with advantages and disadvantages of his current situation (54). Should he call himself lucky to still being alive and therefore thank God for where he led him to? Or should he be angry at himself about how his bad life choices directed him into this miserable state of life? The table is also a product of his changing and contradicting opinions on being thankful. Likewise, Defoe is said to have been “a monumental contradiction”. The paths Crusoe chooses to go on his inner voyage do not always concur with each other either. These examples, of the co-occurrence of certain topics in both Defoe’s and Crusoe’s lives, gave an idea of how finding the author in a text can sometimes be useful since Defoe commonly embedded features of his own reality into his works. Could this purposeful embeddedness not also involve the ‘danger’ of including parts of his personality into this novel, if not into one of its ‘fictive’ characters? It may not be that farfetched to compare the protagonist of the first English novel with its author. Separating the author from his or her literary production might leave interpretations incomplete. Nevertheless, searching only for possible biographical information could develop into disregarding other interesting aspects of a literary entity as well. Eliza Haywood delineated the reader’s approach to find the author within his or her book as an impatience and thus criticizes it. Likewise, her terming it an “impatience”, contrary to immersing into the by the author created world calmly and patiently, emphasizes too how details that would leave more room for further interpretation ‘slip through the reader’s fingers’. Besides, she calls attention to the unreliability of autobiographical information. Conforming to her, autobiographical subjects are not trustful sources of reference as memories often warp reality because of their attachment to emotions. Thus, it would be difficult to try and find the author in „Robinson Crusoe“ because the reader does not even have enough reliable information about the author’s biography. To conclude, I support the approach of searching for the author in a literary text because I assume that every author leaves behind a shadow of him- or herself when producing a text. Therefore, ignoring that a literary work is coming from somewhere is like erasing parts of the novel that would be worth interpreting. A sole focus on biographical references, however, bears the same risk. For this reason, it might be suggestable to first treat the text as a closed entity and later start searching for “the man”.

  7. Thoughts on study question 1. (2nd Reader response)

    The 18th century was an austere and constraining century for women. They were considered a subordinated group, underestimated by a dominant androcentric culture, with little to no autonomy. As people moved to the big cities and as the capitalist economy progressed, women became less important in the economic functioning of society. In his novel entitled Moll Flanders, Daniel Defoe describes this situation when one of the sisters of the family for which Moll works, notes:

    “for the Market is against our Sex just now; and if a young Woman have Beauty, Birth, Breeding, Wit, Sense, Manners, Modesty, and all these to an Extream; yet if she have not Money, she’s no Body” (Defoe 58).

    In a British society on the threshold of industrialization, in which trade and money were the signs of modernity and dominated everyday life, Daniel Defoe portrays a rebellious female heroine, Moll Flanders, who aspires to economic self-sufficiency.

    At a young age already, Moll’s character trait is described as an independent women who aspires to support her own means without being dependent on others:

    “My old Tutoress began to understand me, about what I meant by being a Gentlewoman; and that I understood by it no more than to be able to get my Bread by my own Work” (50)

    In the above text passage, the heroin of the book describes herself as a “Gentlewoman” and gains an idea of the word which does not correspond to its usual usage. A gentlewoman indeed is a woman married to nobility, who does not require to work for a living. However, through Moll’s definition of the term, the reader perceives her desire to affirm her autonomy through work.

    Throughout the story, money is one of the central themes and becomes more and more crucial for Moll. It conditions her actions so that she can live, and get richer. Money allows her to take revenge on her discreditable birth in Newgate’s prison. In addition, money permits her to procure material goods (clothes, jewellery etc.) which are symbols of social status. It seems that money is the only recognized way to have success in this 18th century society.
    For example, one could argue that each of Moll’s marriages is for personal gain and an aspiration to acquire more wealth. She considers all her unions with men from a materialistic perspective and therefore marries five times, because none of her husbands can assure her a comfortable life and material security long enough. Moll thus turns all her sentimental relationships into commercial affairs. She states herself: “I was more confounded with the money than I was before with the love” (62). Facing financial difficulties, but still determined to make a fortune in order to gain status and power, Moll later turns to rubbery and ultimately to prostitution. The critic Mitchell argues that “[these are kinds of alternative trades] – the only form of capitalism easily open to women” (Dr Swan Beth, Moll Flanders, 4).
    Moll’s idea of a person’s value is based on his or her wealth and possessions. Her taste for money mushrooms so much as it controls her thoughts and actions. Moll’s fixation with money is evident in the following text passage:

    “1. For Three Months’ Lodging in her House, including
    my Diet, at 10s. a Week . . . . . . . . . . . 6l., 0s., 0d.

    2. For a Nurse for the Month, and Use of Childbed
    Linen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1l., 10s., 0d.

    3. For a Minister to Christen the Child, and to the
    Godfathers and Clark . . . . . . . . . . . . 1l., 10s., 0d.

    4. For a Supper at the Christening if I had five friends
    at it . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1l., 0s., 0d.

    For her fees as a Midwife, and the taking off the
    Trouble of the Parish . . . . . . . . . . . . 3l., 3s., 0d.

    To her Maid-Servant attending . . . . . . . . 0l., 10s., 0d.
    13l., 13s., 0d.

    This was the first Bill; the second was the same Terms. […]” (223-224)

    As a real business woman, Moll also devotes her time in calculating prices and carefully listing her bills.

    Everything that Moll does is done in order to secure her economic stability. As she does not have the option of relying on an inheritance and as capitalist values favoured men during that time period, “The self-reliant woman becomes a whore and a thief” (Pollak 144) and thus transgresses and defies the standard of the decent woman in the 18th century.

  8. Response 2, study question 2:

    The title of Defoe’s novel “The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders” sounds quite innocent and masks what life of a woman in the 18th century really meant. As Pollak describes it, Moll’s scene of adventures is the society in late 17th and early 18th century England (Pollak, 141). She was born as the daughter of an underclass criminal mother at Newgate prison which was already a bad start. For people at that time, class origins were what defined your later life career, for women even more than men. Men at least could work to earn a living and provide for themselves and a family. Women however, were not seen as self-reliant and autonomous individuals but as inferior beings only responsible for giving birth to their husband’s children and care for them and keep the household. They were denied being human beings with gifts and talents, school educations was argued as being not necessary for them. These societal codes that subdued women ruled their life. As it was the men providing for their wives, the only way of leading a secure life was by a beneficial marriage which was also the only way of ascending in class, which was the same for men.

    Moll Flanders however, is a woman that has sought autonomy from a very early age on. As a child she was laughed at by the nurse she would rather call a mother for her wish to become a gentlewoman. For Moll that meant to be an honest self-sustaining woman who is gaining autonomy through work. This is in stark contrast to what a gentlewoman of that time actually was, that is to say a woman of the nobility who had no need to work at all. Autonomy was something socially coded as male and not approachable for women. A woman who only aspired to gain autonomy was already crossing a threshold between the fixed gender patterns and was despised (Pollak, 144).

    Therefore, a woman could only achieve a secure life by marrying a man to provide for her. This culturally and socially required male authority would be seen as a neutralising force as a woman who would have to provide for herself would have to become either a whore or a thief and is therefore “spiritually and materially tainted” (Pollak, 144). Moll’s view on earning “honest” money to become a self-reliant woman was impossible to fulfil at that time. In the novel we can follow her struggles in trying to survive in this old fashioned English society with fixed gender models and culturally rooted ideas of gender roles. From childhood on she has learned that financial security is only possible when you marry. In various attempts she is married, first to someone who knows her background but later has to pretend to be wealthy to attract men. Once she falls for someone who is also trying to become wealthy by marriage and they realise they both have been tricked. After what seems like endless attempts she starts a criminal career as thief but also as a whore and for the first time in her life is autonomous and has gained financial security. In order to take control of her life and provide for herself, she has to deny her origin, manipulate her appearance and eventually become criminal.

    In “Moll Flanders”, Defoe represents women in the light of what Pollak calls the “complex and contradictory position” (141) of women in early 18th century England. In an age of vast culturally grown gender asymmetries in the peoples’ minds, women were seen as an object that could not become a self-sustaining subject.

  9. 2nd Response paper, Question Number 3.

    Moll Flanders is solving most difficult situations in her life with a charming character and a talent to adapt to
    new circumstances with a strategic way of behaviour. She often conceils her true idenity and presents
    herself as the character that fits best in order to achieve a favourable outcome of any situation for herself.
    Therefore Moll Flanders as a fictional identity invented by Daniel Defoe is inventing new fictional identities for
    herself in which she presents herself to other people within the fiction. Her creation of multifarious fictional
    identities is somehow constituting her own identity in general.
    In some cases she would cleverly conceil some details of her scandalous and criminal past in order to avoid
    the disadvantages she would face due to the judgement of others or the law. This can be seen as rather
    inoffensive behaviour, whereas in other cases she is especially successful as a thief because she tricks
    people into believing that she is trustworthy and rich. She would take precautions to have a wealthy
    appearance and wear her best clothes and goldwatches which she stole from other people when she went
    out for another “adventure” in which she planned to rob somebody. Furthermore she explicitly slips into a
    different identity on p. 330-332 when she saw two young wealthy girls who she wanted to rob. In order to
    gain their trust she first approached their Footman to acquire some knowledge about the two girls. When she
    introduced herself to the girls afterwards, she pretended to be an acquaintance of her parents by talking
    about all the private details that the Footman had shared with her so inattentively.
    Maybe the most obvious example of Moll’s elusive identity can be found in her name ‘Moll Flanders’ by which
    she is known as the most talented thief in London and in Newgate prison. This name is her pseudonym and
    her first person narrative begins with an explanation on p. 43 why she will not reveil her real name to the
    reader. This can be seen as a strategy of the author to make his fiction seem more realistic. Therefore the
    efforts of Moll Flanders to conceil her real identity not only towards other characters within the fiction, but
    also towards the reader, makes this fiction seem like a story which is based on real events and makes the
    reader forget about the actual author.
    As already mentioned, Moll pays a lot of attention to her appearance. This can be observed in various
    manifestations: For the usual “adventure” of robbing something valueable from a pedestrian or from a shop
    in the street she would usually dress up as a rich woman in expensive clothes and jewellery, so people
    would not suspect her to be a thief. But as she sometimes scarcely escaped a prosecution and was afraid
    that people would recognize her if she went out into the streets again. She even dressed up as a man for
    some robberies which she committed with another man, who was not aware of the fact that his companion
    was actually a woman. This eventually saved her life, because her accomplice got caught and could only
    reveal her male pseudonym to the officials. On another occasion Moll also dressed up as a poor woman, but
    found this costume rather ineffective for her profession as a thief.
    In general it can be concluded that Moll uses the fast judgement of people towards others appearances for
    her purposes and easily slips into identities that are most useful to her. Therefore the experiences of the first
    person narrator in the fictional text are often involving a fiction within the fiction which is created by the
    narrator herself towards other characters in the novel.
    Words: 619

  10. Thoughts on study question 1:

    The novel “The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the famous Moll Flanders” tells the story of Moll, an unprivileged lower-class woman living in the 18th century. English society during this time was embossed by class distinction and a patriarchal structure. The submissive role of women in the 18th-century English society was based on the idea that only men can be autonomous and self-sufficient. The modern idea of an independent woman earning an honest living was unthinkable for women who lived in this period of time. The social class you were born in determined your life. Although the emerging capitalism market opened up the boundaries of the social classes, class mobility was only feasible for men. The economy privileging men was also observed by Moll’s so-called sister at the beginning of the story: “Market is against our sex just now” (p.58).
    As the daughter of a woman who “was convicted of Felony for a certain petty Theft”, she suffered the consequences of economic insecurity and experienced firsthand how money determines life. Thus, security and stability was not part of her reality and was something she pursuits her entire life. Through cultural conventions Moll could not be taken seriously as a business woman, The only accesses to money for Moll is marriage and prostitution. Consequently, she marries five times to elevate herself financially. Already the first marriage to the younger brother of the family she lived in, showed that money seems to influence her more than sentiment: “I was more confounded with the Money than I was before with the Love, and began to be so elevated, that I scarce knew the Ground I stood on”(p.62). Marriage and love are means to an end. Moll is aware of her “Handsomeness” and her “well-shaped body”(p.56), which she understands as her capital. She uses it for her own advantages. Hence, love was a business for Moll what makes her a female capitalist. Through this sort of capitalism, the rebellious heroine transgresses gender rules and thereby breaches the perception of woman and man in her time. Already in a very early stage of life, Moll Flanders, despite the cultural and social conventions of the time, seeks for self-sufficiency. This gets evident when she expresses her wish to be a gentlewoman in the beginning of the novel. With being a gentlewoman she associates economic independence. What actually was a total misunderstanding of the term. A gentlewoman refers to a woman born or married into a family of a high status and therefore does not have to work to earn a living. Interestingly the wish she hereby voiced at the beginning of the story (“to be able to Work for myself and get enough to keep me without that terrible Bug-bear going to Service” p.50) becomes the motor of her life. She is convinced that she can make a profit regardless of not having any real fortune at first. Her biggest asset is herself and the trust that she is worth more than she has.
    “[Her]Sister in Law at Colchester had said, Beauty, Wit, Manners, Sence, good Humour, good behavior, Education, Virtue, Piety, or any other Qualification, whether of Body or Mind, had no power to recommend: That Money only made a Woman agreeable. […] The Money was always agreeable, whatever the Wife was.”(p.112). This text passage makes evident that the individual was identified through money. Without money your nobody. Likewise, Moll’s assumption of her identity is based on money. Her value is determined by her financial status. This is what gets apparent in the affair between Moll and the elder brother of her first husband. She takes the money as a token of the man’s love for her.
    In a nutshell, we can hold on that the novel Moll Flanders money plays an important role. Money is depicted as the secret and measure for success what helps you to overcome a fixed station in life and grants you security and independence. Moll as a lower-class woman targeting a social ascension challenges the obsequious role of women in 18th century English society. Moll portrayed as a self-seeking fortune hunter and a female capitalist were revolutionary ideas for this time of patriarchal English society.

    words (695)

  11. “’I wonder at you, brother,’ says the sister. ‘Betty wants but one
    thing, but she had as good want everything, for the market is
    against our sex just now; and if a young woman have beauty,
    birth, breeding, wit, sense, manners, modesty, and all these to
    an extreme, yet if she have not money, she’s nobody, she had
    as good want them all for nothing but money now recommends
    a woman; the men play the game all into their own hands.’”

    This passage of “Moll Flanders” raises one of the primary questions, namely if money is all that defines a woman, and to be more precise, a gentlewoman, any other woman being the above-mentioned “nobody”. A gentlewoman herself, the sister states quite clearly that it is the society itself being responsible for this, as any man could choose to marry a poor, though brilliant woman. Instead, these women are kept as mistresses, as long as they are pretty.
    This and various similar statements imprint the idea upon Molly that in order to be a gentlewoman, she had to imitate them. As she was raised by a noble family, she was able to learn all behaviour, and her natural beauty made her appear as a gentlewoman, but the lack of money disqualified her. Meanwhile, a rich woman could afford to be ugly and spoiled and still be regarded as a gentlewoman, marrying off into another noble family.
    This is contradicted by her younger brother, though, as he states that:

    “your neighbours, as you call them, may be even with you, for beauty will steal a husband
    sometimes in spite of money, and when the maid chances to be handsomer than the mistress,
    she oftentimes makes as good a market, and rides in a coach before her.”

    So the novel itself does not make a definite statement whether money is the only thing that matters in a woman`s life or if it can be equalized by virtues. Still, the norm seems to be the dominance of money, as the brother inserts the important word of “sometimes”, and more than that, he talks about love, not marriage. This can be read as money being able to allow a “good” marriage, but not to buy love.
    However, this is contradicted later by the fact that some men simply give Molly money as “a token of love”, as they put it, but in the end it is some sort of prostitution: by giving a woman money, the man expects her to have sex with him, although he does not press her. It is more a matter of habituality, because not accepting the money could be an offense for the good-willed man, but not expressing gratitude by having sex is also an offense. What is more, a beautiful woman is most likely in need of money, making it even more difficult for her to reject him and his money. On the other hand, a rich, though ugly woman could say no, but then again, no man would want an ugly woman for sex.

    After losing her money, Moll Flanders draws the conclusion that money itself is not that important, but the appearance of possessing it. While she pretends to be rich, she actually never states being rich and still gets her man, or men. In a way, she plays the game of unspoken agreement the other way round: once a man has confessed her love, believing her to be not only pretty, but also rich, he cannot back down, otherwise he would be unmasked as a liar. Therefore, the only money Moll needs is that what she needs to afford her appearance, mostly clothes, but also cars and other punctual expenses. That is the reason why she ends as a thief, as this allows her to continue her masquerade.

    Ultimately, there are three aspects of money in Moll Flanders. The first is for a man to buy him a woman and therefore love or at least its illusion. This woman does not necessarily have to be the wife, though. Secondly, it is what qualifies a woman as being noble or not. And thirdly, the way money is “earned” is of almost no importance, be it inherited, stolen or genuinely earned.

    1. … and maybe, also for the man, to marry a woman who brings the money of her father with her, in which case, she becomes merely a medium of the travelling of money from one man to the other.

  12. “I asked #100, and he rose up to #30; I fell to #80, and he rose again to #40; in a word, he offered #50, and I consented, only demanding a piece of lace, which I thought came to about #8 or #9, as if it had been for my own wear, and he agreed to it. So I got #50 in money paid me that same night, and made an end of the bargain; nor did he ever know who I was, or where to inquire for me, so that if it had been discovered that part of the goods were embezzled, he could have made no challenge upon me for it.”

    This passage already shows Moll Flanders, the protagonist of the homonymous novel by Daniel Defoe (first published in 1722) to be fully aware of her power over men, mainly consisting in making a fortune by manipulating them. While this manipulative and highly dishonest behaviour might seem incomprehensible at first, considering the historical circumstances it becomes clear that the ways for a woman of the time to accumulate capital were limited to two basic options: either sell her body and beauty for a man’s capital, or simply deceive men to obtain money.
    In general, various relations between Moll Flanders and monetary resources can be determined. First of all, the female protagonist tries to make a fortune on her own for that is what she initially understands as “being a gentlewoman”. However, the connection between Moll and capital goes beyond money being a simple means to achieve her goal. Moll Flanders can be seen as a representation of capital herself, as she uses her beauty and physical traits as means to accumulate a fortune. If one was to simplify this drastically, it could be said that she almost ‘sells’ her beauty and physical as well as sexual qualities to accumulate monetary capital.

    Nevertheless, to some degree Moll also desires to deviate from the cycle of women being treated as or exchanged for capital, as she feels the need to refrain from pursuing commonplace bourgeois relations. In the social circles of the upper middle class at the time, women were merely circulated as objects by men, in the same way that capital was treated. While Moll does not want to exclude herself completely from this scenario, she is determined to pursue it at her own terms. In the context of the subversion of bourgeois social relations, not only Moll’s general reluctance to marry any upper middle-class citizen comes to mind. Additionally, the incest she commits by unwillingly wedding her half-brother displays an additional subversion of social structures at the time. As is common in Defoe, in Moll Flanders the transgression of social norms is closely linked to aspects of capitalism.

    Taking into consideration that capitalism itself was seen as a transgression of traditional economic structures at the time, the connection between transgression of social norms and Moll as a capitalist accumulating monetary resources becomes even clearer. While Moll might be mistakenly accused of having no heart and displaying absolute cruelty when pursuing economic success, it has to be kept in mind that a poor woman like her at the time simply had no choice but to be cruel and ruthless if need be. Hence, Moll is in my opinion not a character without moral values, but rather one who knows when she can allow herself to act upon them or not. Wanting to kill the girl with the gold necklace, for example, she recognises the wrong in it and does therefore not give up her moral values in exchange for capital. To some degree, the character of Moll Flanders can be seen as the result of a Puritan society turning towards secular zeal where divine worshipping has been replaced with worshipping wealth, power and success. In this sense, Moll represents a merchant who willingly deviates to deceit if need be.

    To sum up, in Moll Flanders Defoe creates a sociocritical perspective towards capitalism and its problems. While this economic system, very much like the protagonist herself, is not primarily bad, under certain circumstances it turns into a chain of using and being used. While men with a fortune traditionally were (and still are) the winners in a system which can to a certain extent be considered one of monetary exploitation, non-affluent women on the other hand can quickly lose everything.

  13. Thoughts on study question 3. (3rd Reader response)

    Published in three volumes between 1724 and 1727 (Southall: 2009), A Tour Thro’ The Thole Island of Great Britain is a travel journal of the writer, journalist, adventurer and spy Daniel Defoe. He shares detailed reports of some of his real trips, while exploring Great Britain. In the excerpt “City of London”, a small touch of nostalgia seems to arouse in Defoe, in particular to what the city used to look like. However, the “itinerant” (323) especially demonstrates a great pride for the unique, “great” (323) and “mighty” (329) London.

    In his fifth letter which Defoe writes to a certain “Sir”, he begins to give an overview of London with an account of its streets, boundaries and buildings (314). London is in the midst of a full expansion and extends to a “monstrous city” (316). Villages which were once separated from the city and part of the countryside are now joined to the streets “part of the great mass” by many buildings and houses (315). New buildings emerge as the city is facing an influx of its population.

    In addition, Defoe makes a remarkable description of the British life. The author is especially interested in the economy and the trade of the city.
    Defoe highlights the profound transformations of trade that are taking place in London. He stresses the increase of the markets, which “are so considerable” and offer “an infinite quantity of provisions of all sort” (344). There seems to be an abundance and huge variety of products and a tendency to purchase more and more meat. Defoe remarks with regard to the enormous quantity of meat bought at the Leaden-Hall market, that a Spanish ambassador once said: “There was as much meat sold in it in one month, as would suffice Spain for a year” (344). As the population of London continues to grow and according to Sir William Petty, “famous for his political arithmetic” (322), already reaches “a million” of inhabitants at that time, the markets offer more consumer goods to meet the needs of the English capital.

    Maybe because he has been imprisoned several times, Defoe also provides a long description of London’s prisons and detention places. Although being “a nation of liberty”, the author of the text states that “There are in London, […] more publick and private prisons, and houses of confinement, than any city in Europe” with 22 “Public Gaols” and without counting the numerous private asylums, such as the 119 “Spunging Houses” (353), in which the “rudeness and avarice of the officers prevails, and the oppression is sometimes very great” (354).
    Many consider Daniel Defoe’s work as the first travel guide. The author relied on his past adventurous trips and journeys, being a merchant and while he worked as a spy for the politician Robert Harley. He might also have relied on other travel literature and books as he cites other authors, for example Mr. Stow, who also wrote about London and its buildings (324).

    In the part of A Tour Thro’ The Whole Island of Great Britain in which Defoe describes London, the city arises the feeling to be precisely real. The writer’s detailed descriptions and observations of the many locations in London provide the reader with an insight of the city without being there. To borrow Pat Rogers words, Defoe “hit on the best blend of objective fact and personal commentary; the neatest amalgam of gazetteer and traveler’s tale; the densest mixture of history and prophecy, myth and reportage, observation and impression, formal coverage and informal anecdote.” Sometimes comedic and very much reflective of geographic, economic and social features and development of the time, Defoe captured a view of London during its transition.

  14. RESPONSE PAPER 3: A Tour Thro’ The Whole Island of Great Britain

    Defoe’s London as described in “A Tour Thro’ The Whole Island of Great Britain” is a place of perpetual motion and growth. The rapidly changing face of the City is syntactically reflected in Defoe’s style of writing which displays not a straightforward, but a rather complex perspective on London as a city with different social classes. In fact, Defoe’s London as depicted in “A Tour Thro’ The Whole Island of Great Britain” cannot be seen as one London, but as a net of different ‘Londons’ overlapping each other. In general, Defoe was particularly interested in the City’s economy, its trade and architecture as well as in its administrative organisation.

    Overall, Defoe has difficulties in giving an exact and concise account of the city (“… and how much farther it [London] may spread, who knows?” Tour, 314) due to its steadily growing population. He regards population growth to be rather problematic, as the City’s architectural structure is unable to cope with the demographic explosion. According to Defoe, the City’s architecture lacks a clear structure and organised planning, but is built “in a most straggling, confus’d manner” (315).

    To order this confused mass of population, Defoe gives an account of the City’s dimensions in the minutest details including measurements extending over 5 pages (Tour, 316-321). This measuring later on serves as to arrive at a definition of what exactly the City of London is comprised by. As Defoe puts it: “But by London, as I shall discourse of it, I mean, all the buildings, places, hamlets, and villages contain’d in the line of circumvallation, …” (Tour, 323). On a narrative level, measuring all the minute details of the City adds to a feeling of realism. We as readers, consuming this highly detailed description, can consequently imagine very precisely what Defoe’s London must have been like. Amongst other things, exact descriptions including street names, exact distances and data regarding the extension of the different boroughs creates a very high degree of realism:

    “…in some places, three miles broad, as from St. George’s in Southwark, […] or two miles, as from Peterburgh House to Montague House; and in some places, not half a mile, as in Wapping; and much less, as in Redriff.” (Tour, 315)
    Furthermore, Defoe sees London as an amalgamation of of several small towns which are rapidly merging into one megacity. While the happenings like economy, trade or architectural structuring on a micro-level are interesting to him, on a macro-level he finds the City’s chaotic shape displeasing on a macro-level. Concerning its rapid population growth, he talks about the “Disaster of London” (Tour, 314) as well as he addresses London as a “monstrous city” (Tour, 316).

    As well as the architectural structure of London in general, he also addresses changes which have been made after the Great Fire of London in 1666. He describes houses to be rebuilt more economically as well as depicting the constriction of individuals’ private space to cater for the rapid demographic growth. However, while showing discontent regarding London’s uncontrollable growth of population, Defoe shows himself highly satisfied with the political organisation of the City of London. He finds the City to be very ordered administratively, and despite his dislike regarding its growth rate, he likes the little happenings and the City’s ambience.

    To sum up, Defoe’s account of London in “A Tour Thro’ The Whole Island of Great Britain” is certainly a two-fold one: On the one hand, Defoe as a writer is pleased to use the City’s pulse as a source for his own inspiration, enjoying the little happenings in a perpetually vibrant city. On the other hand, however, Defoe criticises London’s architectural structure, a wild amalgamation of several small towns, growing uncontrollably and with no end in sight. London’s mess – in some sense or the other – both mesmerises, but also disgusts Defoe.

  15. Thoughts on study question 1 (response 3)
    In a Journal of the Plague year H.F. tells the reader a story of three refugees, it is quite different to the rest of the novel. The story gives the reader a different perspective to the one the narrator provides. He is telling the story of these men and the reader can see his view peeking through. It becomes obvious that H.F. is regretting his own decision of staying in the city in this dangerous situation.
    In the story H.F. tells, three men that live in the city want to escape the plague. They decide to leave when the plague starts to spread to the parish they live in, but by that time they want to leave it is forbidden. Because of that they have to be very careful that they are not seen. During their travels they meet another group that also flees from the plague. With them they want to travel farther away from the city, they have some difficulties during those travels. The towns they want to walk through bared the way so no one would get the town infected. John, one of the three men, talks to the town and convinces them to let them pass and even to give them food for the way. When thy think they are far enough away from the city they build their own little community in the woods near a town. The people from the town are concerned that they had the plague at first but after it was clear they did not have the plague they gave supplies to the group.
    This story shows again that H.F. is thinking about his decision to stay in the city. He had the chance to leave with his brother in the beginning, he struggled with the decision. One the one hand he wants to be save with his brother but on the other hand he is to curious about what will happen in the city. After he decides to stay in the city and realizes that there is no way out of the city anymore, he starts to regret his decision. The story just puts more emphasis on his regret by showing the reader that it was much easier to survive in the country. H.F. also mentions in the novel that the best way to survive the plague is to run from it, another indicator for his deep regret.
    In the story the group builds their own small society to survive, while in the city everything breaks down. In London social life is not like it was before, people do not want contact with others in fear of the plague. But the group in the story is capable of trusting each other that no one has the plague and work together to make it on the road. They have to work together and they need all the skills they have, and the help they get. The story shows that it was not impossible during the plague to build something, it did not destroy everything but also gave the chance for change and growth to some people.
    H.F. also thinks that the story could be used as a plan on how to survive a situation like the plague or any other fast spreading deadly distemper. In that part of the novel Defoe shines through, he had just written a text on how to prepare for the plague, with the story of the three refugees he does something similar. Defoe gives the reader a way to be prepared for something so horrifying as the plague and a clear description for a way out. H.F. tells the reader multiple times that the best way to live through the plague is to run from it.
    The part with the three refugees is much different to the rest of the novel, it gives the reader a different perspective of that time. It shows the differences between the city and the country and that people acted differently during that time. The story is so significant for the novel because Defoe really shines through but the reader still has the felling that H.F.’s feelings shine through as well.

  16. Thoughts on study question 1:

    In his masterpiece “The Journal of the Plague Year”, Daniel Defoe again demonstrates his capability to connect narrative and documentary realism. Claiming to be “written by a citizen who continued all the while in London”, the text tells the observations and experiences of H.F. during the plague in 1665. The book was published in 1722 as there was a big concern about the plague returning to London since news spread that the plague erupted in Marseille. It is intended to function as a handbook on how to deal with the plague.
    The main and consistently recurring question H.F. is concerned with is whether one should leave the city or not. An anecdote, initially introduced by H.F in his own narrative, takes on the dilemma H.F. sees himself confronted with. It tells the story of three workmen, a sail-maker, a biscuit baker and a joiner. Due to the increasing spread of the plague throughout the city, and the fear of contagion, they decide to escape their situation. In order to keep away from the plague, they leave London and live like nomadic people passing through the country. On their way, they join another group of refugees. Again and again, they are faced with difficulties as to get food or passing towns, as people were concerned about getting infected.
    The importance attached to the story is evident as it is the longest story of the entire narrative and a story of survival. Introducing the story for the first time in the beginning of the text, H.F. returns to the story twice. The difference of the story gets evident in the breaks being used by H.F.: “I say all this previous to the History, having yet, for the present, much more to say before I quit my own part” (p.52). There is a clear cut, as the story cannot be integrated with his own narrative. But H.F. suggests that there is a value in the story, doesn’t matter “whether my Account be exactly according to Fact or no”(p.118). The didactic purpose of the text is to be seen, as he represents the story as “a Pattern for all poor Men to follow, or Women either, if ever such a Time comes again” (p. 118). Interestingly, the story seems not only to trouble the narrative, but also the narrator himself. In contrast to his recommendation to get away from the plague, he made the decision to stay. The story thereby puts into question the decision of H.F. to stay in London. The inner conflict of H.F. is to be seen to the whole extent.
    The story creates a change in narrative. It starts with the voices of the men, narrated in direct speech with each speaker marked in a tag as in a play. This can be seen as a marker of the fictional aspect of the story. As H.F. stayed the whole time in London during the plague, the story is no first-hand account. This is different to his narrative where he tells stories out of his own experience he makes by wandering around the city and observing situations. The story can be seen as a kind of performative script in the midst of what had been detailed narrator-based observations. It, therefore, breaks with the uniformity of the novel. Having in mind that H.F.’s account of the plague focuses on the fact that fear of infection leads to avoid direct contact with people the narrative situation gains new importance. People talk to each other, directly. The need of social interaction gets evident. Although everyone knows that the interaction with people endangers the own life, no one can avoid it. There seems to be a need for social contact.
    Another important aspect of the story is the criticism of the social system. The three men find a way out. Not only a way out of London but therewith also a way out of the system they lived in. In the story, they define rules for a living together, which is evocative of the system of checks and balances. The men pooled their talents together to escape the plague and survive. One of them was physical restricted but could provide financial means. The second served in the military and the third worked as a carpenter what helped them to build lodges for the night. Moreover, the anecdote portrays a creation of a certain social contract: “He was content that what money they had should all go into one public stock, on condition, that whatever anyone of them could gain more than another, it should, without any grudging be all added to the public stock” (p. 122).
    In a nutshell, the really different story of the three men comprised important aspects of the whole text and sheds another light upon the narrator. It again raises the main question of the text on how to deal with the plague. The question of leaving or staying. It cannot provide a satisfactory answer and makes the decision, other than stated by H.F., a personal one.

  17. RESPONSE PAPER 3: Thoughts on study question 1: The story of the three work men

    The story is about three men, “two brothers and their kinsman”, one a former soldier employed at a baker’s of sea-biscuit, his brother working at a sailmaker’s and the third man a joiner or carpenter by trade. All three are not very rich but not very poor either, they are what we would nowadays probably refer to as ‘the middle class’ since they have solid jobs to provide a more or less acceptable living standard. At least until the plague hits the part of London where they live and work. As soon as that happens, they lose their jobs and have to move out of their lodgings because the house owners are scared of contagiousness. Because of the high risk of getting infected in the city and due to not owning any houses themselves they decide to leave town and turn north. Soon they realize that their journey will be much more challenging than they expected. The smaller towns in the countryside all are in fear of the plague and try to shut out any stranger that either wants to stay with them or even only pass through. The three men have at least a tent and a horse with them but sooner or later they would have problems to fend for themselves so they are basically at the mercy of the villagers they meet at the small towns. A lot of the people they meet are hostile and full of fear, only after quite some time and trickery they manage to form a group with some other people they meet and even find a place where they can stay and where people are kind to them.
    In the book, this story about the three men seems to have the purpose of providing background information about the situation in England at the time of the plague, especially about what was going on in the countryside where a lot of people fled to. Most importantly, the story is reflective of the attitude of the society of that time. It gives good insights in how the people were treating each other in view of the danger of the plague. As long as the three men are openly admitting to come from London, people react hostile and try to send them back because of the fear of contagiousness but as soon as they manage to make a good appearance and convince people that they were coming from the country and not from London the reaction would change to be much kinder.
    “[…] and here it came into their heads to say, when they should be inquired of afterwards, not that they came from London, but that they came out of Essex.” (p. 82)
    The story shows that once someone got infected by the plague he couldn’t expect much from his fellow men and even if one was not infected he had a hard time to prove it to other people once he fled London. Only after going through a lot and with a bit of luck it was possible to experience some sort of charity at least for the three men in the story. The rich and persons of influence tried basically to shut the plague out by hiding behind walls and doors and let the problem solve itself by leaving the mostly poorer people out to die in the streets. Maybe it can be said, that the story is even told to put the narrator in a better light, to make him stand out with his attitude of not leaving London and not shying away from contact with other people in the streets. Whatever exactly Defoe’s motives were to put this little side story in the book it definitely adds to the setting in general and helps broaden the framework of the book by taking a look well beyond the area of London.

    1. yes, good observations! I believe though, at that time, the men wouldn’t have been considered middle class, but rather working class, as they have neither house nor land nor a really stable source of income, at least not anymore once the plague hits.

  18. Respose paper No. 3
    Deadline: 12th of July 2017
    Study Question: Number 1

    The story of the three workmen who leave London in order to save themselves from the infection of the plague is about a group of people that survived the plague in the fields and forests outside of London. It begins with the debate of two brothers about whether or not they should leave the town. Eventually they resolve to go because they both will find themselves turned out of their lodgins sooner or later. A third man wanted to join them on their journey, so the three men left London with one horse to carry their luggage and agreed that “what Money they had should all go into one publick Stock, on Condition, that whatever any one of them could gain more than another, it should, without any grudging, be all added to the same publick Stock.” (p. 122) In the first two parishes they were received in a friendly manner, since they pretended to be from Essex instead of being from London, and received a Certificate of Health from a Justice of the Peace. In the following night the three men met another group of people from London of about thirteen persons and the two groups merged together. But since there was a rumour in the country, that people from London were spreading the infection into other areas, the next parish refused to let them pass through and therefore the travellers set up their camp not far from the gates of the town and negotiated with the people from a distance. They had to leave again the next day because they tried to intimidate the people and were therefore in danger of being prosecuted by horse- and footmen, so they set up their camp in an open forest near Epping. When the Parish Officers found out about them, they were not pleased and the traveller’s captain John had to negotiate with them for their staying. After some time the people saw that they all were healthy and they began to pity them and sent them provisions and material to sustain themselves. As the weather grew colder and the infection had arrived in the area, one man even offered an abondened house in the forest to them, which the people refurbished and lived in until they returned to London when the plague had abated.
    This short story of the travellers who escaped the infection by leaving London differs from the rest of the text of The Journal of the Plague Year, because it takes place outside of London and is a rather long and coherent narrative with dialogues in comparison with other shorter stories and happenings that the narrator shares with the reader. It is singnificant for the text because it shows the behaviour of the people in a state of nature. This includes loyalty towards each other by sharing all their goods and creating a community which is not ordered by a government or king, but which named one of them to be their captain. The security which the people of London used to enjoy was no longer existent so the open fields and forest, which are usually associated with danger and insecurity, were now a safer place for the people nonregarding the uncomfortable living circumstances, because they were facing the existential question whether they can survive at all or not. It also highlights the binary of trust and mistrust between people, since the two groups of travellers trusted each other rather quickly and managed to survive by combining all their knowledge and talents and somehow benefited from and depended on each other. On the other hand the people of the parishes mistrusted them a lot because they were concerned about their own safety and health, but as soon as they could be sure that they were all healthy, the empathy and support of the local people becomes very significant. This might also be due to the fact that the group of travellers who set up their camp in the forest were no longer complete strangers to them and that the infection had arrived in their own parish by then.

    Words: 693

  19. Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg i. Br.
    Englisches Seminar – Literaturwissenschaft
    Proseminar: „Daniel Defoe“ ​ ​
    Dozentin: Dr. Nicole Falkenhayner ​
    Sommersemester 2017
    Damaris Stein

    Response Paper Three
    Thoughts on Study Question Three:
    • What kind of a text is A Tour Thro’ The Whole Island of Great Britain? What is significant about it? In the excerpt that we read, how is London represented?
    Daniel Defoe’s A Tour Thro’ The Whole Island of Great Britain was one of his most famous work during the eighteenth century. The Tour consists in total of three volumes, of which the first volume was published in 1724. All volumes contain several letters of which Letter V, being the excerpt that we read, belongs to the second volume. In this letter, the narrator focuses primarily on London.
    Already on the first page of the fifth letter, the author addresses the guiding theme that can be found throughout the whole excerpt; namely, the immensely rapid growth of Lodon. Defoe depicts London as “the great center of England” (314) where “new streets [are, D.S.] rising up every day” (314). London is growing so fast, nobody knows how much more it is going to expand. The text even goes to such length to claim that no other city in the world have ever extended in such dimension except for the Roman Empire.
    However, the increase of buildings seems to be assessed negatively by referring to it as “the disaster of London” (314). Furthermore, London is repeatedly called a “monstrous city” (316) or a “great and monstrous thing” (323) whose growth can neither be controlled nor regulated. The inclusion of more and more outer districts into London evokes the image of a London annexing or ‘devouring’ town after town. Even places that are “unlikely ever to be inhabited” (315) are now part of the city. In addition, in the second comparison to Rome, the author finds faulty with the uncoordinated method of construction which led to the irregular, “uncompact, and unequal” (315) cityscape of London. In contrast to London, the likewise “monstrous” Rome shows orderliness in its composition.
    When the tour or “line of measurement” (316) eventually begins, the detailed description of the Londoner infrastructure and the instruction for the tour through London reminds the reader easily of an early model of travel guide. Using the line of measurement as a narrative frame puts emphasis on the ongoing movement in the city. Furthermore, the fact that nobody knows for certain how many people live in London conveys the impression that London is continuously changing and unstable. Likewise, the “description of the new buildings” (324) underlines the transformation London went through (and is still going through) after the Great Fire in 1666. Through the whole Tour, the author plays with differnt notions of movement. For instance, by stating that “there are many more houses built than stood before upon the same ground” (325), Defoe suggests an implosion of space. London does not only expand outwardly but also inwardly. What is more, commerce in London equally explodes as the author opines that “We see nothing of this at Paris, […] or any other city, that ever I have seen” (342), which demonstrates again another type of motion.
    At this point, Defoe is full of praise for London again. The unique position of London in the world is remarkable present in the Tour. Phrases such as the markets of London are “without doubt, the greatest in the world of those kinds.” (343) are used frequently and slightly insinuate a eulogy of London. This opposes the uncanny growing of the city.
    In conclusion, it can be said that the great increase of the city affected Defoe’s perception of London negatively. However, these negative aspects seem to be equilibrated by the exceptional greatness of the Londoner architecture, its economy, its Court and government.

  20. [i]“the story of the three work men who flee the capital to set up a community of their own is very different from the rest of the text of The Journal of a Plague Year. What is the story about and why, do you think, is it significant for the text?”[/i]

    The story of the three men who fled London is a story inside the story and indeed very different in some aspects.
    First of all, H.F. states it at the beginning of the passage that it is or might be fictional. The primary objective of the story is a moral one: “Their story has a moral in every part of it”.
    Very different in style, it resembles more a biblical parable than a more or less accurate report like the rest of the journal. It can also be seen as a clear statement or declaration that the whole story is fictive. More than that, it condenses the essential statements of the whole journal and puts them in quite humorous terms.
    It is not entirely clear what they stand for, but it certainly is not the rich. One could say that they represent the army and the craftsmen, though that would be very close to the text and possibly does not justice to the complexity of the text. It is probably better to put it in more general terms and to just say that the three brethren stand for the poor. Thus, they lack the money and influence to escape the plague and completely depend on their wits. This can also be seen, in broader terms, as some sort of picaresque novel, providing some humour to the otherwise relatively dry and gruesome journal.
    At some point, they try to get through a town whose people refuse to let them get past. Two facts of this episode are of particular interest: one, they pretend to be a considerably big, armed force and second, that the townspeople are so afraid of them that once the brethren ride through the town, they townsmen lock themselves up and do not even dare to look outside the window. Had they done so, they would have seen that the rumours about a small army was a hoax. But as they relied so heavily, not to say completely, on hearsay, they took it for granted. It can be interpreted as rumours being so powerful that not even obvious facts can change them, as people turn a blind eye on it, something sadly still applying to our actual time. As a matter of time, the travellers did not even lie, although they relied on a military trick. Even so, it was a mere illusion, so the townspeople managed to mislead themselves.
    But the story does not end there, because the rumours about an armed force forcing its way through England spread to other towns, making people cautious towards groups of foreigners. Subsequently, the travellers have to deny being that group, or “rabble”.
    Finally, they do manage to settle down for a while and earn trust by being earnest and working hard, two very puritan virtues. This is put into contrast to other groups of poor people fleeing the plagued city and effectively spreading the plague even further. These people are described as being avaricious and generally showing bad behaviour, being the opposite of our three brethren. Thus, there is no general declaration stating that poor people are innocent and good people, but that everyone is responsible for his own behaviour and fate.
    As the three workers eventually return to London and survive the plague, it can also be interpreted as a very condensed robinsonade. Like Robinson, they leave their home city and travel away. They are stranded somewhere in the middle of nowhere (England, so at least technically an island, too), build up their lives and homes and end up at the starting point, reborn and “saved”. So we even have some slightly hidden intertextuality of the same author, inter²textuality, so to say.
    On a medical-analytic level, it can be seen as an advice to people to flee big cities once the plague spreads, but to remain honest and fair (at the town mentioned above, they require food, but as it is needed for survival and does not deny the donors their own survival, it can be seen as a natural help). On the other side, people should not shut refugees out due to fear, but due to facts.
    Ironically, the narrator himself remains in London, thus not following the advice he gives in this parable. But then again, who would have told the journal if he had left…

  21. Response 3:
    What kind of a text is A Tour Thro’ The Whole Island of Great Britain? What is significant about it? In the excerpt that we read, how is London represented?

    Daniel Defoe’s A Tour Thro’ The Whole Island of Great Britain is an example of a travel narrative. The travel narrative was one of the most popular genres in the 18th century, giving detailed description of the geography, monuments and customs of the people in foreign lands. Such kind of narratives had existed in previous centuries but they were more like tales as the writing was far more fictionalised than those in the 18th century. Those were accurately describing the land and people of distant countries, mixing factual information with artistic literary content. Therefore, 18th century travel narratives were a combination of descriptive analysis of foreign lands and people and how they differed from the homeland, and some philosophical or moral reflection about these differences. The 18th century travel narrative in some way responded to the growing appetite for knowledge of distant countries in the world. Technological improvements, especially ships and carriages, made it easier to travel and, furthermore, possible not only for explorers and soldiers but also for ordinary people. Today’s critics often argue that 18th century travel narratives were written to justify European imperialism, especially through deprecative reports of foreign countries to express and demonstrate the European culture as superior to others.

    Defoe’s A Tour Thro’ The Whole Island of Great Britain was published between 1724 and 1727 and it was a financially successful work at that time. In comparison to other travel narratives of the same era, such as Joseph Addison’s Remark on Several Parts of Italy (1705) or John Cook’s Voyages and Travels Through the Russian Empire (1770), Defoe’s Tour does not take place in some distant country but the homeland. It is a collection of thirteen letters in three volumes, each letter describing a different tour. The first volume contains three letters in which he describes the east and southeast, south and southwest of Great Britain. In the second volume, containing letters four till seven, Defoe describes the southwest, the west (including Wales) and then London in more detail (letter five). The third volume he then describes the midlands, the north of England and then, in letters 10 till 13, Scotland. The only part of Great Britain he does not mention is Northern Ireland. The detailed description of the parts does not necessarily mean that Defoe had actually travelled there, especially not just before he wrote the collection. He must have relied on some past journeys he had undertaken and probably was inspired by other travel literature, such as for example William Camden’s Britannia (1586) or John Stow’s Survey of London (1598).

    As already mentioned, Defoe dedicated a whole letter to the city of London (letter 5). London was not only the capital but also Defoe’s home town. His descriptions can be divided into the description of buildings and infrastructure and the description of Westminster and the Court. At first, Defoe mentions the fast transformation of the city, the expansion into the country and assimilation of villages (314f). In his eyes it is “the disaster of London” (314), for in this massive expansion the city loses its beauty and nobody can actually say where it ends. The city is described as monstrous (316, 323) in comparison to “the past greatness of this mighty city” (329). To regain this past beauty, Defoe even makes some suggestions on how to improve the sight of the city (330f). But besides his grumbling about the development of the city, Defoe is also proud of it. He says that there is “no city in the world [that is] so well furnished for the extinguishing fires”, mentioning the “great convenience of water”, “great number of admirable engines” and “several ensurance offices” (349).

    In conclusion, Defoe’s A Tour Tro’ the Whole Island of Great Britain is a travel narrative with the characteristic that it does not describe some distant country but Great Britain. In the fifth letter, London is described in detail as a monstrous city, but with some very positive features. Defoe criticises its enormous growth but also sees its advantages and makes some suggestions of how to improve it.

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