Posts Tagged ‘Shenanigans’

Female Shenanigans; They Work

January 11, 2010

Throughout Moll Flanders Daniel Defoe makes a social commentary on the world that Moll lives in. Moll makes many errors in judgment and tries to advise the reader on how to avoid her mishaps. This advice gives the novel a didactic tone but still the novel should be read more as a what not to do manual, rather than what to do. One function of society that Defoe calls out is the obscure process of arranging matches. This occurs in Moll’s middle age years and unlike the rest of the novel it is not highlighted through her own actions. Moll shares her wisdom, which she has attained through her experiences with several husbands, and helps a wealthy friend take control of her courtship. In the circle that they both are moving, there are many aspiring Captains who need money to finance their business. Moll and her friend are widowers and so are responsible for the business of their matches, rather than their relatives.

It is rather odd to imagine Defoe writing this advice for a woman, but could likely be what he has been subjected to through his courting efforts with women. Moll instructs her friend in how to take control of the situation after the discovery is made that her suitor was “not the man as to Estate he pretended to be” (57). Through slander and well-planted rumors her friend manages to make the man half crazed, and suddenly she is in control of the situation. Even though it has been recognized that her suitor was interested largely in her assets, she decides still to stay with him. This reveals the limited prospects that widowed women, even young moneyed women, must make advantage of. Making advantage of this situation turned out to be through subterfuge: “that tho’ she resolved to have him, and that indeed having him was the main bent of her design, yet she made his obtaining her be [to him] the most difficult thing in the World…” (60). These female shenanigans secure him as an affable husband, but more importantly reveal the hidden duplicity in a very conduct conscious society. In order for the man to save his reputation and secure his funds it was necessary for him to appease the woman who was attempting his ruin. Defoe accurately describes the perfect balance necessary for an eighteenth century romance.

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