Posts Tagged ‘structure’

Moll Marrying Men Makes Mishaps Mostly

January 19, 2010

 

Moll Flanders is no stranger to getting married. She marries and re-marries many times throughout the course of the novel. Her most recent husband after moving to London, who is not mentioned by name, seems to be the closest Moll came to having an attachment to. “… I had the prospect of a very happy Life, if I knew how to manage it…” (148). Moll also seems to respect her husband more than any other she had previously “I Liv’d with this Husband in the utmost Tranquility; he was a Quiet, Sensible, Sober Man, Virtuous, Modest, Sincere, and in his Business Diligent and Just…” (149).

Moll remains married to this man for some time, and has two children by him. She describes that this would be the only children she would bear with him as she was approaching infertility, stating “…it began to be time for me to leave bearing Children, for I was now Eight and Forty…” (150).

Moll enjoys the wealth this husband can provide to her until his clerk loses a large sum of their personal fortunes, leaving them with almost nothing. This sudden shock of being poor gives Moll’s husband a heart attack, killing him. Soon after, Moll finds herself poor and alone. She admits that “[her] case is deplorable…” (150). Soon after, she begins to lose her sanity. Moll externalizes her sins to attributes them to the devil. She then begins to self-censor herself as she has a mental breakdown. Is this a sign of Moll’s weakness. It seems that she finally allowed herself to truly love a man to the point where she loses her sanity as she loses him. This is a claim that Moll’s other husbands could make. No other husband affects Moll’s sense of being as does this one.

Another possible theory that I find more likely is that Moll, who became used to being wealthy, suddenly finds herself with nothing much like her situation as a child: poor and alone. This sudden desperation damages what is left of Moll’s sanity, driving her to such rash actions as to steal from a helpless child in an act of self-preservation. Defoe uses this decent from rich and happy to poor and desolate to illustrate how fluid the social structure in eighteenth century London was. Moll, who rose to the highest social standing with her husband, suddenly finds herself among the lowest rungs of society in a matter of days after her husband’s death. Though Moll will likely recover from her latest predicament, it seems that the death of this latest husband will have a lasting imprint on her sanity and morality.

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Fantomina and the London Social Hierarchy

December 14, 2009

Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina; or, Love in a Maze is a satire of class structure within the context of a woman pursuing a man, Beauplasir, in 18th century London. In Fantomina, the unnamed female protagonist is in a theater, sitting in the balcony, a prominent symbol of wealth and class. Because of the woman’s high social standing, many restrictions are placed upon her. She is restricted from having meaningful conversation with members of the opposite sex, nor is she allowed to actively pursue them. She suddenly notices a familiar face in the crowd below her under the balcony; She sees Beauplasir, a male in the same high social standing as she. Because Beauplasir is male, however, he is free to leave the balcony and pursue women below it.

Fed up with her restrictions, she changes her clothes so that she resembles a prostitute. It is here that Haywood is satirizing not only the restrictions on women of higher social standing, but also the arbitrary reasons for deciding who belongs in what class, which in this case is clothing. Now a prostitute, she pursues Beauplasir freely, as he is unable to recognize her as she has changed her social standing, thus changing her very identity, now “Fantomina.”

Fantomina falls in love with Beauplasir, and their relationship is sexual, as is with relationships dealing with prostitutes. In the same regard, Beauplasir grows tired of Fantomina and leaves her. Distraught, she follows him. Changing her clothes again, thereby changing her social standing and identity, she becomes “Celia,” Beauplasir’s new maid. Again, Beauplasir and Celia have a relationship, but much like the first relationship, Beauplasir grows tired of her and leaves.

She continues this charade using the disguises of “Mrs. Bloomer” and “Incognita.” Beauplasir is unable to recognize the woman in her disguises, furthering the satire that if social standing is changed, her identity is changed. The woman enjoys these relationships because she is able to exert some level of control over Beauplasir. When the woman was a member of her original upper-class standing, she would be unable to have any sort of control over a man, much less pursue a relationship with him.