How sensitive is Defoe to the plight of women in his contemporary social milieu? Is Moll Flanders an early feminist novel?
What is the effect, for the novel as a whole, of Defoe's tendency to reduce every situation to its materialistic basis?
Does Moll develop or change as a character over the course of the novel?
Is there an overall structure or design that holds the various episodes of Moll's life together? How tightly is this novel organized?
Does a wealth of material facts and details like that in Moll Flanders suffice to make a novel "realistic"? What other kinds of realism are there, and in what ways is this novel unrealistic?
How penitent is Moll by the end of the novel?
How does the fact that Defoe so often merges trade with crime complicate his overwhelmingly economic vision of human life?
What clues does Moll Flanders give us to the realities of life in the late 17th and early 18th centuries? How effective is the novel as a historical document?
What differences are there between Moll the character and Moll the narrator? Discuss Defoe's use of first-person narration.
Compare Moll Flanders with one or two other female protagonists with whom you are familiar.
Virginia Woolf, who admired Defoe, nevertheless pronounced that "he leaves out the whole of vegetable nature, and a large part of human nature." Other critics have pointed out that Moll Flanders, however engaging it may be as a story, does not do enough to clarify its overall purpose or point. How would you assess the novel's weaknesses? What seems to be left out?
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