Internals And Externals Of The Mind
By Bhavika Sheth
12 December 2005
Internals And Externals Of The Mind
The Eighteenth-century literature is popular for its peculiar style of writing that gives the readers an insider’s view in the novel. By combining the two aspects such as Psychological and Presentational Realism, authors have created works of pure masterpiece such as Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe. Defoe illustrates Moll, the protagonist’s psyche by writing the narrative in the first person to imply it as an autobiography. This allows psychological realism to work at its finest since the readers can feel a personal relationship to the character. The two important instances that occur with this type of realism are when Moll realizes that she is married to her own brother and her meeting with Humphrey, her son. In addition, Defoe also uses Presentational Realism to describe Moll’s initial career as thief with her first episode at the apothecary’s shop and later stealing a gold necklace from a child. The manner in which the setting is described gives the readers a sense of feeling of being there and at the same time experiencing her escape from the scene.
Amongst Moll’s several relationships, she is married to a plantation owner, who owns property and has mother and a sister in America. The couple decides to move to Virginia to be with the family (Defoe 77). Moll’s describes that she lives in marital bliss and also enjoys the company of her mother-in-law. She exclaims “…I thought of myself the happiest creature alive…” until her world is shattered as she portrays herself being “…most uncomfortable in the world” (78). As she is listening to the story of her mother-in-law being a transported felon to Virginia from Newgate prison in London and suddenly, Moll feels the need to ask her mother-in-law’s last name since she begins to feel “uneasy” and after hearing the name sends chills down her spine (79). She soon realizes that her mother-in-law is none other than her biological mother and her husband is her half brother with whom she “…had two children, and was big with another….”. Readers can feel Moll’s shock and horror to this sudden discovery and her confusion as to whether she should be happy for finding her mother or the fact that she is now married to her half-brother. The readers can feel her severe agony as she claims, “I was now the most unhappy of all women in the world” (79). They are able to place themselves in the same situation and experience the torment as she struggles to deal with this harsh reality. This is the first time Moll is shattered because her morality is tainted due to the incestuous relationship. Some may argue that she does not have any morals because of her deeds but there are some principles, which govern her life and this being one of them. Even though, she is overcome with misfortune, she maintains her rationality and thinks about as to how will she disclose this information to her mother and her husband. Readers commend her for the way she handles the situation because any other human being would have lost their sense of rationality.
Next, this unfortunate marriage serves as a link that is uncovered at the end of the novel when Moll returns to America with her Lancashire husband to start a new life. She remembers that her deceased mother had promised her some amount of money or property to help Moll (284-285). Therefore, she decides inquire about her husband,which leads her to discover that their son Humphry is alive and is now in charge of the plantations. At this point of time, she desires to meet her son but is afraid. She describes the circumstance as: “It was a wretched thing for a mother thus to see her own son, a handsome, comely young gentleman in flourishing circumstances, and durst not make herself known to him and durst not take any notice of him” (283). She continues to state how other mothers should experience what she is feeling and readers can feel her pain of being so close to her son and yet not being able to tell him the truth. Moreover, this sympathy towards her grows more when she kneels down to kiss the ground upon which her son lays his footsteps (284). This moment makes the readers realize that Moll may not care about all her other children in past but she does have maternal instincts, which were incited upon the sight of Humphry. She could not bear it any longer and writes a letter to her brother, which is read by their son who soon approaches Moll. He anxiously rushes up to her to shower her with hugs and kisses and she describes that she is able to feel his “…breast heave and throb like a child that cries, but sobs, and cannot cry it out “ (293). This powerful imagery displays the deep affection that Humphry has towards his mother, even after she deserted him and it also shows Moll’s deep love for her son. Readers can see that no matter what happens, blood is always thicker and the bond between a mother and a son remains to be strong even after many years of separation.
Besides psychological realism, Defoe does not fail to give its readers a taste of presentational realism. He gives a clear account of all the street corners in which she commits her wrongdoings. This gives the reader a perspective of being present during the events that take place in Moll’s life. Driven by the fear of poverty, she decides to venture out and comes upon an apothecary shop on a street named “Leandenhall Street”. Defoe describes each detail of this shop carefully as to how there is a bundle wrapped in white cloth on a stool while the maidservant has her back faced to it while the apprentice was searching for something with a candle in his hands (169). The reader already anticipates what Moll plans to do since both the apprentice and the maidservant are engaged in their world. They know she will give into her temptations and steal that bundle and complete this task efficiently. This prediction comes true and the reader can feel as though they are present there in order to witness her disillusion as she passes by other streets. She describes herself guiding through “…so many ways and turnings that I could never tell which way it was nor where I went…” and then finally resting on a seat, she realizes she is on Thames Street. In brief, she had no clue as to where she was heading and what streets she was taking. After she reaches home, she gives the reader the exact account of what was in the bundle as to how many pieces of spoons, laces and linen were in there and the amount of money (170). The reader feels as though they are sitting next to Moll while she counts the amount of money as though she is about to share the stolen goods with the reader. In addition, the reader feels as though he or she is committing the crime with Moll and at the same time watching it happen from a distance. This gives the reader a depth filled experience and also a multidimensional outlook to the story.
Lastly, Defoe employs the same manner of escape in another stealing adventure of Moll when she loots a little girl wearing a necklace made of gold beads. She soon makes an escape though several streets as she describes:
“…I went through into Bartholomew Close, and then turned around to another passage that goes into Long Lane, so away into Charterhouse Yard and out into St. John’s Street; then crossing into Smithfield, went down Chick Lane and into Field Lane to Holborn Bridge…” (172).
These sudden street name changes lets the reader feel as though they were an accomplice with her and following her as she hurries to get as far as possible from the scene of the crime. She is knowledgeable about all the shortcuts and where each street connects with another one. It is almost as thought the reader is putting pieces of a puzzle together in order to formulate her next move as she slides out of one street corner into another. In addition, to feeling like an accomplice, the reader can also get a bird’s eye view of this event. One can imagine itself standing on their veranda and watching Moll huffing and puffing through these streets but carefully keeping the necklace in contact with her at all times. This remarkable sense of imagination exhibits the presentational realism throughout all of Moll’s adventures as a thief.
Thus, both psychological and presentational realism work together to give life to Daniel Defoe’ Moll Flanders and make it an enjoyable novel to read. Moll’s psychology is analyzed through her shocking discovery about her marriage and her disgust of being in an incestuous relationship. Her sever anguish is shared by the readers as she struggles to deal with the bitter truth of being wedded to her half-brother and having his children. Nonetheless, this event serves to show Moll that she is a mother and has maternal feelings even though she may not have kept in touch with her son. She is overjoyed by meeting him, which gives the reader a sense of hope that the story will end on a positive note. On the other hand, presentational realism is shown through Moll’s darker side when she turns into a thief to support herself and live lavishly. Her description of her deeds and exact account of what she acquires amazes the readers. The reader can connect to her by being a thief and at the same time passing moral judgments upon her. Some may congratulate her on being slick enough to steal from an apothecary shop while others may criticize her for robbing a little innocent child. Regardless of various opinions, Defoe’s narrative style involves the reader in the story, which makes it interesting to read.
Defoe, Daniel. Moll Flanders. New York: Signet Classic Penguin Books USA Inc, 1996.
© Bhavika Sheth