As Moll Flanders struggles for survival amid the harsh social realities of seventeenth-century England, there is but one snare she is determined to avoid—the deadly snare of poverty. On the twisting path that leads from her birth in Newgate prison to her final prosperous respectability, love is regarded as worth no more than its weight in gold; and such matter as bigamy, incest, theft, and prostitution occasion but a brief blush before they are reckoned in terms of profit and loss. Yet so pure is her candor, so healthy her animal appetites, so indomitable her resiliency through every vicissitude of fortune, that this extraordinary wench emerges as far more than a prototype of the mercantile mind.
In Moll Flanders, Defoe added a fresh dimension to the art of writing. "We seem to see Defoe's characters through the crystal-clear medium of his style with perfect verisimilitude, as real as if we saw them in a mirror that was so flawless that it was invisible," writes Kenneth Rexroth. Virginia Woolf ranked Moll Flanders as "among the few English novels which we can call indisputably great."
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