The Novel pp 65-85 | Cite as

‘The Woman’s Snare’

Daniel Defoe: Moll Flanders


Traditionally regarded as the father of the English novel,l more particularly by those who choose to ignore that the genre also had mothers, Defoe tends to be seen as an early exponent of realism. This would imply that his narrative language is transparent and representational, words standing in a more or less one-to-one relation to facts, events or characters. But a closer reading of his novels brings to light surprisingly original, and surprisingly ‘modern’, aspects of the author’s exploitation of language. Especially in Moll Flanders (1722), as later in Roxana (1724), the leap of the imagination in adopting the voice of a female narrator appears to stimulate in Defoe a new self-consciousness in the exploitation of language as a means, not simply of representing the real, but of fabricating it.


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© André Brink 1998

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