by Daniel Defoe
Moll Flanders Morality and Ethics Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Paragraph)
What is left 'tis hoped will not offend the chastest reader or the modest hearer; and as the best use is made even of the worst story, the moral 'tis hoped will keep the reader serious, even where the story might incline him to be otherwise. (Preface 5)
Here Defoe balances out all the lewd and immoral things that will be conveyed in his "story" by assuring us that he left the worst of it out. Plus, what he does include has an instructional purpose. But do you believe him? Do you think the story, which seems entertaining and light at times, is really there to teach readers a lesson in morals?
In a word, as the whole relation is carefully garbled of all the levity and looseness that was in it, so it all applied, and with the utmost care, to virtuous and religious uses. None can, without being guilty of manifest injustice, cast any reproach upon it, or upon our design in publishing it. (Preface 10)
Could Defoe have been worried about how his book would be received by upstanding English readers? Well, that might explain why he feels the need to include this disclaimer to make sure his readers know that the book is not harmful, so long as we readers are not guilty of "manifest injustice." Perhaps he's just covering his bases for when the book banners come knocking.
Her application to a sober life and industrious management at last in Virginia, with her transported spouse, is a story fruitful of instruction to all the unfortunate creatures who are obliged to seek their re-establishment abroad […] letting them know that diligence and application have their due encouragement, even in the remotest parts of the world, and that no case can be so low […] but that an unwearied industry will go a great way to deliver us from it, will in time raise the meanest creature to appear again the world, and give him a new case for his life. (Preface 16)
Of course for this novel to be taken as a moral tale, we have to believe the author when he says that Moll has applied herself "to a sober life." And we have to be convinced of Moll's sincere regret to believe that she deserves to be given "a new case for [her] life." After reading the whole novel, though, we can't help but wonder if Defoe is just having a bit of a laugh. It all depends on whether or not you buy Moll's redemption in the end.