One of my latest revelations regarding books is that I somehow need to pay my respects to the 17th century classics. That is, read some of the novels I should have read years ago, books most people read as teenagers or at least in college, where they (some of them) are mandatory. Having waltzed very skilfully among them when I needed to, because - blame it on taste - I was never ever attracted by picaresque novels, it's high time I did something about it.
So, ladies and gents, I give you Moll Flanders. Cheater, liar, thief, whore, irresponsible mother and incestuous woman all in one. How, in the end, knowing all these things about her and not agreeing with any, the reader still feels sympathy for her, it's all in Defoe's writing talent. Because somehow, during the never ending events in Moll's life, you kind of like her; despite the facts, she is still warm-hearted and kind, and you get the feeling she does what she does only because she has no other choice (and yes, I agree, in 17th century England being a widow with children and no income is not one of the brightest perspectives). I, for instance, was surprised to see how in each and every situation she found a way to overcome the problem, keeping herself out of prison, trusting the right people, moving into the right direction, placing her money in the right hands, ending in the right place, fully loaded. Because in life as we know it, things are never like this. It can work for two or three times, but eventually you're caught red handed, you're betrayed and left alone.
As hard as Defoe tried (did he?) to convince the readers that eventually she repented and felt sorry about the kind of life she had led, I'm not satisfied. Too obvious a happy ending for a woman who continued to live from the money she had stolen, even if her conscience was finally clean - finding one of her sons and eventually starting acting like a mother, when she was in her 60s.
So even if I found no particular pleasure in Defoe's style, I must appreciate the remarkable art with which he treats a subject like this.