’s Writing Essay, Research Paper
MORALITY AND RELIGION IN DEFOE’S WRITING
( ROBINSON CRUSOE AND MOLL FLANDERS )
Daniel Defoe was born in 1660.Daniel received a very good education as his father hoped he would become a minister , but Daniel was not interested.His family were Dissenters, Presbyterians to be precise, and those sects were being persecuted a bit at this time so maybe Daniel had the right idea.He was always very tolerant of other’s religious ideas himself he was a good puritan at the same time.He’d pretty much against the ministry,though he wrote and spoke in favor of the Dissenters all his life.However being a religious man he sometimes critisized Christianty .Somehow he reflected his beliefs in his books,writings.
Wherever god erects a house of prayer,
The Devil always builds a chapel there;
And ‘twill be found ,upon examination,
The latter has the largest congregation.
(from The True-Born Englishman,1701)
Daniel Defoe’s most famous novel with the full title is The Life and strange and surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. Crusoe ends up on a desert island.With only a few supplies from the ship he builds a house , boat and a new life.His island is not wholly uninhabited,though, and there is the exciting but ominous presence of cannibals who Crusoe occasionally encounters and saves a native from.The latter becomes his servant, Man Friday.The crew of a mutinying ship finally rescue our hero, but it is his adventure on the island that interest us.The first novel, though, is particularly notable for its detailed verisimilitude allowing us to believe in the situation-something assisted by the uncomplicated language used by the author.
In Robinson Crusoe Daniel Defoe has a gradual moral approach.At first he is not a religious man but with some thinking of his existence on that island he begins to think himself as a chosen one.He is the only one who survived that’s why being alone and special is the key of finding God in that sense.Being a chosen one is a puritanist approach so Defoe reflects his prutanist ideas by mentioning this.
According to Defoe crowd takes people away from basic realities of life.We can see this thought in both book of him, Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders .In Robinson Crusoe when he is in England he doesnt think of God and religion much, society makes him irreligious and careless.However when he decieds to go far and starts his journey , a transformation comes into being in his philosophy.The time that he spends in the island supplies the most effective enviroment him to reform his thoughts and beliefs.As we see in the following quotation:
“..What is this earth and sea, of which I have seen so much?Whence is it produced?And what am I, and all the other creatures, wild and tame ,human and brutal, whence are we?Sure we are all made by some secret Power that could make all things, must certainly have power to guide and direct them…”
He has his own way of judging.He realizes some religious facts but never submits them blindly.Robinson Crusoe as a man who comes from typical English society and modern world combines the facts of society of his time, its moral understanding and the facts of pure faith that he found himself.Doing this synthesis he sometimes contradicts modern world’s vision therefore critisizes its policy, such as by saying:
“..the policy of making a secret religion in order to preserve the veneration of the people to the clergy is not only to be found in the Roman, but perhaps among all religions in the world, even among the most brutish and barbarous savage.”
Defoe being a Protestant also critisizes Christianty but especialy Catholicism, accord,ng to him Catholicism is the lowest level of religion.Actually this idea comes from his prutanist beliefs.According to Prutanism there is only God and human , no mediator,pure christianity.As we see in this quotation Defoe critisizes Catholicism bitterly.
“..I had rather delivered up to the savages, and be devoured alive, than fall into the merciless claws of the priests, and be carried into the inquisition..”
Robinson Crusoe is a Biblical or moral tale.A perfect example of Defoe’s mentality.Society makes your moral bad.If you are alone it’s much better for a moral and religious life.All wickedness stems from society and everything turns out to be great after finding God at the end of the book.
Moll Flanders to give its full title The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the famous Moll Flanders is written in the form of a fictional autobiography of the girl known as Moll whose mother was convicted of petty theft just before her birth and won a reprieve to be sent to the plantations in America..She has a life which is very difficult for a woman.she gets married many times, looking for a real happiness.It’s sometimes ruined by her own faults, weakness, sometimes by others.However her last marriage is the happiest marriage that she’s ever had.Her happiness there is ruined by the realisation that her mother-in-law is in fact her own mother and that she has married her brother.After Moll leaves him she begins a life of very successful thievery though her later years are spent in penitence in Virginia.This conclusion is an example of Defoe’s crude morality and Prutanism.
In Moll Flanders Defoe tells us the same story or same main idea in a totally opposite form from Robinson Crusoe.Here we have a heroine named Moll Flanders she is an orphan and a woman who lives in the society itself .She lives most of her life as a completely social woman but these are the most depressing years of her life!.
Moll Flanders is a character who has ups and downs in her personality.I think she has not a very strong character, in addition to that sometimes her weak sides surpass and drifts her to unbearable results.In the book we can not decide that all these are really her own faults or just the ways that life leads her.Here Defoe blames society again and show us her immorality as a society’s fault.However we still can conclude that she sometimes can be a real immoral woman from some of her sayings, such as:
“..But there are temptations which it is not in the power of Human Nature to resist..”and especially she proves once more her weakness while she is together with the man who is loved most by her but did not get married with :
“..I must do him the justice to own that the first breach was not on his part.It was one night that we were in bed together warm and merry, and having drank, I think, a little more than usual….I told him that I could find in my heart to discharge him of hid engagement for one night and more.”
She gets married many times but never finds happiness because at the time marriage is a business deal and women get marry to make money and fortune that’s why none is successful.That’s one of the evilness of society that leads her to be immoral.
When she’s put in a prison upon being arrested for thievery , she begins to think and regrets her faults in the past.
“..I neither had the heart to ask God’s mercy, or indeed to think of it, and in this think I have given a brief description of the compleatest misery on earth.”
Daniel Defoe repeats himself here and makes his heroine regretted and religious.As the time of death approaches, she begins to think about God and religion deeply.At first she refuses the Priest and thinks that he’s stupid but later on finds him right.
“..The preacher left me in the greatest confusion imaginable, and all that night I lay awake; and now I began to say my prayers, which I had scarce done before since my last husband’s death, or from a little while after; and truly I may well call it, saying my prayers, for I was in such a confusion, and had such horror upon my mind, that though I cried and repeated several times the ordinary expression of, Lord Have Mercy upon Me; I never brought myself to any sense of being a miserable sinner…”
A religious awakenning happens at the end of the book and Moll Flanders starts a new life just like in Robinson Crusoe.
Consequently, in Robinson Crusoe after his time on the island Crusoe’s capacities are augmented by a new ability to ignore his vulgar instincts, and to respond to events as they unfold, rather than forcing himslef into bad situations.Most importantly, from his thoguhtful reflection emerges appreciation for God that provides him with spiritual sustenance through all his days. Crusoe develops a keen ingenuity and, most important, returns to the Protestant religion he had spurned in going to sea.In Moll Flanders , her immoral actions have no real consequences, and the narrative tends to excuse her behavior by referring it to material necessity. The book therefore generates a conflict between an absolute Christian morality on the one hand, and the conditional ethics of measurement and pragmatism that govern the business world, as well as the human struggle for survival, on the other.