Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts

Kelly  DeMarco
Daniel Defoe: The Characters’ Development of a Conscience and Their Discovery of God Women’s Crime in the Eighteenth Century
Daniel  Defoe
Link to Senior Art Thesis
Women from the eighteenth century were not always pure and docile; some engaged in criminal acts towards people and property. The crimes included everything from infanticide to perjury, larceny, and fraud. The women who committed these crimes did so either because of a psychological problem, or because they were in need of money or material goods. One of the most popular methods that women used to earn money was by using their own bodies, which was called prostitution. These women criminals usually spent some time in London’s most infamous jail, Newgate Prison. It was from there that they were transported to Australia, where many women of that time were sent as punishment for their crimes. Women sometimes repented of their criminal acts, and looked to God to guide them. This can be seen in two of Daniel Defoe’s novels that were written in the eighteenth century.

The fictional works of literature; Moll Flanders, Robinson Crusoe, and Roxana by Daniel Defoe each show how the main character realizes a development of his or her conscience as she looks to God to help her live an honest life. In each novel, the title character lives a misspent life in which she never asks God for guidance in her extreme and exotic lifestyles. It is when their lives take a sudden turn for the worse that these characters begin to realize that they should look to Him for assistance in their struggle to repent. In Moll Flanders, the title character lives a life of prostitution and theft, and it is not until she is arrested for it that she begins to reflect on her terrible lifestyle. The title character in Robinson Crusoe takes everything for granted until he is stranded on an island, where he begins to think about how great God must be. Roxana enjoys the attention of men, and although she reflects on her life as a whore, she continues to live in this lifestyle. Each of these three novels by Daniel Defoe portrays a character who is in the process of developing his or her conscience, as well as discovering God, as a result of life’s circumstances.

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