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Surprising Similarities And Striking Differences Essay, Research Paper

Daniel Defoe wrote Moll Flanders in 1722, almost one hundred years before Charlotte Bronte finished Jane Eyre. Despite the difference in the times of writing, they bore apparent similarities. Nevertheless the writers adopted different techniques to portrait two heroines.

The two novels were both growth novels, to a certain extent, which depicted the changes of the heroines as they grew up. In order to illustrate the changes, the authors employed similar plots and writing skills.

The two novels both started from foster families and ended with happy marriages. Perhaps the authors wanted to cast some light on the fact that a broken family had a far-reaching effect on a child’s life. Jane Eyre became rebellious and self-isolated in her struggles at Gateshead while Moll Flanders’ childhood foreshadowed her helplessness and powerlessness throughout her life. In fact the two foster homes differed greatly. Gateshead was a hostile place, which cultivated a strong and independent-minded Jane, so that she could overcome various difficulties in her life on her own. Moll Flanders was not so lucky. Her foster mother was impoverished but extremely kind. Therefore after she died, innocent Moll was thrown into an unfriendly world suddenly. Soon she was seduced, which marked the beginning of her miserable life. Both authors carried a strong sense of family. Jane took after her mother to be a stubborn lover. At despair she appealed for her mother ‘s help when she was praying for Mr. Rochester. In the end it’s her family that saved her from the edge of death and treated her with enthusiastic hospitality, quite in contrast with the hostile family of Gateshead. Family had a special meaning for her. Interesting enough it’s her family again who made her rich and in some way made it possible for the reunion of the couple. As to Moll Flanders, she went through what her mother did in almost the same way: from a decent woman to a shameless whore then to a thief, at last experiencing a narrow escape from the gallows. Like Jane she met her family at last quite unexpectedly in an exotic place. Despite all the suffering they had born, the endings of the two novels were happy. They could marry their beloved ones and lead tranquil and rich lives. It seemed that a happy marriage and a rich life were the best endings an author could come up with for a woman at that time. However there was something deeper in both endings. The two women acquired independence at last. They no longer had to be attached to men. Instead the relationship of dependence turned upside down. In this sense both the two novels were revolutionary. Independence of the woman, maybe that was the essence of happy ending.

The basic themes in the two novels were tragic both. However the authors resorted to different ways to create the tragic plots. Jane’s tragic life seemed to run smoothly. The author gave enough hints before anything unfortunate would incur. For instance on the night before her marriage with Mr. Rochester, she was haunted by nightmares, which served as a kind of premonition to what would follow in real life. Therefore the readers would not feel surprised when she couldn’t marry Mr. Rochester and the whole Thornfield was burned to the ground. However Moll’s life was full of ups and downs. They were sheer unexpected accidents. Whenever she seemed to be settling down and ready to live peacefully, something or someone would pop up from nowhere and pull her into the hell again. She was thrown from one random encounter to another. What’s more in order to enhance the tragic effect of the novel, the author created totally incredible accidents. For instance she feel in love with and married her own brother. Consequently as an incredulous reader, personally I preferred Jane Eyre. When I was reading the novel, I felt sorry for her terrible experience, in which the tragedies fit naturally. However it dawned upon me now and again that in Moll Flanders the Daniel Defoe was fabricating tragedies for the sake of tragedies.

The two heroines resembled each other closely. They both had distinctive mental changes, which resulted from the varying circumstances they had experienced. One eye-catching change of Jane Eyre concerned her religious belief. It was not until she met Helen Burns in Lowood that the idea of God occurred to her. Before then she had no fear. However since then she had been converted to a Christian gradually, especially in her romance with Mr. Rochester. Helen’s religious belief exerted a profound influence on her. She kept practicing what Helen told her so as to comfort herself later. The change might have something to do with her characters. She was self-isolated and was unwilling to bare too much of herself to others. Therefore she was quite lonely. She had no one to turn to for help except God. She attributed all her weal and woe to the will of God. The change reached the climax after she met St. John. His pious devotion shaped her belief. It’s not a coincidence that she happened to meet a missionary. It went naturally with her change of religious belief. The reader could see how devout she became from the way she expressed her hearty gratitude to God after she went back to her sweetheart. Moll Flanders’ change was even more obvious. She got rid of the na?ve self in her painstaking struggle against the tough life. She grew from an innocent girl to a shameless whore, then to an experienced thief. In spite of all the changes, something remained unchanged and unchangeable in the two heroines. They were both dying for love throughout their lives. Though Moll married more than half a dozen of times for money, in her inner heart the burning desire for true love never ceased to torture her. Nevertheless in the end their dream came true.

The two novels shared a lot of similarities. They gave minute record of the life journey of the women. They both indicated that it was out of the question to take the journey alone. The two heroines met with the same question of enclosure and escape. However the differences were quite conspicuous too. They went on different ways. The authors employed their unique technique to sculpture two different characters in their different settings.


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