The Elegance of the Novel (10% done)

Who knew that the novel was once a literary form of controversy? That there were those who spoke out against the novel, and the author, as a dangerous method to sway the minds of youth?  There was once a thought that stories could corrupt, or teach the wrong morals. OR, perhaps, although the novel ended with a good moral, there were bad ones along the way that would be picked up. I find it amazing how the novel came under such attacks.

“All possible care, however, has been taken to give no lewd ideas, no immodest turns in the new dressing up of this story; no, not to the worst parts of her expressions. To this purpose some of the vicious part of her life, which could not be modestly told, is quite left out, and several other parts are very much shortened. 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. ” -Daniel Defoe’s Preface from Moll Flanders.

Here, Defoe defends his tale. He writes a warning to his audience, to expect immoral behaviour and lewd actions, and lawlessness. But he is careful to say that he is trying to teach a lesson. He very cleverly absolves himself of any “corruption of the youth,” during a time period where novels were coming under attack as well as popularity.

Of course, anything new can be frightening. The novel strove for realism, and this can cause a reader to become heavily invested, to the point of changing a lifestyle, an opinion, a way of thinking, a religion, a political choice… There is a power in words.


P.S. I have meet my weekly quota of ten pages for my ROW80 challenge. 10 down, 90 to go.



3 thoughts on “The Elegance of the Novel (10% done)

  1. I can believe the novel suffered such attacks. It still does from some sectors just as music and poetry often does. Some people try to block any forum where they do not have complete control over the reactions and impressions of others viewing it.

    That said, I often wonder if DeFoe’s “warning” was also meant to titillate as much as anything

    Good job on those 10 pages written. You’re my hero this week!

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