The Fortunes and Misfortunes and Absence of Strength of Moll Flanders

English: Brereton Hall Grade 1 listed 16th cen...

English: Brereton Hall Grade 1 listed 16th century building – front elevation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I began this year with a promise. I was to watch the many movies and read the many classics that I had placed on a list that I had drawn up when I was only eighteen. Well it took me a while to get started but last week I picked up a copy of the first book on my list. That book being The Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders.

Anybody who is a lover of classic literature already has an understanding of what the book is about. With the many television and movie adaptations that have been made of the novel over the years, it only stands to reason that most would have knowledge of what the story details. In short, the novels author, Daniel Defoe, famous also for his tale of Robinson Crusoe, tells the tale of a lady he later calls the original moll. She is a woman whose life is so criminally active and scandalously shocking, that any reader would be taken aback by what they saw within the pages of the book. Defoe later went on to state that the piece was actually based on memoirs he found within his possession. With this being the case, many have speculated that the novel is in fact based on a true story. Although this is questioned to this day, the author was right in stating how the book would shock when first published in 1722.

The story of Moll Flanders is not a light-hearted one. Born to a thief in Newgate prison, her life is a continuous journey of twists and turns, ups and downs, highs and lows. Coincidence features heavily but in a sense helps complete the circle of life which is her own. Her romantic encounters begin when she is eighteen and in love with one brother but marries the other. He soon leaves her a widow. She later marries a spend thrift, a gentleman, her own brother (by mistake and coincidence). She falls in love with a highway man, marries a banker, becomes a thief and a prostitute, but later repents and goes on to live out her life finally at peace and with the wealth she has always wanted with the man she loves. Oh yes, this tale is jam-packed with plots to make your head spin, tales to make you cry and exploits to make you draw your breath in astonishment. However, what this classic lacked for me was the ability to make me feel any empathy for Moll.

I do not know why but regardless of whether things were going right or wrong for her, I simply just did not care. The amount of crazy occurrences that filled her life, and I just could not be bothered. I literally finished reading the book, simply because I had started it. My problem with Moll is not that she delved into criminal activity, or lay on the wrong side of the bed, (quite literally) but rather she seemed to have no true conviction to be anything. Yes, she wanted to be rich and so set off at an early age to con and trick any wealthy man into becoming her husband. And, (even though it may sound wrong) I applaud her for that. The reason for my praise is because this is the only real aim Moll ever had in her life, and one she worked hard towards. However, everything else that happened to her seemed to simply be what life brought her way. She became a great thief, because that is where life took her. She became a prostitute because that is where life took her. She went to America, because that is where life took her. I would have empathized so much more with a woman who aimed at becoming a great criminal, or aimed at being the best at the oldest profession known to man, or who aimed at going away and making life better for herself. I totally understand that the book was written in a time when women had to simply deal with the life they received, but if Moll was able to have the intentions of becoming a con woman to bag a rich man, and worked towards it, could she not have made a conscious decision to become the other things also? Circumstance does have an effect on life, but Moll was ruled by circumstance.

I would hate to think that my feelings towards the protagonist may be because this version of a strong woman was penned by a man in the 1700’s, but to my thinking, a strong woman is a strong woman throughout. She makes decisions. She says, ‘yes, this is what I am going to do!’ A strong woman always has intention, no matter how low or unobtainable that intention might be, it is always there. Moll simply lacked that, and with her being the main protagonist… the book for me was lacking…..

I have waited years to read this classic and in all honesty, it let me down, but I will not be swayed from my endeavour and I will continue down my list of classics. The next being The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy. Until next time.

Paradise Lost

DSC00026The recession is affecting us all; there is little doubt about that. Tales of high unemployment, low investment activity and failing economies are abound, but what of the picturesque paradise isles of the Caribbean? I turn on my digital cable box everyday and see these isles still being advertised within the United States and England as the places to go to escape the hardships of home. Rich in colour, culture and heritage, they offer no less than a complete Utopia, where the main catchphrase is “No Problem”.

So is this the truth? What of these lands and their people? Are these true paradise isles, unaffected by the world about them? Could ideal locations like the ones described  still be possible in this era of globalization? Is the recession not worldwide and affecting us all?

Indel is a 32 year old University graduate.  Having obtained both his BA and MA at a recognized institute in London, this St. Lucian born scholar went on to obtain employment at a highly recognized television station within the city. He started as an intern, worked hard and progressed well over the next few years within the company. Determination to succeed helped him along the way, and his talents and dedication to his work were recognized.

Indel was born and brought up within a small fishing village on the West coast of St. Lucia called Anse La Raye. His father a fisherman and mother, a market vendor. They scrimped and saved to put all of their children through school.  At the time, this was a major feat, as universal education was not available to all of the children on the island. Competition was fierce for children to exceed with no exception, beating out their peers so that they could claim a place within Secondary school. Those who failed to do so, simply had to find work or gain an apprenticeship.Something that was and still is hard to do at the tender age of twelve.

“I had a friend that went on to work in the garden with his father- That was like their plantation, their little farm- Learning all that you needed to know about banana farming” he reflects as he leans back on the porch of his grandmothers old wooden house. “I just saw him yesterday, he is still farming bananas. He gets by on it, can support his family, you know, (although banana farming is not what it used to be in St. Lucia)”.

Indel was one of the lucky ones. He and two of his brothers, by obtaining good grades,   were able to go onto secondary schools, obtaining scholarships through private companies who aided their parents with the financial burden. From there, they all went on to sit A’ Level’s. Whilst his brothers stopped there, Indel wanted more. With the aid of his extended family overseas, he was able to obtain a student loan and acquire a place at the University of Westminster. He worked a part time student job as he studied, helping him maintain himself through his BA and then onto his Masters. On completion of his studies, an impressed lecturer got him an interview at an institution that was soon to become his place of work. Things were on the up for Indel. He secured his legal status in England, put his head down and was feeling very good about life. However, everything took a turn for the worse at the end of 2007.  Cut backs and layoffs were becoming common place at the station where he worked and he was among 150 people to be let go in the second wave of job cuts.

He laments, “I was not worried though because I now had the experience as well as the qualifications behind me… but… well… it just did not work out”.

He soon found himself 6 months out of work. This along with the fact that Indel was still not a British citizen led him to believe that it may just be better for him to return home and regroup, to try and decide what his next move should be.

“The return home was even more of a disappointment”, he continued “I am now a fully qualified individual on an island that has no vacancies for someone in my field who is as qualified as I am. Sure there are jobs, it has been over a year since I have worked so I am not being too picky, I have been applying for them, but I am being told that I am over qualified for them”.  He smiles.

“I look back on the time when I left to further my studies in England and everyone was saying how lucky I was, but now I’m back and I cannot get employment anywhere. I sometimes contemplate as to whether things would not have been better for me if I had become a banana farmer or fisherman or something like that. If I had stayed and acquired a skill I could use. My friends in those professions are still working and doing ok for themselves and I am just sat here with certificates and qualifications in hand. You travel so far to become something bigger, but I now wonder if there was even a point to it. Sorry if I sound self pitying, but this is how I feel. To do so much, to try and find your place in a strange land, and then… I love St. Lucia; this is and always will be my home. But right now, I’m just lost….”

And so this is paradise. It might not be recognizable to the masses, but this is the reality.  Many may run here trying hard to escape the hardships of home, but remember to others, this is home and here is their hardship.Image