Roxana pp. 208-330 (THE END)
POST # 2 (Group B)
- To discuss the conclusion of the novel
- To discuss the form of the novel
- To discuss any historical questions raised
Notes and Discussion Questions:
After all that she still gets married. What are the implications
of her marriage both socially and in terms of the novel (symbolic)?
What happens to Susan? How do we know?
What role does the Quaker play in the "conversion" of Roxana?
Evaluate the ending. What does it mean for Roxana to escape with a
good spouse and riches beyond her wildest dreams? What role do children
play in the conclusion?
How are we to understand the final paragraph: "Here, after some
few Years of flourishing, and outwardly happy Circumstances, I fell
into a dreadful Course of Calamities, and Amy also; the very Reverse
of our former Good Days; the Blast of Heaven seem'd to follow the
Injury done the poor Girl, by us both; and I was brought so low again,
that my Repentance seem'd to be only the Consequence of my Misery,
as my Misery was of my Crime" (329-330).
Explore the ending in terms of poetical justice: good characters are
rewarded and bad characters are punished.
2. Novel Form
In his article "Defoe as an innovator of fictional form," (Cambridge Companion to
the Eighteenth-Century Novel ed. John Richetti, Cambridge UP, 1996), Max Novak argues
that Defoe's novels reflect a writer consciously experimenting with narrative forms. In
Roxana in particular, he creates "enigmas" for the reader to consider; he
constantly engages the reader to look at his or her contemporary society.
Based on Novak's suggestions, I would like us to consider in what way Roxana serves
as criticism of eighteenth-century society. The book clearly shows that "money is power in
Defoe's society," and that even though Roxana ends unhappily, "Defoe is less interested
in making Roxana into another version of Pilgrim's Progress than in
showing what her world is like and what it takes to succeed in it. Defoe provided some
answers (as well as questions) for his religious readers, but he also wanted us to appreciate
how powerless women were in his world and what it took for a woman such as Roxana to
achieve a degree of power" (65).
What effect does this "realistic" or unillusioned look at woman's plight in English society of
the early eighteenth century have?
In the beginning of the novel, Amy clearly serves as the voice of the lower orders with practical
advice for survival, but as "Roxana herself remarks, Amy is like a part of herself, a double.
The situation becomes complicated by the extraordinary emergence of Roxana's daughter Susan,
as a child in search of the mother who was forced to abandon her, the situation between
the three is charged with the kind of raw anguish that the British novel usually avoids" (66).
What is the source of this narrative power? Examine and comment upon the double-character
Ultimately, Defoe leaves the moral judgment to the reader. "Roxana, too, keeps the reader
in doubt. We are asked to admire her energy, her resolve, and her daring at the same time
as we know that she has taken on the corruption of the society that she exploits. I once
suggested that Defoe possessed a high degree of what Keats called 'negative capability,'
the dramatist's ability to suspend judgment about his characters and their experiences.
However dogmatic Defoe may have been in his moral conduct books about what constituted
proper ethical and religious behavior and what did not, his fictional works were almost
paradoxical in their tendency to allow such matters to remain unresolved" (66).
Ultimately, what does the novel conclude about marriage and money? With
respect to Roxana and her "spouse" as she lovingly calls him, what
forms the basis of their successful relationship?
Suggestions for historical research:
Who are the Quakers in the early eighteenth century?
What is meant by "the Indies" and what historical role does
What is Defoe's personal history with finances?
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