Performativity in Moll Flanders: Autonomy and Relationship

June_Performativity in Moll Flanders

This paper reads Moll Flanders’ performativity as a way by which she displays her self-imposed authority while regarding her lack of coherence and sensibility as the repercussions of her performativity as well. Moll’s disguises have been the object of critical castigation for their inconsistency and insensibility. Yet creating a role to play and taking various identities mean more than just a survival tactic to Moll. Moll affirms her authority over her own identity and becomes autonomous through performativity, shifting through diverse identities she were not allowed to have. As she survives and thrives out of secrets, however, Moll has a problem of being disconnected from any meaningful relationships. In the end, Daniel Defoe has Moll go back to America and empowers her as much as to escape from the dark side of her performativity in her working relationship with Jemy. By delineating Moll as a vivacious character who enjoys her autonomy, which is hard earned by performativity and with a little bit of cost, Defoe celebrates the power of performativity in individualism while still being ambiguous to its dark side.

  • This paper was published in British-American Fiction Journal of South Korea, 2014 (21.2): 157-80.