This chapter considers how far Defoe can be regarded as a spokesman for or critic of the developing mercantile society about which he writes. There is much about colonial economics, merchants, and trade, in all three books. Robinson is a merchant at least three times, and his eventual fortune is earned from a Brazilian plantation; Moll becomes a Virginia planter twice; and Roxana’s Dutch husband is a merchant. Additionally, Roxana and Moll both examine the roles of money, rank, and corruption in the old societies of England and Europe, as well as offer a revealing tour of the economics of sex and marriage. Defoe’s views are difficult to locate, because of what Ellen Pollak calls the ‘kaleidoscopic’ effect of his narratives. We have noticed narrators with ambivalent motives, facing rapid changes in circumstances, what we might call the ‘instability’ of Defoe’s fictional worlds. We attempt the question nonetheless, and begin by looking at an extract from each novel.
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