37 pages 1 hour read

Daniel Defoe

Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1724

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Important Quotes

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“In the Manner she has told the Story, it is evident she does not insist upon her Justification in any one Part of it; much less does she recommend her Conduct, or indeed, any Part of it, except her Repentance to our Imitation: On the contrary, she makes frequent Excursions, in a just censuring and condemning her own Practice.”

(Preface, Page 2)

This passage illustrates the Writer’s insistence that Roxana is exuberantly remorseful for her conduct and that she narrates her misdemeanors to discourage the reader from imitating her. However, throughout the text, the reader encounters lengthy descriptions of the advantages Roxana gained by behaving as she did.

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“If there are any Parts in her Story, which being oblig’d to relate a wicked Action, seem to describe it too plainly, the Writer says, all imaginable Care has been taken to keep clear of Indecencies, and immodest Expressions; and ’tis hop’d you will find nothing to prompt a vicious Mind, but every-where much to discourage and expose it.”

(Preface, Page 2)

The Writer both warns and titillates the reader with the promise that the text will contain bawdy descriptions of sexual transgression. He then goes on to feign prudishness, as he reinforces that his intention is to inhibit rather than encourage immoral action. Depending on their moral attitude, the reader may decide whether the Writer’s stance is serious or ironic.

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“Being to give my own Character, I must be excus’d to give it as impartially as possible, and as if I was speaking of another-body; and the Sequel will lead you to judge whether I flatter myself or no.

(Page 7)

Roxana, who by now has taken control of the narrative from the Writer, claims that she will speak of her character as though in the third person and thereby aim for objectivity. Though the reader will have nothing but her testimony to go by, she leaves it to them to judge whether she is giving an honest enough evaluation of herself.