Defoe and Economics: The Fortunes of Roxana in the History by Bram Dijkstra

By Bram Dijkstra

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Extra resources for Defoe and Economics: The Fortunes of Roxana in the History of Interpretation

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7) Roxana at this point immediately enters into an extended sermon on the capriciousness of marrying for any other motive than that of economic security. To make certain that we get the point we are given a detailed account of the various ways in which Roxana suffers financially from her rash act. There is in Defoe' s eyes true poetic justice in a woman fInding herself married to a fool as the result of a foolish, emotional act. Roxana's impulsive marriage, moreover, gives Defoe an opportunity to present us with his first admonition against the evils of the Pond: the disastrous career of 17 18 The Economic Meaning oJ Roxana her husband, a tradesman, represents a vivid waming against the tendency of the middle dass to affect aristocratic attitudes.

The proper structure of the master-servant relationship had thereby undergone a dangerous shift, exacerbated by the moral control Amy could exert over her mistress as long as Roxana had prostituted herself while her servant remained 'virtuous'. Thus the infamous scene in which Roxana forces Amy to sleep with the landlord in her presence in fact becomes anything but the act of wanton eroticism it has been taken to be. Instead it is ademonstration staged by Roxana to impress upon Amy the realisation that, whatever else may have happened, she is still entirely subject to her mistress's will.

Roxana, p. 170) Thus while the gentleman's estate is at best in stasis, a stagnant pond incapable of growth, 'the Merchant has his Estate continually flowing'. In The Complete English Tradesman Defoe was to give an even more striking elaboration of this metaphor: It is evident where the difference lies, an Estate's apond, but a Trade is aspring; The first if it keeps full, and the water wholesom, by the ordinary supplies and dreins from the neighbouring grounds, 'tis well, and 'tis all that is expected; but the other is an inexhausted current, which not only fills the pond and keeps it full, but is continually running over, and fills all the lower ponds and places about it.

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