Defoe, realism and the picaresque novel
Bell, Ian A.
This thesis deals with the continuing critical discussion of Defoe's fiction, and seeks the most appropriate ways of assessing his achievement. It is apparent that no general agreement has been reached about Defoe's work, and this arises from the way critics have sought for a kind of consistency throughout his work which is not to be found. The terms 'realism' and 'picaresque' are very frequently applied to Defoe's fiction, as all-encompassing critical terms. Each of these is examined, and defined ostensively. When applied to the novels, they are found to be useful in revealing Crusoe's jeopardy, Moll's innocence, and the problems of the ending of Roxana. However, such general critical terms obscure the development within Defoe's fiction, from the thematic confusion of Crusoe to the more integrated and organised Roxana. The final aim of this study is to draw attention to the neglected features of Crusoe, Moll, and Roxana, and to re-appraise both Defoe's achievement and the various ways of describing that achievement.