Roxana’s Search for Identity in Daniel Defoe’s Roxana

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Roxana’s Search for Identity in Daniel Defoe’s Roxana In all of Daniel Defoe's major works, his characters always feel a need to narrate their history, specifically through the adventures they had rather than any description of who they were. Some people would suggest that this compulsion to give such an account reveals a burden of guilt the narrator is trying to free him or herself from, and an attempt to feel more secure in terms of identity. In the article, "Why Roxana Can Never Find Herself," Peter New offers his theory to explain why Defoe's characters, and Roxana in specific, are unable to obtain any real security of identity, even though they employ this method to achieve it. In New's definition, a secure identity can only be achieved through a full acknowledgment and sense of pride in ones history. Roxana does try to define herself in terms of what she has done rather than who she is, which is an acknowledgment of her past. However, she tells her story because she wants to gain a sense of both freedom and security, but the two are mutually exclusive. If Roxana writes as a penitent, she is choosing to be free from her past, or to "disown" it, thereby losing her security of identity. However, if she chooses security and owns up to all that she has been, then she can never be freed from her burden of guilt. Thus she is both trying to "embrace and to reject [her] own history" (318). We see this tendency towards confusion and contradiction in Roxana all throughout the novel. She is constantly rationalizing her actions in the past, but immediately following that with a description of her feelings of guilt and regret. In New's interpretation, it is this tendency which proves that Roxana can never really find herself becaus... ... middle of paper ... ...this theory to show that although Roxana is desperately trying to define herself and discover her true identity, ironically, her selves will never be able to be integrated. His final conclusion about Roxana's character is that She is condemned to search for an identity in the story of her selves and be unable ever to find it, because she both wants and does not want to be legion (329). This article presents an interesting, and valid argument about the character of Roxana in all her complexities. However, I think other arguments could be as plausible, depending on your viewpoint of Roxana. Are we to see her as insecure in her identity and confused as to what she wants? And if so, can we ever really know her true character if she cannot ever know her self? Work Cited New, Peter. "Why Roxana Can Never Find Herself." The Modern Language Review 91 (1996): 317-329.

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