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La nuit

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Suzy Halimi

Nuit et destinée : métaphysique et mysticisme

Night of destiny: or, the play of light and darkness in Defoe’s novels

Habib Ajroud

Résumé

La nuit joue un rôle important dans les romans de Defoe, pour rendre compte des décrets de la Providence. Cet article examine d’abord l’obscurité comme phénomène empirique : la plupart des événements décisifs dans la vie des personnages se déroulent la nuit. Ceci n’est pas une simple coïncidence : l’obscurité est aussi l’état d’esprit des personnages confrontés à l’inconnu, à la main invisible de la Destinée; la perception peu claire de l’avenir va de pair avec une impossibilité à contrôler le temps; d’où la valeur symbolique des montres et calendriers dans tous les romans.
La Destinée a un autre lien avec la nuit, par le biais de rêves pleins de signification, qui peuvent dégager, ou non, le vrai sens de l’obscurité. Mais les rêves ont aussi une valeur prémonitoire: ainsi, les rêves de succès matériel révèlent-ils l’opposition, à travers toute l’œuvre de Defoe, entre valeurs chrétiennes et valeurs marchandes, la prospérité financière étant souvent la contrepartie du déclin moral.

Night plays an important part in Defoe’s novels, in accounting for the decrees of Providence. This article examines darkness as an empirical phenomenon: most significant events in the lives of the heroes occur at night. This is not a mere coincidence: darkness is also the state of mind of characters confronted with the unknown, the invisible hand of Destiny. Their unclear perception of the future is equated with a lack of control over time; hence the symbolic value of watches and calendars in the novels.
Destiny relates to night in yet another way: dreams fraught with meaning which may or may not bring real significance out of darkness. But dreams are also premonitory. For instance dreams of material success reveal the opposition, throughout Defoe’s works, between Christian and market values, financial prosperity being often the counterpart of moral decline.

Texte intégral

  • 1 The Koran, whose only claimed miracle lies in its poetic nature, describes the night of destiny, in (...)

1The “night of destiny,” or “Night of Qadr,” a nocturnal defining moment, binds the history of men to the wonderful poetics of the foundational Word of God.1 Inherent in this notion is a sense of indeterminacy in the destiny of men where the image of night occupies an essential place. Similarly, against the background of comparable eighteenth-century metaphysics, the play of light and darkness in Defoe pictures in different modes the accidents of man’s estate. Night and the nocturnal sphere indeed partake of the general economy of Defoean narrative in accounting for the “checker work of providence.”

  • 2 For the Greeks, the Three Fates were either the progeny of Night and Eurebus, or “parthenogenous da (...)

2In the eyes of men, destiny has often been associated with the dark shadows of uncertainty.2 Yet, black-winged night does not preclude human agency. Analysing the implications of the Greek word dæmon, Jean-François Balaudé says:

  • 3 « Le démon, c’est ce qui est issu d’un partage, c’est encore la part. Or, par une polysémie qui rel (...)

The demon is the outcome of sharing, also a share. Now, by a polysemy relevant to a type of metonymic effect, “demon” is used both to name the emblematic figure of individual destiny (represented as a guardian by the popular imagination) and designate the divine principle inherent in destiny generally. Demon-destiny establishes a communicative link between man and the godly sphere. However, the modes of such communication have yet to be envisaged.3

  • 4 Laure Bousquet, « L’étreinte ailée, essai méditatif sur “soumission à Allah” et “nuit du destin” », (...)

3In her paper on “The Winged Embrace,”4 Laure Bousquet has shown the share of human agency in the genesis of the term destiny as used in the Koran.

4There is a striking similarity between this notion and Maurice Blanchot’s concept of night in its relation to dream and literary creation. Relevant to the purpose of this chapter is the link between the nocturnal sphere, destiny and literature. The work envisaged will include the image of the Defoean protagonists, groping for their way amidst the dark, unfathomable designs of God, as it will include their recurrent attraction to the Prince of Darkness.

5The first part of this article will centre on darkness as an empirical phenomenon. The second will examine indirect aspects of this link, and look into metaphorical associations with darkness. The third will focus on the ontological features of night and their relation to destiny.

Nocturnal Defining Moments

6In spite of Crusoe’s noontime discovery on the beach, a number of crucial developments in the lives of Defoe’s protagonists do take place during the night. These can be divided into what the protagonists fear, or hesitate to do, what actually takes place irrespective of their will, and affects the course of their lives, and what decisive action they carry out themselves.

7In Defoe, the night is fraught with real or imaginary threats from either ravenous beasts or “savages.” From the very beginning, A Journal of the Plague Year recalls both the practice of divination by means of the Bible and the traditional association between night and terror:

  • 5 Daniel Defoe, 1969, [1722], A Journal of the Plague Year, Oxford, OUP, p. 12-13. Subsequent referen (...)

[…] and [at] that Juncture I happen’d to stop turning over the Book at the 91st Psalm, and casting my Eye on the second Verse, I read on the 7th Verse exclusive; and after that, included the 10th, as follows. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge, and my fortress, my God, in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night.5

  • 6 Daniel Defoe, 1982, [1719] Robinson Crusoe, Harmondsworth, Penguin, p. 48. Subsequent references wi (...)
  • 7 “[…] seeing at night they always come abroad for their prey.” RC, p. 66.
  • 8 Daniel Defoe, 1969, [1720], Captain Singleton, London, OUP, p. 81. Subsequent references will be ma (...)
  • 9 “in the Night, the Negroe Man being loose, got a great Club, by which he made us understand he mean (...)

8When Crusoe travels off the African coast, he “hear[s] nothing but howlings and roaring of wild beasts by night,”6 for “those ravenous creatures seldom appear but in the night” (RC: 51). This link between night and danger will haunt him in the beginning of his long exile on the desert island,7 and his main concern will be how to protect himself “from an attack in the night, either from wild beasts or men” (RC: 88). After he discovers the footprint on the sand, Crusoe, his head filled with “cogitation,” is “under great affliction and pressure of mind, surrounded with danger and in expectation every night of being murthered and devoured before morning” (RC: 133, 162, 167, 171). Also in Africa, Captain Singleton finds that the “Night Air […] is particularly unwholesome,” and full of the howling of wolves, bellowing of lions, braying of wild asses and “other ugly Noises.” Singleton and his companions regret not to have thought of bringing along the necessary materials for “pallissado[ing] [themselves] in for the Night.”8 Black mutineers, like African beasts, get loose at night.9

9Inherent in all these fears and threats, and in this apprehension, is the protagonist’s negative perception of his immediate future, his destiny, and a sense that man has no hold over his destiny. A host of night-time events, which seem to befall one or other of the protagonists, only heighten this sense.

  • 10 Daniel Defoe, 1973, [1721], Moll Flanders, London & New York, Dent & Dutton, p. 53-54. Subsequent r (...)
  • 11 Similarly, the governess’s stewardship of Moll’s thieving career will be manifested one night, when (...)
  • 12 Daniel Defoe, 1986, [1724], Roxana, Oxford, OUP, p. 44. Subsequent references will be made parenthe (...)
  • 13 “I heard of one infected Creature, who running out of his Bed in his Shirt, in the anguish and agon (...)

10In Robinson Crusoe’s Yarmouth roads episode, the fatal leak in the ship is discovered “[in] the middle of the night” (RC: 35). Moll Flanders’s dramatic parting with the draper and the latter’s escape to the Mint also take place in the night,10 and a nocturnal ceremony marks Moll’s marriage with the banker (MF: 157-158). Jemmy will also make his short-lived surprise return “near dusk in the evening” (MF: 131), and Moll discovers he is a highwayman following an uproar “about six o’clock at night” (MF: 159).11 In Captain Singleton, thirty-two Englishmen get stranded in Japan after “being driven upon a great Rock in a stormy Night” (CS: 201-202) and Singleton’s ship runs aground after the wind has veered in the night (CS: 221), and is released from the sand also by night (CS: 229). Colonel Jack and his brother are kidnapped and sent to Virginia during the night (CJ: 108-113). What is more, night definitely marks every turning point in Roxana’s fortune, whether with the jeweller, who gives her “Writings12” “after Supper” (Rx: 41), with the Prince in Paris (Rx: 62-64) or with the Dutch merchant (Rx: 142-143). In A Journal of the Plague Year, when people are miraculously cured from the plague, night only adds to the mystery13 and the same event is used by the narrator to excuse the officers unable to handle “[t] his [nightly] running of distemper’d People” (JPY: 163).

11When divorced from sleep, with which it is “naturally” associated, night dramatises the position of the protagonist as both the object and subject of destiny. Such a sleepless night happens when Crusoe makes his pots, for he watches them “all night, that [he] might not let the fire abate too fast” (RC: 133). Moll also spends a sleepless night of close conversation on the eve of her separation with Jemmy, (MF: 128-130), another one after her first theft (MF: 164), and yet another when she learns that she will probably be sentenced to death (MF: 244).

12However, a number of episodes in Defoean fiction show a more assertive manifestation of men’s hold on their own destiny. Night, whether for the sake of safety or otherwise, is also the locus of human agency, and the moment in time when various actors carry out decisive actions. Dark evening is the scene of Moll’s first theft, followed by her long wandering in London (MF: 164-165). Her first act of deliberate prostitution with the gentleman in Bath (MF: 99), and her visit – disguised as a maid servant – to his house when he falls sick also take place at night (MF: 103). It is also in the evening that Moll steals the tankard that sets the seal on her complicity with the governess (MF: 170-172) and, under cover of night, Moll can pass for a man in spite of the initial awkwardness of her position (MF: 184). When she ends up in Newgate, Moll sends the news of it to her governess the same night (MF: 238).

  • 14 “Had not the Night come on, William’s Words had been made good; they would certainly have asked us (...)
  • 15 “getting all things ready in the Night, their Chests and Clothes, and whatever else they could, the (...)

13In Captain Singleton, one sailor, frightened by the prospect of falling into the hands of the natives on an island, “swam off to the Ship in the Night, tho’she lay then a League to Sea, and made such pitiful Moan to be taken in, that the Captain was prevailed with at last to take him in, tho’they let him lye swimming three Hours in the Water before he consented to it” (CS: 15). Moreover it is under cover of night that the pirate ships make their escape from the English men of war (CS: 146), that Singleton tries to keep out of harm’s way by seeking safety in flight, however unsuccessfully,14 and that new sailors make ready to join his crew.15 Night also provides the right background for fire signals among pirates (CS: 178), and when pursued by the British Navy, pirate ships “chang[e] their Course in the night” (CJ: 275). Finally the runaway Europeans in Ceylon leave “Anarodgburro at Night, when the People never travel for fear of wild Beasts” (CS: 246).

14The same remarks can be made about Colonel Jack who carries out the first two important financial transactions of his life – giving back the stolen bills of exchange and entrusting his money to the gentleman who helped with the negotiations – at night (CJ: 34-39), and among thieves, important appointments, like risky work – such as house breaking (CJ: 59) – are nocturnal activities. For Colonel Jack and his “brother,” Captain Jack, the prudent fugitives who use it for their travel, night is also the setting for their narrow escape from their pursuers at Bournbridge (CJ: 91). Colonel Jack’s other “brother,” the Major, also dexterously breaks away from prison by night (CJ: 185), and at Preston, Jack gives his fellow rebels the slip by night (CJ: 265).

15Similarly, in the Journal of the Plague Year, such actions as removing sick persons from one place to another (JPY: 41-42), or bringing them back (JPY: 43) are carried out at night. Under cover of darkness, the “dead cart” naturally removes corpses (JPY: 49), and, when shut in inside their houses, the living make their escape or bribe their way out (JPY: 51-53, 57). In the gloom of the Journal, the story of the piper also provides comic relief that again brings together night and destiny (JPY: 90-91). The London magistrates use the cover of night to bury the dead, and thus alleviate the impact of the disease on the population (JPY: 186). Others use the very existence of the night to amplify rather than conceal the disaster:

Nay one of the most eminent Physicians, who has since publish’d in Latin an Account of those Times, and of his Observations, says, that in one Week there died twelve Thousand People, and that particularly there died four Thousand in one Night; tho’I do not remember that there ever was any such particular Night, so remarkably fatal, as that such a Number died in it: However all this confirms what I have said above of the Uncertainty of the Bills of Mortality, & c. of which I shall say more hereafter. (JPY: 190)

16However, though night offers Colonel Jack cover, it provides no safety to him, “and therefore, as before [he] went out at Night, thinking to be conceal’d; so now [he] never went out, but in open Day that [he] might be safe, and never without one or two Servants to be [his] Life Guard” (CJ: 204).

Night-Shrouded Destiny

  • 16 B. Bolt, 2000, “Shedding Light for the Matter,” in Hypatia 15. 2, (Spring), p. 202.
  • 17 Bolt, ibid., p. 203.
  • 18 Bolt, ibid., p. 204.

17Destiny does not relate to night solely through actual darkness or empirical temporality. The link between night and destiny in Defoe’s fiction could be seen within the broader framework of “the metaphysics of light that underpins […] metaphors of light. It is a metaphysics that has informed European philosophy from Plato’s cave until its apotheosis in Enlightenment thinking.”16 The hallmark of such thinking is that “the relationship between light, knowledge and truth is assumed, and it is through vision that this nexus is achieved.”17 As pointed out by Barbara Bolt, this view equates light with form, knowledge and subject, and dark with matter, the unknown, and the other.18

  • 19 “Well, I saluted her; but as I went first forward to the Captain’s Lady, who was at the farther-end (...)

18One scene from Defoean fiction may help illustrate this point. At a dinner with her inquisitive daughter on board the ship, Roxana turns her face in such a way as to escape detection.19 The interplay of light and shadows permitting her to hide her identity equates light with knowledge and darkness with the unknown, and the hidden, unmentionable motives of the protagonist. Whether through deliberate concealment or sheer impossibility, inherent inscrutability sets in place a close relation between destiny and night. Whether or not associated with terror, and therefore with a certain fear of the future, of the dark shadows of the unknown, all descriptions of destiny should be viewed from this perspective. One after the other, joyful wonderment, dismay, or mere acceptance of the facts mark the attitude of the Defoean protagonists. Crusoe’s oscillates from wondering at the “chequer work of providence” (RC: 164), bewailing his lot, praising the Lord for granting him an opportunity to achieve his salvation, and waiting for a “secret hint” that will help him carry out his predatory designs on the natives. In Moll’s eyes, destiny manifests itself as “an almost invisible hand” that deals her unexpected blows (MF: 162). As she apprehends this kind of blast, Roxana does not mingle her ill-gotten gains with her husband’s money (Rx: 260).

  • 20 Says my Husband, “So is Heaven’s goodness sure to work the same effects, in all sensible minds, whe (...)

19Yet Providence does catch up with her and the “Blast of Heaven” brings her “low again” (Rx: 330). However, described in a manner reminiscent of that of Crusoe’s marriage, this eventual divine retribution comes across as remote and a little disconnected from the general trend of Roxana’s fortune. None of Defoe’s other works bears out the logic of retribution that marks Roxana’s destiny, which rather removes its dark shadows of mystery. In Moll Flanders Jemmy openly expresses his joy at the pleasant surprises of Providence20, and at the end of the day, he reckons he was not deceived when he married Moll in Lancashire (MF: 294). Adding a whiff of superstition to the mysterious ways of Providence, Colonel Jack associates his good fortune with “Virginia, the Place, […] the only Place [he] had been bless’d at, or had met with any thing that deserv’d the Name of Success in” (CJ: 251).

  • 21 Cf. Blanchot, 1955, L’espace littéraire, p. 20.
  • 22 See Zouheir Jamoussi, 2001, La liberté dans l’œuvre de Defoe, Tunis, Centre de publication universi (...)

20A man can no more tell what stands before him in the darkness of night than he can know what lies in store for him in future. The representation of control over time in Defoe offers a very good example of the link between the uncertainty associated with darkness and one’s sense of destiny. In Robinson Crusoe, strongly symptomatic of a fixation on time are the journal and the calendar. The former seems to belong to a different sense of destiny. Men of letters, when they feel they are being sucked into the imaginary world of literature, attempt to retain a hold on reality by keeping a diary.21 Both journal and calendar – with Crusoe losing “a day in [his] accompt” (RC: 109) – surely indicate an unsteady grip on time, as is common in representations of destiny. Friday’s name embodies another aspect of control over time, which can make sense only in the light of that ethnocentricity that ubiquitously colours most of Defoe’s notions of humanity, as pointed out by Zouheir Jamoussi.22

  • 23 « Au niveau psychologique, il n’y aura subjectivation véritable et profonde du temps qu’avec la mon (...)
  • 24 Le Goff, op. cit., p. 46-47.
  • 25 « Chez saint Augustin, le temps de l’histoire… conservait une “ambivalence” où, dans le cadre de l’ (...)

21The characters’ perception and valuation of the (gold) watch in Defoe’s fiction point to another aspect of human control over time, in which culture and class coalesce with individual subjectivity.23 Indeed, in those days watches were valuable items, prized by pickpockets such as Moll Flanders, for they could fetch as much as £20 (MF: 173). The lewd old gentleman pays £30 to have his watch back (MF: 201), and a thieving acquaintance of Moll’s even takes the trouble of replacing the genuine gold watch she steals with a sham one (MF: 196). However, such luxury items of clothing of the wealthy help identify those who were concerned with measuring time in early eighteenth-century British society. They also show the ground gained by what Jacques Le Goff calls the merchants’time since the late Middle Ages. What characterised the time scale of medieval merchants was their mastery of it. For merchants, time could be measured out, evaluated and priced; this was the very essence of interest. Christian time, in comparison, belonged to God alone.24 Though a little forgotten, Christian thought did not relinquish any form of mastery of time. “In Augustine, historical time […] remained ‘ambivalent’, insofar as, while they were placed within the framework of eternity and subordinated to the action of Providence, individual men still retained control over their own destiny and that of humanity.”25 Yet, for Christians as for other monotheists, God’s designs remain unfathomable. Similarly, dark mystery still veils the precise nature of men’s relations with their destiny.

22Thus, in addition to being culture bound, concepts of destiny as embodied in control over time are also class-bound. The status of the watch in the eyes of poor or insecure people in Defoe only exemplifies the cultural hegemony of the wealthy. When Moll goes out to pick pockets, she is “always […] very well dressed, and ha[s] very good clothes on, and a gold watch by [her] side” (MF: 181). In the same way, Moll has “a very good gold watch by [her] side” (MF: 216) when she goes to court for her “prosecution in form” (MF: 214) against the mercer. Taking stock of her fortune to appraise her chances on the marriage market, Moll does not forget that she owns a gold watch, and brings her suitor to expect her to own nothing more than that, together with her fine clothing and a couple of diamond rings (MF: 65, 68), and a gold watch travels back and forth between Moll and her husband Jemmy (MF: 131, 133). Moreover, when she meets her grown-up son in America, Moll offers him a (stolen) gold watch, asking him to kiss it every now and then for her sake (MF: 290). We find the same thing in Roxana as, before he leaves for his ill-fated trip, Roxana’s jeweller gives her a gold watch and a diamond ring (Rx: 52), and trying to look like a lady, Amy, Roxana’s maid, puts on a gold watch (Rx: 194).

  • 26 Le Goff, ibid., p. 77.
  • 27 Le Goff, ibid., p. 57.
  • 28 Le Goff, ibid., p. 59.

23In Defoe, there is a strong sense in which the watch materialises, ‘objectifies’, the equation between time and money that became common in Europe after the 14th century.26 For merchants, the discovery of the measure of time coincided with the discovery of space. As a measure of duration, distance was also included in the calculation of cost.27 Both a status symbol and a measure of time, the gold watch disrupts man’s control over time. Indeed, the terms of its dual status invalidate one another. Most importantly, their contradiction perverts the very notion of measurement and seems to partake of the confusion between the designs of Providence and the merchant’s fortunes, which also became a feature of middle-class ideology in early modern Europe.28

24Images of unclear perception of the future and lack of control over time thus represent the oscillation between effective human agency and passive submission to an uncontrollable outside power. In Defoe’s fiction, the darkness of night can be linked to uncertain destiny in numerous other ways. Social positions and aspirations seem to shape the destinies of protagonists both in terms of hindrance and objectives. Birth, the foundational accident, recurrently signifies the intractable twists of fate. Moll, Colonel Jack and Captain Singleton are bastards. Moll’s itinerary begins with one basic event over which she has no control: her birth in Newgate. Captivity, shipwreck, or loss of social status and ruin have considerable influence on the courses of Crusoe’s, Roxana’s, and Colonel Jack’s lives. Repeatedly asserting the decrees of divine Providence unto him, Crusoe shows an acute sensitivity to coincidences. He does not fail to point out that he embarked for Hull and for his ill-fated slave-hunting expedition on the same day – 1 September – and was shipwrecked on the desert island on his birthday – 30 September (RC: 60, 144).

  • 29 Cf. Jamoussi, op. cit., p. 63-64, 91.

25All Defoean protagonists come to grips with their destiny from the very start of the narrative. However, we are left in doubt as to the effectiveness, or efficiency, of their engagements. Moll’s escape from the gypsies at the very opening of the novel presents us with a typical case: did she run away, or did her former abductors abandon her? Her mistaken concept of gentility, coupled with the metonymic reference to her hand to represent the (unavoidable) commodification of women of her class, also blur the distinction between agency and lack of control over events. Crusoe’s “rambling thoughts,” in stark contrast with the ideal motionlessness proposed by his father, and Roxana’s dance to fame and “Amazonian” status, confront us with the same problem. We are left in the dark as to the respective parts played by Providence and the human agent in this moral and spiritual wandering on which all Defoean protagonists seem to be so keen.29 Is this expressive of a will to survive guided by the fuzzy logic of nature and society, and dubiously seeking the sanction of morality?

26A specific spiritual sense forms an integral part of the cultural making of Defoean protagonists. Indeed, their spirituality informs their conceptions of their individual destinies. Crusoe stumbles on the Bible that will guide his spiritual regeneration in the wreck of the ship lying off the desert island. The holy book will light up only part of the way to his specific spiritual dimension. As a man’s destiny involves relating to other men, Crusoe’s retrieval of its necessary spiritual ingredient goes through the test of coming to terms with the other. After his conversion, Crusoe grapples with the social dimension of his spiritual identity at every step, with every predatory act on the natives. Similarly, Captain Singleton experiences his own return within the fold of Christendom in terms of relating to other people’s property. In the Journal of the Plague Year the sense of Christian duty determines not only the action of H. F., but also that of almost every responsible member of the London community, and the plague is definitely presented as a trial for the believers.

27However, the attraction exerted on them by the Prince of Darkness further obscures the destiny of most of Defoe’s protagonists. Not only do shadows of uncertainty darken the overall picture of their destiny, but also murkiness and moral unsteadiness seem to attend their every step. In the Mint, after her separation with the draper, Moll “had a husband and no husband” (MF: 55); very much like Roxana after her first husband had left her.

  • 30 Maximilian Novak has pointed out Defoe’s usage of the “word ‘necessity’ in the dual sense of povert (...)

28One of the keywords of Defoe’s fiction further associates the darkness of night with an unclear sense of outcome and purpose: Necessity.30 This notion provides Defoean protagonists with a rationale to seek to improve their lot in unorthodox ways. Sinking ever deeper in moral degradation, they are goaded on by a frenzied yearning for property and hoarding. This does not seem to make the protagonists’ paths any clearer to either themselves or Defoe’s readers. Indeed, while material success eventually crowns their tribulations, a guilty conscience, and a sense of sin that seems to deepen from one book to the next increasingly gnaw all protagonists. While Crusoe’s scruples are little more than fleeting second thoughts that rest as much on uncertainty about success as on a genuine moral sense, in Roxana the pain wrought on the heroine by her guilty conscience matches her economic and social achievement.

  • 31 Cf. Martine Leibovici, « Le douloureux passage de la honte au récit », in Le destin…, p. 69.
  • 32 Jamoussi, op. cit., p. 92.

29A guilty conscience, very much like a “shameful” origin,31 acts as a powerful component of destiny in determining the protagonists’ behaviour without bringing their real motives out of the darkness. Zouheir Jamoussi describes the plight of these characters as ensnarement by God.32 Roxana, in the midst of her stunning, largely unimpeded success, has an almost physical perception of her pain and apprehension:

And let no-body conclude from the strange Success I met with in all my wicked Doings, and the vast Estate which I had rais’d by it, that therefore I either was happy or easie: No, no, there was a Dart struck into the Liver; there was a secret Hell within, even all the while, when our Joy was at the highest; but more especially now, after it was all over, and when according to all appearance, I was one of the happiest Women upon Earth; all this while, I say, I had such a constant Terror upon my Mind, as gave me every now and then very terrible Shocks, and which made me expect something very frightful upon every Accident of Life. (Rx: 260)

30Destiny is all the more uncontrollable by Defoean protagonists in that more than one party get involved in it. These are the numerous social actors whose presence necessarily determines both individual and collective destiny. Systems no less than individuals play a decisive part in this respect. The repression of the Huguenots in France, and the fortunes of trade, respectively brought Roxana’s and Crusoe’s parents to England. The traditional education of women brought Roxana to prostitution. In the same way, the market value of her body determined the course of Moll’s life.

31A close look will quickly show that, in spite of Crusoe’s long seclusion on the desert island, an impressive number of people have contributed to shaping his destiny. Parents, friends, trading partners, fellow slaves in Morocco, the Portuguese captain, the English widow, fellow planters in Brazil, and naturally all those who come to the “desert” island, are so many agents of Crusoe’s transformation. The same thing is true for almost every single protagonist of Defoe’s, and contributes to establishing close ties between social determination and night-shrouded destiny. Whether for good or bad, chance encounters so much determine the course and significance of the life of Moll Flanders that other people seem to act as the dormant agents of destiny only activated by conjuncture. Appearances, as well as much-unexpected agents, also decide the fate of Colonel Jack.

32This unexpected, “indeterminate” character of decisive factors in man’s destiny is reminiscent of the – just as arbitrary – dual process of condensation and displacement in dreams. Destiny relates to night in yet another way, man’s necessary use of his imaginative powers in envisaging his future. Man can hardly conceive of his destiny without his capacity for dreaming, an activity which, according to Maurice Blanchot, belongs to the nocturnal sphere.

The Nocturnal Sphere

33In L’espace littéraire, Maurice Blanchot gives this description of the night:

  • 33 « Ou bien, la nuit est ce que le jour ne veut pas seulement dissiper, mais s’approprier: la nuit es (...)

The night may also be what the day will appropriate, rather than dispel; the night is then the essential core that must be preserved, not lost, and welcomed not as a fringe element, but as a central factor in its own right; night must then merge into day; by becoming day, night makes light richer, and brightness, the outcome of radiance from the depths rather than surface shimmer. The day then includes the whole of day and the whole of night, making good the promise of dialectics.33

  • 34 “Sleep belongs to the world, it is a task; we sleep in accordance with the general rule that has ma (...)
  • 35 “Dream,” says Maurice Blanchot, “is an eternal fall into dream,” and is “all the more nocturnal in (...)
  • 36 This is more consistent with the logic of fiction, which operates through “staging” abstract notion (...)

34Blanchot lays stress on the ontological relation between night and dream on the one hand, and day and sleep on the other.34 In Defoe’s first two works dream35 is represented in the narrative as premonitory. It has a direct bearing on the destiny of protagonists. The rest of the narrative still relates to both dream and destiny, though in a less obvious, one may say less crude, way. In those parts of both books, and throughout the other works, dream and destiny are woven into the narrative in a more diffuse, more general, more indirect way.36 After his first two works Defoe, rather than mention the underlying “imaging activity” by pointing out the existence of dream work, simply carries on with his dream-based fiction.

  • 37 “[…] in the night I dreamed often of killing the savages, and of the reasons why I might justify th (...)

35God-inspired nightmares in Robinson Crusoe and Captain Singleton appear to counterpoint their dreams of success. However, dreams in Robinson Crusoe (102-103, 202), and in Captain Singleton (177-178, 269-270), establish a link between the action envisaged by the protagonist in the near future and his vision of his destiny. In Robinson Crusoe the protagonist’s dreams clearly picture the action he envisages to take to achieve his goals. This link between destiny and night-time (dream) is enhanced by repeated reference to Providence (RC: 179, 181-182), which Crusoe simply accommodates to his own purposes. Crusoe’s dreams make up new pretexts for murder every night.37

36Nightmares of loss, as experienced by Colonel Jack (CJ: 23-24), are rooted in the categories of success and failure. The Defoean protagonists’ vision of their destiny logically involves little concern with the categories of good and evil. In fact, a deep sense of the contradiction between Christian and market values runs through the whole of Defoe’s works. In respect of the market as much as Christianity itself, a deep sense of betrayal determines the development of Defoean protagonists no less than the models of value involved. Narrative considerations only complete – or complicate – the picture – how not to betray the narrative.

37Born of dreams, projects may well include simulacra, and therefore entail a betrayal of accepted norms and practices. In pursuing her dream of social promotion in Paris, Roxana organises a simulacrum of funerary rite by posing as a widow. The mercenary objective of the ceremony undermines it as a social practice. It is in fact exposed as an unnecessary and illegitimate show. Viewed against the background of Roxana’s murder of her daughter by proxy, it becomes part of the hypocrisy and deception necessary for a society operating as a lethal system of universal whoredom.

38By proxy, via his reliable advisor William, Captain Singleton has dreams of – literally – golden prosperity, as well as spiritual cum moral solace. In Crusoe’s first dream, the threat of death brings him back to his religion. Thus Crusoe claims back the culture he will use both as an instrument of appropriation and the justification of it on the island. Appropriation, i.e. the hallmark of Defoe’s culture, is in fact at the heart of dreams in Captain Singleton and Robinson Crusoe. In this sense, all Defoe’s fiction only replicates the overall picture of the protagonists’ lives as envisaged in dreams in these first two works, an endless recurrence of the same.

39The dark uncertainty of night, embodied in various modes of indeterminacy, forms an integral part of the play of Defoe’s narrative and the pleasure it affords. In Defoe’s first novel, the economic notion of commodification lies at the foundation of Crusoe’s authority over both things and people. Having “liberated” the Spaniard and Friday’s father from “savage” hands, Crusoe sets about feeding them. He seizes a kid from his flock, kills it, and cuts up a quarter of it to make a broth. Oddly enough, his later description of his relation to his new “subjects” links them to the domesticated animal he has sacrificed; common to both subjects and animals is their commodification and objectification by Crusoe. His absolute rule over the lives he has saved, and thus taken as hostages, connects their position to that of the chattel he thus makes free use of. The status of livestock as food reserves parallels that of the subaltern mouths to feed, as both stand as two subjected components of the same nurturing process. They belong in the same whole, brought together by the status of being expendable commodities, although they occupy different places. Crusoe feeds his subjects and livestock alike, on the basis of the same economic utility principle.

40The narrator’s proprietary posture and the essentially economic project that his story tells pervert the ontological space of dream and possibility opened up by the narrative. Both posture and project impose coercion and symbolic violence on characters and readers, whose possible discordant voices are equally silenced. Providence, though invoked by Crusoe, seems to disapprove of this form of violence. It symbolically thwarts Crusoe’s attempt to bring time under control. In spite of the notches he keeps making on a tree, Crusoe finds out in the end that he has lost “a day or two in [his] reckoning” (RC: 117). In his relation to the “savages,” Crusoe finally first decides that “the evil which in it self we seek most to shun” may prove a necessary course for securing deliverance from affliction (RC: 186). He construes his own deliverance from his “death of a life” as “acting in [his] own defence” (RC: 203). At the sight of Friday running away from his pursuers, he concludes that he is “call’d plainly by Providence to save this poor creature’s life” (RC: 206) for that purpose.

41As they are market-related, the dreams of Defoe’s protagonists involve forms of advertising, packaging, i.e. staging and simulacrum. Susan, Roxana’s daughter, has a vivid memory of the magnificent Turkish dress, a disguise that will always shield her mother from her: “I never saw my Mistress in my Life, except it was that publick Night when she danc’d in the fine Turkish Habit, and then she was so disguis’d, that I new nothing of her afterwards.” (Rx: 206)

  • 38 Michel Foucault, 1966, Les mots et les choses, Paris, Gallimard, p. 12.

42Deceit, as embodied in masks, forms an integral part of market culture. In this sense, any image, any dream is ontologically a form of betrayal. Ontologically, also, a narrative has no empirical ground to stand on, but it cannot be said to refer to no reality at all. It must therefore tell the story of its own failure, of its own necessary betrayal. It does so by telling the story of a dream. The intricacy of the pattern of determination in narrative thus underscores the close ties between the darkness of night and destiny. This link between obscurity and the complexity of determination is borne out by Michel Foucault’s view of a dark area in every culture, which harbours “the modes of being of the order of things.”38

  • 39 Paul Ricœur, 1979, “The Metaphorical Process”, in Sheldon Sacks (ed.), On Metaphor, Chicago/London, (...)
  • 40 Umberto Eco, 1984, Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language, London, Macmillan, p. 89.

43Dream cannot be separated from man’s imaging capacity, and from “the fundamental metaphoricality of thought to the extent that the figure of speech that we call ‘metaphor’ allows us a glance at the general procedure by which we produce concepts.”39 Defoe’s fiction may help illustrate the link between dream, knowledge and destiny, and “the frequently metaphoric character of oniric images.”40 A closer look at one metaphor in Defoe will help show this. At both explicit and implicit level, a host of actions and projects associated with hands runs through the entire range of Defoe’s fictional works. Crusoe’s life basically involves his wish to have a hand in his own future, lay hands on whatever he can, manhandle those who stand in his way, and finally hand down to posterity his own version of events. Roxana spends her life in handling situations and people. For pickpockets and thieves like Moll Flanders and Colonel Jack, destiny hinges on the relationship between their sleight of hand and the hand of Providence. Dependence on this uncertain relationship characterises all of Defoe’s protagonists.

  • 41 See Serge Soupel, 1997, « Moll Flanders: conditions et labyrinthe », in Bulletin de la Société d’Ét (...)

44Serge Soupel has discussed the part played by another image in Moll Flanders: that of the labyrinth. Minos’s labyrinth, it must be remembered, was both a hiding place for himself and his wife, and a carceral space for the very man who made it, Daedalus. As a representation of the predicament of the human agent caught in the play of power relations, the labyrinth can be viewed as another metaphor of night-shrouded destiny running through the entire range of Defoe’s fiction.41

  • 42 Jean-François Balaudé, « La “part” de l’homme: Entre démon et nécessité », in Le destin…, p. 13: « (...)
  • 43 Jean-François Balaudé, ibid., p. 22.
  • 44 Jean-François Balaudé, ibid., p. 25, 32-33.

45As pointed out by Jean-François Balaudé, what is striking about destiny is its singular rather than inescapable character. The role of the narrative is to always tell the story of the unique contribution of a man, or a people.42 Furthermore, the root of the Greek word from which the term demon is derived is a verb that means to share.43 Knowledge materialises man’s share in controlling his destiny, and thus partaking of divine nature.44 In trying to come to terms with both market society imperatives and Christian values, Defoean protagonists commit a double betrayal. This in turn defines their destiny in terms of ontological uncertainty. This uncertainty is not unrelated to the hazy contours of dream, and the thrill of dark mystery. An embodiment of literary world construction, this aspect may tell of the place of pleasurable nocturnal dream in Defoe’s delineation of human destiny.

  • 45 Françoise Proust: « L’enchaînement inexorable des faits n’est saisi comme destin que s’il est réflé (...)
  • 46 Martine Leibovici, « Le douloureux passage de la honte au récit », in Le destin…, p. 69-72.
  • 47 Martine Leibovici, ibid., p. 78.

46No destiny can exist without a consciousness living it as such.45 Narrative is linked to this consciousness. Indeed, if destiny is experienced as the repetition of the same, narrative offers the possibility to transform a string of events into a significant whole.46 Only through the power of poetry can this make sense. The general rules arrived at can then sound like something one says for the first time, rather than irrelevant abstraction.47 All of Defoe’s fictional works are first-person novels. The protagonists grapple with destiny not only in being involved in the action, but also in making sense of it through narrative. In this way, they also partake of the entertaining aspect of their stories, which is promised/denied by the author in the prefaces and they thereby open up another unpredictable aspect: literary destiny. Though every story by Defoe is that of an extraordinary, or extraordinarily fortunate, character, yet we do not experience it as “repetition of the same.” Triumphant imperialism not only canonised, but also endlessly replicated and re-enacted the narrative of Crusoe’s story. Initially, the author himself had wondered about the destiny of this narrative at the very start of the preface – “If ever the story of any private man’s adventure in the world were worth making public and were acceptable when published” (RC: 25). Readers of Defoe’s fiction would hardly consider Crusoe, Roxana, Moll, Colonel Jack, Singleton as so many duplicates of the adventurous rogue. Neither do readers perceive every instance of the Defoean protagonists’ adventures as repetitive tribulations. Rather, the particular mixture of frailty and resourcefulness of each protagonist makes every one of them stand out as a specimen of both humanity and the craft of fiction. Grappling with adverse conditions, never sure of what may happen next, yet chancing upon a happy outcome at times, they may well illustrate the very nature of fictional performatives, alternatively achieving felicitous and un-felicitous authentication. Similarly, this is not unrelated to the uncertainty that attends their destiny throughout. Yet flights of fancy belong in the sphere of the nocturnal, rather than that of the light of day, and they are the very stuff of fiction. Witness the description given of the relation of destiny to narrative at the close of Colonel Jack: having perversely linked pain to memory and gout, i.e. pain to the “meat of things” as it were, the protagonist points out how everything is ordained by “an invisible over-ruling Power, a Hand influenced from above” (CJ: 308). Yet, as an act of both repentance and guidance carried out by him, the narrative of his life materialises his agency in his own destiny.

  • 48 Ricœur, “The Metaphorical Process,” op. cit., p. 147.

47“Before being a fading perception,” says Ricœur, “the image is an emerging meaning.”48 Crusoe’s painful hesitation about what to do with respect to the “savages” shows how making history bears a close relation to dreaming, and does not preclude indeterminacy. At the end of the day, narrative brings together destiny, dream, image, and thought in the making within the sphere of the nocturnal. The play of light and darkness forms an integral part of this process.

48In Defoe, the night is the locus of defining moments in the lives of protagonists. For thieves and pirates, for the runaway deserters and secretive prostitutes, for all those who seek safety in darkness, it provides cover. The London magistrates also use it to shield the city’s population from the horrors wrought by the plague on their fellow townspeople. In each of these instances, night is the time when individuals or authorities take decisive actions and measures.

49Defoe’s fiction displays another relationship between night and destiny, beyond the physical reality of a given moment in the day. Indeed the representation of destiny in Defoe clearly relates darkness to uncertainty. Reference to a “metaphysics of light” appears to be relevant to a proper understanding of the relationship between night and destiny in Defoe.

  • 49 Georges Minois, 2000, [1998], Le diable, Paris, PUF, « Que sais-je? », p. 20.
  • 50 Georges Minois, ibid., p. 8, 24.

50Different aspects of a will to exercise control over time in Defoean fiction may also belong to the logic of “night-shrouded destiny.” These may be reminiscent of the mythical struggle against child-devouring Cronus. A no less mysterious link may exist between Defoe’s fiction and the Greek concept of destiny. Oddly enough, the resourcefulness of, and the pain felt by, successful evil-doing protagonists in Defoe might point to the Promethean filiation of the Christian Devil.49 Similarly, the link between darkness, the written word, destiny and narrative, recalls the Babylonian myth of Anzu stealing the tables of destiny from almighty Enlil, and the Devil’s ontological immersion in lies.50

51No account of the place of the night in Defoe can leave out its ontological relation to dream. This relationship points to yet another link between dream, image, narrative, and destiny. Indeed, the indirectness of description, the hitherto unsuspected associations made by metaphor and the uniqueness of the story related by narrative correspond to the mystery common to night and destiny. As suggested by the title of this chapter, these make up the poetic link between night and destiny embodied in Defoe’s fiction.

Bibliographie

Bibliography

Sources primaires

Daniel Defoe, 1969 [1722], A Journal of the Plague Year, Oxford, OUP.
—, 1969 [1720],
Captain Singleton, London/Oxford, OUP.
—, 1973 [1721],
Moll Flanders, London & New York, Dent & Dutton.
—, 1982 [1719],
Robinson Crusoe, Harmondswoth, Penguin.
—, 1986 [1724],
Roxana, Oxford, OUP.

The Koran Interpreted, 1955, trans. Arthur J. Arberry, New York, Macmillan.

Sources secondaires

Balaudé, Jean-François, 1997, « “La part” de l’homme », in Chalier, Catherine (éd.), Le destin. Défiet consentement, Paris, Éditions Autrement, « coll. Morales » no 21.

Blanchot, Maurice, 1955, L’espace littéraire, Paris, Gallimard.

Bolt, B., 2000, “Shedding Light for the Matter,” in Hypatia 15, 2 (Spring).

Chalier, Catherine (éd.), 1997, Le destin. Défiet consentement, Paris, Éditions Autrement, « coll. Morales » no 21.

Eco, Umberto, 1984, Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language, London, Macmillan.

Foucault, Michel, 1966, Les mots et les choses, Paris, Gallimard.

Jamoussi, Zouheir, 2001, La liberté dans l’œuvre de Defoe, Tunis, Centre de publication universitaire.

Le Goff, Jacques, 1997, Pour un autre Moyen Âge, Paris, Gallimard.

Leibovici, Martine, 1997, « Le douloureux passage de la honte au récit », in Chalier, Catherine (éd.), Le destin. Défiet consentement, Paris, Éditions Autrement, « coll. Morales » no 21.

Minois, Georges, 2000 [1998], Le diable, Paris, PUF, « coll. Que sais-je? ».

Novak, Maximilian, 1963, Defoe and the Nature of Man, Oxford, OUP.

Proust, Françoise, 1997, « Les pauvres du destin », in Chalier, Catherine (éd.), Le destin. Défiet consentement, Paris, Éditions Autrement, « coll. Morales » no 21.

Ricœur, Paul, 1979, “The Metaphorical Process,” in Sacks, Sheldon (ed.), On Metaphor, Chicago/London, Univ. of Chicago Press.

Soupel, Serge, 1997, « Moll Flanders: conditions et labyrinthe », in Bulletin de la Société d’Études anglo-américaines des XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles, 45 (nov.), p.137-150.

Notes

1 The Koran, whose only claimed miracle lies in its poetic nature, describes the night of destiny, in which Islam was revealed to Prophet Mohamed, as a night of the soul, from the angelic sphere, better than a thousand months. Sura XCVII Power, reads as follows: “In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate 1 – Behold, We sent it down on the Night of Power; 2 – And what shall teach thee what is the Night of Power? 3 – The Night of Power is better than a thousand months; 4 – In it the angels and the Spirit descend, by the leave of their Lord, upon every command; 5 – Peace it is, till the rising of dawn.” The Koran Interpreted, 1955, translated by Arthur J. Arberry, New York, Macmillan, p. 345. This reader prefers to translate the Arabic word “qadr” with the English term “destiny”.

2 For the Greeks, the Three Fates were either the progeny of Night and Eurebus, or “parthenogenous daughters of the Great Goddess Necessity”. Robert Graves, 1992, [1955], The Greek Myths, Harmondsworth, Penguin, p. 33, 48.

3 « Le démon, c’est ce qui est issu d’un partage, c’est encore la part. Or, par une polysémie qui relève d’une sorte d’effet métonymique, “démon” sert aussi bien à nommer la figure emblématique du destin individuel (populairement représenté comme gardien) qu’à désigner le divin qui est au principe du destin en général. Le destin-démon fait communiquer l’homme avec le dieu. Restent à envisager les modalités de cette communication. » Jean-François Balaudé, 1997, « La “part” de l’homme: entre démon et nécessité », in Le destin. Défiet consentement, Catherine Chalier (éd.), Paris, Éditions Autrement, « Collection Morales no 21 », p. 22-23. Toutes les traductions de textes français sont de l’auteur de l’article.

4 Laure Bousquet, « L’étreinte ailée, essai méditatif sur “soumission à Allah” et “nuit du destin” », in Le destin…, p. 112-124.

5 Daniel Defoe, 1969, [1722], A Journal of the Plague Year, Oxford, OUP, p. 12-13. Subsequent references will be made parenthetically (JPY: page number).

6 Daniel Defoe, 1982, [1719] Robinson Crusoe, Harmondsworth, Penguin, p. 48. Subsequent references will be made parenthetically (RC: page number).

7 “[…] seeing at night they always come abroad for their prey.” RC, p. 66.

8 Daniel Defoe, 1969, [1720], Captain Singleton, London, OUP, p. 81. Subsequent references will be made parenthetically (CS: page number).

9 “in the Night, the Negroe Man being loose, got a great Club, by which he made us understand he meant a Handspike, and that when the same Frenchman (if it was a Frenchman) came among them again, he began again to abuse the Negroe Man’s Wife; at which the Negroe taking up the Handspike, knock’d his Brains out at one Blow; and then taking the Key from him with which he usually unlock’d the Hand-cuffs which the Negroes were fetter’d with, he set about a Hundred of them at Liberty, who getting up upon the Deck by the same Skuttle that the White Man came down; and taking the Man’s Cutlass who was killed, and laying hold of what came next them, they fell upon the Men that were upon the Deck, and killed them all.” CS, p. 161-162.

10 Daniel Defoe, 1973, [1721], Moll Flanders, London & New York, Dent & Dutton, p. 53-54. Subsequent references will be made parenthetically (MF: page number).

11 Similarly, the governess’s stewardship of Moll’s thieving career will be manifested one night, when a neighbouring house catches fire (MF, p. 175-177). Moll’s adventure with the lewd old gentleman starts late at night (MF, p. 193); under the influence of drink, the old man’s reason “had given him up” (MF, p. 195). “[O]ne night,” Moll learns of Jemmy’s arrival in Newgate the night before (MF, p. 241).

12 Daniel Defoe, 1986, [1724], Roxana, Oxford, OUP, p. 44. Subsequent references will be made parenthetically (Rx: page number).

13 “I heard of one infected Creature, who running out of his Bed in his Shirt, in the anguish and agony of his Swellings, of which he had three upon him, got his Shoes on and went to put on his Coat, but the Nurse resisting and snatching the Coat from him, he threw her down, run over her, run down Stairs and into the Street directly to the Thames in his Shirt, the Nurse running after him, and calling to the Watch to stop him; but the Watchmen frighted at the Man, and afraid to touch him, let him go on; upon which he ran down to the Still-yard Stairs, threw away his Shirt, and plung’d into the Thames, and, being a good swimmer, swam quite over the River; and the Tide being coming in, as they call it, that is running West-ward, he reached the Land not till he came about the Falcon Stairs, where landing, and finding no People there, it being in the Night, he ran about the Streets there, Naked as he was, for a good while, when it being by that time High-water, he takes the River again, and swam back to the Still-yard, landed, ran up the Streets again to his own House, knocking at the Door, went up the Stairs, and into his Bed again; and that this terrible Experiment cur’d him of the Plague, that is to say, that the violent Motion of his Arms and Legs stretch’d the Parts where the Swellings he had upon him were, that is to say under his Arms and his Groin, and caused them to ripen and break; and that the cold of the Water abated the Fever in his Blood.” JPY, p. 162.

14 “Had not the Night come on, William’s Words had been made good; they would certainly have asked us the Question what we did there? for we found the foremost Ship gained upon us, especially upon one Tack; for we plied away from them to Windward, but in the Dark losing Sight of them, we resolved to change our Course, and stand away directly to Sea, not doubting but we should lose them in the Night.” CS, p. 149-150.

15 “getting all things ready in the Night, their Chests and Clothes, and whatever else they could, they came away before it was Day, and came up with us about seven a Clock. When they came by the Ship’s Side which I commanded, we hailed them in the usual Manner, to know what and who they were, and what their Business? They answered, they were Englishmen, and desired to come aboard: We told them they might lay the Ship on board, but ordered they should let only one Man enter the Ship, till the Captain knew their Business, and that he should come without any Arms: They said Ay, with all their Hearts. We presently found their Business, and that they desired to go with us.” CS, p. 170.

16 B. Bolt, 2000, “Shedding Light for the Matter,” in Hypatia 15. 2, (Spring), p. 202.

17 Bolt, ibid., p. 203.

18 Bolt, ibid., p. 204.

19 “Well, I saluted her; but as I went first forward to the Captain’s Lady, who was at the farther-end of the Cabbin, towards the Light, I had the Occasion offer’d, to stand with my Back to the Light, when I turn’d about to her, who stood more on my Left-hand, so that she had not a fair Sight of me, tho’I was so near her; I trembled, and knew neither what I did, or said; I was in the utmost Extremity, between so many particular Circumstances as lay upon me; for I was to conceal my Disorder from every-body, at the utmost Peril, and at the same time expected everybody wou’d discern it; I was to expect she wou’d discover that she knew me, and yet was, by all means possible, to prevent it; I was to conceal myself, if possible, and yet had not the least room to do any-thing towards it; in short, there was no retreat; no shifting any-thing off; no avoiding or preventing her having a full Sight of me; nor was there any counterfeiting my Voice, for then my Husband wou’d have perceiv’d it; in short, there was not the least Circumstance that offer’d me any Assistance, or any favourable thing to help me in this Exigence.” Rx, p. 277-278.

20 Says my Husband, “So is Heaven’s goodness sure to work the same effects, in all sensible minds, where mercies touch the heart!” lifted up both his hands, and with an ecstasy of joy, “What is God a-doing”, says he, “for such an ungrateful dog as I am?” MF, p. 292.

21 Cf. Blanchot, 1955, L’espace littéraire, p. 20.

22 See Zouheir Jamoussi, 2001, La liberté dans l’œuvre de Defoe, Tunis, Centre de publication universitaire, p. 9.

23 « Au niveau psychologique, il n’y aura subjectivation véritable et profonde du temps qu’avec la montre individuelle – moment capital de la prise de conscience de l’individu. » Jacques Le Goff, 1977, Pour un autre Moyen Âge, Paris, Gallimard, p. 76, note 47.

24 Le Goff, op. cit., p. 46-47.

25 « Chez saint Augustin, le temps de l’histoire… conservait une “ambivalence” où, dans le cadre de l’éternité et subordonné à l’action de la Providence, les hommes avaient prise sur leur propre destin et celui de l’humanité. » Le Goff, ibid., p. 51.

26 Le Goff, ibid., p. 77.

27 Le Goff, ibid., p. 57.

28 Le Goff, ibid., p. 59.

29 Cf. Jamoussi, op. cit., p. 63-64, 91.

30 Maximilian Novak has pointed out Defoe’s usage of the “word ‘necessity’ in the dual sense of poverty and causation”. Maximillian E. Novak, 1963, Defoe and the Nature of Man, Oxford, Oxford University Press, p. 74.

31 Cf. Martine Leibovici, « Le douloureux passage de la honte au récit », in Le destin…, p. 69.

32 Jamoussi, op. cit., p. 92.

33 « Ou bien, la nuit est ce que le jour ne veut pas seulement dissiper, mais s’approprier: la nuit est aussi l’essentiel qu’il ne faut pas perdre, mais conserver, accueillir non plus comme limite, mais en elle-même; dans le jour doit passer la nuit; la nuit qui se fait jour rend la lumière plus riche et fait de la clarté, au lieu de la scintillation de la surface, le rayonnement venu de la profondeur. Le jour est alors le tout du jour et de la nuit, la grande promesse du mouvement dialectique. » Maurice Blanchot, op. cit., p. 222.

34 “Sleep belongs to the world, it is a task; we sleep in accordance with the general rule that has made our daytime activities dependent upon our night time rest […] Night, when transformed into sleep by men, is no assertion of the nocturnal. […]
Night precludes sleep.
One does not move on from day to night. He who follows that path will only find sleep, which marks the end of one day, and makes possible the morrow, is a bending to check up our readiness to soar, a failing, a pause, but pervaded by intent, and offering a stage for our duties, our objectives and our work to speak out on our behalf. Dream in this sense is closer to the sphere of the nocturnal. If the day survives into the night, and, exceeding its term, becomes uninterrupted and incessant, it is no longer day; this is an area in which apparently time-bound events, and seemingly worldly characters result in something akin to timelessness, and the threat of an outside where the world is lacking.” Maurice Blanchot,
op. cit., p. 361, 365.

35 “Dream,” says Maurice Blanchot, “is an eternal fall into dream,” and is “all the more nocturnal in that it is more centred on itself, dreams itself up, its sole content being its own possibility.” Ibid., p. 366.

36 This is more consistent with the logic of fiction, which operates through “staging” abstract notions, in the sense that these are “illustrated,” explored and discussed through representing “concrete” situations.

37 “[…] in the night I dreamed often of killing the savages, and of the reasons why I might justify the doing of it.” Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, p. 190.

38 Michel Foucault, 1966, Les mots et les choses, Paris, Gallimard, p. 12.

39 Paul Ricœur, 1979, “The Metaphorical Process”, in Sheldon Sacks (ed.), On Metaphor, Chicago/London, University of Chicago Press, p. 147.

40 Umberto Eco, 1984, Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language, London, Macmillan, p. 89.

41 See Serge Soupel, 1997, « Moll Flanders: conditions et labyrinthe », in Bulletin de la Société d’Études anglo-américaines des XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles, 45, (nov.), p. 137-150.

42 Jean-François Balaudé, « La “part” de l’homme: Entre démon et nécessité », in Le destin…, p. 13: « [...] si la narration donne effectivement figure au destin d’un homme ou d’un peuple, c’est toujours après coup, après qu’ils eurent introduit dans la vie, fût-ce modestement, de l’imprévisible et de l’irremplaçable. »

43 Jean-François Balaudé, ibid., p. 22.

44 Jean-François Balaudé, ibid., p. 25, 32-33.

45 Françoise Proust: « L’enchaînement inexorable des faits n’est saisi comme destin que s’il est réfléchi dans une conscience qui le vit comme tel: c’est à elle que s’adressent tels signes et tels présages, c’est à elle que tels pièges étaient tendus ou telle chance offerte; c’est elle, d’une manière générale, qui dispose et agence les événements en une constellation telle qu’on y déchiffre telle figure, qu’on y discerne tel chiffre, qu’on y lit telle histoire. C’est elle qui, paradoxalement, se découvre fautive au fur et à mesure qu’elle reconnaît et se reconnaît dans son destin; c’est elle, qui, dans un suprême acte de liberté, assume et revendique sa culpabilité au fur et à mesure qu’elle met à plat son innocence. » « Les pauses du destin » in Le destin…, p. 49-50.

46 Martine Leibovici, « Le douloureux passage de la honte au récit », in Le destin…, p. 69-72.

47 Martine Leibovici, ibid., p. 78.

48 Ricœur, “The Metaphorical Process,” op. cit., p. 147.

49 Georges Minois, 2000, [1998], Le diable, Paris, PUF, « Que sais-je? », p. 20.

50 Georges Minois, ibid., p. 8, 24.

Auteur

Docteur de l’université Sorbonne nouvelle – Paris 3, Habib Ajroud est Assistant Professor à la Faculté des lettres de l’université La Manouba à Tunis (Tunisie). Il est spécialiste de littérature et de langue anglaises. Il est l’auteur de nombreux articles et communications présentés notamment aux colloques du Centre de recherche et d’études anglaises du XVIIIe siècle (CREA XVIII) de la Sorbonne nouvelle – Paris 3. Parmi ses publications, Essay in English Studies, Tunis, CPU, Publications de la Faculté de lettres de l’université de Tunis, 1998; (ed.), The Canon: Differences and Values, 1998.

© Presses Sorbonne Nouvelle, 2009

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