You can have your cross, I’ll take the cash.

There is a much greater mention of religion in the second half of the novel, than there was in the first (the prayer Amy and Roxana offer up as they toss and turn in the ship to England). We see it first after rejecting the Dutch man, that she has spent “six and twenty Years [in] Wickedness” (178). She does nothing to repent for this “wickedness” but instead “wallow’d in Wealth” (178). To prove her point, though she beings the paragraph speaking of vice and sin, she ends it with an account of her money. It is mildly frustrating that this woman, who knows that is outside the norms of society and Christianity (it can be argued that they are, in fact, one in the same), laments it at times, hides her true self from everyone around her but Amy, and yet does nothing to redeem herself or to step away from her courtesan lifestyle.

Arguably, money is Roxana’s religion. It is the only thing she is truly faithful to, and the only thing that keeps her motivated to keep pressing on in her life. Christianity has had no effect on Roxana’s spiritual wellbeing (constantly proven by her sexual escapades with wealthy men), money has, however, had a lasting impression on her. Moreover, of the three people to be named in the novel, none of them are her husbands, which shows she does not think they are too important, Amy, Roxana herself, and Sir Robert Clayton. Roxana finally allows herself to give into his “church” of money, and lets Sir Clayton to invest her money for her. Sir Clayton has allowed Roxana to remain on her own, without a man to continually give her money, which is why Roxana finds him worthy of maintaining a name.

The second half of the novel sees Roxana starting to take care of her children by giving them part of her religion: money. Roxana knows that she cannot explain to her children why she abandoned them, and what she has been doing for the past two decades without revealing her prostitute like ways: “what will my children say to themselves, and to one another, when they find their Mother, however rich she may be, is at best but a Whore, a common Whore” (194). Thus, she provides for them monetarily, the only manner she knows how. For Roxana, this is a huge show of affection. She has literally counted her money throughout the novel, so for her to be giving it away is truly a sign of her devotion.

The last bit, of true religion that readers see is the Quaker woman. It allows the reader to see what Roxana’s life could have been: single, lots of children, poor, and renting rooms to strangers for money.

4 thoughts on “You can have your cross, I’ll take the cash.

  1. You are right. Although Roxana’s family came all the way to England to protect their religion, she did not keep that faith in her. Roxana became a slave of money and materialism. At first, becoming a Whore was not only not suitable to her but also against her believes. However, she later considered poverty to be a good excuse for her to use her body. Amy supported that idea, and got Roxana to transform herself into someone who lacks religious believes and values.
    Naturally, when people grow older they look for their loved ones or their family. Roxana was in that situation, that she is no longer ‘Roxana’, she is growing older.

  2. Agree, I don’t feel the impact of religion in Roxana’s decisions either, she had indeed given up the faith in her god. And she refuses to take her child back publicly because it could threat the safety of her fortune. From that I would say, instead of money, she actually knows what else she can do as a mother, but she made a choice not to do it; at last money is the only thing that can make her feel safe, and she decides to secure her treasure at all costs.

  3. Her money really does seem to be associated with how she views her moral core; what’s interesting to me, as well, is that Defoe goes to great lengths to make sure we know it’s not money, per se that’s the problem, though, but how she comes by it. For instance, when we are introduced to Robert Clayton, who helps her increase her money greatly and is routinely described as honest; and again, when her last husband, the Dutch Merchant, is laying out all his assets. I wonder, however, about the difference that gender makes–that is, these are both men who could come by their money honestly. Would the Roxana of the first pages have been able to? Would any woman in the 18th century, born into a more middle-class life? What is the difference that gender makes?

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