Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*London. During the late seventeenth century, early capitalist London was the trade capital of the world, and Daniel Defoe’s own obsession with commerce carries over into Roxana. Indeed, money, upon which London’s capitalist society is built, is the only true love object throughout the novel. After Roxana’s husband leaves her with five children, she herself abandons her children and becomes her landlord’s mistress, beginning a pattern of selling herself to the highest bidders, typically signing contracts with her lovers, as if she were a merchant selling goods. Love plays no part in these exchanges.

In her efforts to transform herself and her place in society, Roxana amasses great wealth in London, lodging in Pall Mall, an area well known for housing royal mistresses. There, she entertains members of the city’s high society with lavish masquerade parties. During one period in London, she spends seven years with an anonymous aristocrat—possibly the king himself. Her fortune grows with each affair in London.


*Paris. By setting much of the novel in Paris, Defoe removed much of Roxana’s wickedness from his own home city of London. This ploy also allowed Defoe to represent Paris money as dishonest money, accumulated by crime. In Paris, Roxana is intoxicated by dreams of money, high social rank, and the delusion that she can run away from her past.


(The entire section is 559 words.)