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Moll is woman of greed, confusion, determination, and guts. She has moral issues with reasons to boot and an identity problem that could make a sociologist think twice about the job they were doing. She's a thief and whore who loves money and the status of a gentlewoman. She's a lover, a fighter, and seamstress. Through the whole story, she is a survivor no matter the risk she would do anything to survive and keep her dream alive. She's a woman who pushed everything she has got into that dream and not until the end does she get to see her dream destroys her. It consumes her life her essence she misses everything important and becomes a wicked woman.
Moll is a woman from the 1700's who is independent and a self made woman. She longs throughout the story to be a gentlewoman since she was a little girl. She was born in a prison where her mother was put for stealing. Her mother was fortunately pardoned from the gallows until she had birth. When she did have the child she was put to trial where they sentenced her to the New World. The courts didn't allow Moll's mother to keep Moll and there Moll's life was a game of hot potato. She was tossed here to there until she found her way to gypsies. This was around the first stage of moral development in Moll's life where she would be given awards or punishments for being good. Well Moll didn't get that kind of encouragement because she was to fend for herself to survive. Her morals had nothing to do with her surviving so she never understood them. After running away from the gypsies, the magistrate took her in and raised her not as one of his own but better than a servant. This is Moll's second stage where she begs the magistrate to take her in so she can have a chance to grow up and be a gentlewoman. By the time she got older she was torn between whether she was a family member or a servant. Because she didn't know she couldn't give herself a role in life she played. She was ether a servant cursed to wait on others all day or a gentlewoman waiting on the right man to ask her for her hand. Stage 3 was totally pushed out of her development because of all the confusion on where she really belonged. Moll seems to be stuck in this stage because she can't get past herself and her dreams. Moll's moral is questioned because she doesn't even have an identity to hold on to let alone be able to contribute into helping her development (Crain 118-136).
Molls identity is a mystery throughout the story even in the beginning you never get her real name. The family calls her Betty and she changes that to Moll later on. She doesn't even have a name let alone an identity. She is constantly a blank sheet of paper which she gets to create the story of her life over and over again. As she lives with the magistrate's family she did get to develop a few tricks of the trade about herself. She knew how to sow, she could sing, and she was smart. She loved sowing and she was really good at what she did. She didn't know exactly where she belonged there but she did know what was expected of her and what wasn't. She also knew that she wanted to be a gentlewoman. In our time that would be a great catch for a guy; nevertheless, she wasn't born in our time and in the 1800's woman who didn't have money wasn't what men in her time wanted. Women was chosen by their worth in pounds not their worth in their soul. This is what put her in the predicament of having to choose between being a woman of honor or being a gentlewoman.
Her desires to be a gentlewoman; however, drove her to doing all sorts of risky things. It started when the magistrate's son started to secretly quart her behind his families back. The son told her all of these great things about marring her and her becoming a gentlewoman. This was her only dream and now it seems to be coming into the picture. So why not take the chance she loved the magistrate's son and she thought he loved her. After a few pushes he finally convinced her he was real. So she let him have his way with her many times. He would give her presents and kept promising his hand. She being a typical girl bought into the whole story. It was only when his brother, who had his eye on Moll the entire time and truly loved her, decided to actually ask for her hand and even went to the extreme of telling his parents. The other brother told her to go ahead and marry his younger brother and this put Moll in such an indescribable rollercoaster of emotions. She thought that he would be the one and only for her that was the only reason she did what she did with him. If she knew she wouldn't have given herself up like she did. Because of his horrible actions Moll was put in a predicament she was pregnant with his baby and she had to do something. In this time a woman with a bastard baby was seen as a whore or slut. Moll wasn't welling for that to happen. She gave up on her honor and married his brother even if it was against everything she was about. She showed her morality by resenting the marriage and hating what the older brother done. She also showed her morality by not giving the older brother more of what he wanted when she did marry his brother. She refused him like he refused to honor her.
After her husband died Moll saw her opportunity for freedom. She left her children behind and to be watched by their grandparents. Moll felt as if she was trapped anyhow in that family so now she is the "widow of fortune". (Butler 377) That it wasn't her decision to be a part of it. She was forced because of what he had done. She felt that there wasn't any other way to survive and keep her dream. So leaving her children was leaving the problem that she didn't cause in her eyes. They wouldn't have been there if it wasn't for the situation he put her threw. However, Moll not staying with her children causes more identity crises because she leaves her family. Those children are her family and they needed her. They are also a tie in the world which could help her develop her identity more. Still she creates another blank slate and leaves.
Security and independence of protagonists in novels during that period were important to the reader to relate and connect with the character. Emphasis of marriage and courtship as an investment for females characters such as Moll Flanders who frequently invested in multiple men in her life. She then goes through and announces herself a wealthy widow and waits for the fish to bit. A man by the draper falls for Moll. The Draper and Moll are a lot alike because they both have high taste and both like to spend money. This becomes a problem when her husband leaves on the account that they spend all their money and now are in dept. She leaves and takes all valuables she can before the police get to them. This is technically the first time she becomes a thief. Again her morals are challenged by survival. Should she not take anything or keep some for survival. And again she chooses the way of survival and keeps some of the valuables. Moll Flanders saw her investment in theft for money as a business very seriously. She prepared her business as any entrepreneur by carefully selecting her business partners. As moll knows, thieves are often taken advantage of, so she enlists a school teacher as her broker who knows the trade. The article also looks into two other stories of struggling females in the eighteenth-century who are forced to go to the extremes to provide for either themselves or their families. Like Moll, a woman named Roxanne is faced with the conundrum that her husband has bled through their entire savings and is forced to sell their business. But being a woman in the eighteenth-century, Roxanne has little power and must watch as her finances turn to ruin (Scheuermann 311).
Finally she lets her morals show threw full blast when she marries the sailor who she thinks is perfect for her. He has money, land and he is a good match for the status she wants to acquire. He wanted her for who she was and not what she could offer him. She thought everything she wanted was finally in her grasp. She was reaching the level of development she never had a chance to know. Then she finds out later in life that her husband is her brother. She then refuses him in bed and becomes extremely outraged with everyone. She finally admits to her mother what is happening and even her mother suggests her to stay and bed with him. Moll however, doesn't do that. She tells her husband about how they are related and that's why she has been acting the way she has. It was her morality that kicked in. She asks her husband if she could be pardoned and he accepts her request to leave and go back to France. She could have gone and had everything she wanted money the status as a gentlewoman and a good husband, but instead she let it all go for her morals. She does have morals as long as they are to her terms. There does seem to be limits to what she will do in certain situations. She isn't welling to be incest but she is welling to lay everything else on the line to get her dreams.
Then Moll finds another man he is wealthy but he is married. He offers her money and she refuses. He asks her to move to London with him, but then he becomes ill and she nurses him back to health. This is when her morals really begin to fall until this point she had never had a married man. Their friendship grew to more than just friends they were lovers. She had many children with him and he took care of her and them. However she wanted more, she wanted them to be married. The circumstances are not in her favor she has to keep in secrecy. She does this until her lover has this big religious break though and repents for all he has done with Moll. Now Moll is to be known as a whore. She had slept with a married man and he then gave her money for all the inconvenience he had caused her. Defoe however doesn't let this destroy moll he likes characters who go from "rags to riches". (Yahav-Brown)
She then meets Jimmy who to plays her game. He convinces her as she is trying to convince him that they are both worth a whole lot of money. In turn neither one is worth anything, yet neither one figures that out until they have already married the other one. The next day Moll wakes up and finds him gone. She then goes back to London to find the banker she left behind. After covering up another pregnancy she meets him and they get married right away. Moll was happy again when she got to London she says, "I took Possession at once of a House well Furnished, and a Husband in very good circumstances, so that I had prospect of a very happy life, if I knew how to manage it."(Defoe). Five years later her husband losses a lot of money and dies leaving Moll in the same situation she was in.
Moll now starts to become a thief she says, "twas like a voice spoken to me over my shoulder, take the bundle; be quick' do it the moment."(Defoe) Her life of crime now became her new self. She comes to enjoy her new line of work and meets other thieves who teach her other tricks to help her on her way. She becomes a very good at this craft. Defoe representation of female criminals was somewhat predictable to those of any woman. Usually using resources such as wit, persuasion, and beauty to get what they want. John sees woman and the art of crime as just that art. Women can use their wits and cunning attitudes to slyly get what they want. A woman can also have dexterity to run from a situation. A man on the other hand might use his brute strength and sometimes that gets them caught faster than a women sneaking in and out in the night. Moll also uses her looks as a hook for the male's gaped mouths to get caught on. Once they are hooked they become her ticket to the top. John also talks about how she slowly goes further away from the law. She was a girl of disperse who dreams turned into a swirly nightmare (Rietz 183).
Finally Moll gets caught in her crimes and is sentenced to Newgate prison. She is sentenced to death and this brings her to her changing point in life she realized everything she has done in life, yet that wasn't enough to change her. She soon found Jimmy in the prison too, finally caught for his wicked deeds. It took her governess and Molls repents to take her sentencing away. She instead had to be shipped to the new world. Where her and Jimmy began to settle. She visited the old plantation and saw her son. For the first time Moll felt a mother's love and couldn't help her to want to hold him. She was a changed woman however she did get her inheritance through her son, who was too overjoyed to have found his lost mother. In the end Moll got her riches and status and it all was waiting when she went back to her family.
Moll is a woman who can manipulate the world in her hands. She's smart and can work anything out to her advantage. A true dreamer who never gives up, this woman is ruthless without feeling any pain or ramose for what she has done. After marring one man after the other and becoming one of the best thieves in her time. She has truly accomplished the art of survival. Moll's morals are a question to be asked, however her life does accommodate for her ignorance. As for her identity well in the end Moll seems to finally get settled down into what finally seems to work. She has a family tie and has a husband that is truly her one perfect match to her soul. She even repents for what she has done. All in all this woman has went though one heck of a rollercoaster of life and lived to tell the tale. Moll is truly an amazing woman to read about.
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Grade = 90 / A-
Butler, Mary. "`Onomaphobia' and personal identity in Moll Flanders." Studies in the Novel 22.4 (1990): 377. MasterFILE Premier. EBSCO. Web. 26 Oct. 2010.
Crain, W.C. "Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development." Theories of Development. (1985): 118-136. httphttp://faculty.plts.edu/gpence/html/kohlberg.htm. Web. 26. Oct. 2010.
Defoe, Daniel. The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famious Moll Flanders. New York: Norton, 1722.
Rietz, John. "Criminal ms-representation: Moll Flanders and female criminal biography." Studies in the Novel 23.2 (1991): 183. MasterFILE Premier. EBSCO. Web. 26 Oct. 2010.
Scheuermann, Mona. "Woman and Money in Eighteenth-Century Fiction." Studies in the Novel 19.3 (1987): 311. MasterFILE Premier. EBSCO. Web. 26 Oct. 2010.
Yahav-Brown, Amit. "At Home in England, or Projecting Liberal Citizenship in Moll Flanders." Novel: A Forum on Fiction 35.1 (2001): 24. MasterFILE Premier. EBSCO. Web. 26 Oct. 2010.