(a brief summary)
novel by Daniel Defoe
paper by Sara Slaughter
Moll Flanders is a story about the fall and rise of a beautiful woman who was born in Newgate Prison. Her mother was saved from the gallows because she pleaded her belly, and soon after Moll was born, her mother was shipped to the clonies to work out her sentence. Left behind, Moll was raised for three years with a band of traveling gypsies. Moll worked her way out of that, disgusted that England didn’t have orphanages, and she was allowed to live with a nurse. At a young age she decided she didn’t want to be a servant, but a gentlewoman. Her defination of a gentlewoman was a woman who worked and supported herself, not, in fact, a wealthy woman. Moll’s nurse, and a wealthy matron of the town, found entertainment in this, and Moll was allowed to sew for people to earn her keep. After many years of seamstress work, and handouts from wealthy gentlewomen, Moll was able to buy her own clothes and live quite well with her nurse. After her nurse died, she lived with the wealthy matron and her family. She was their servant, but also treated very kindly. Moll learned what the daughters learned, french, dancing, singing, and how to read and write. Her talents and beauty surpassed theirs, but she would never have the same advantages, as she was poor and of low social standings. The elder brother made Moll his mistress, much to protests at first, but won her over with proclamations of love and promises of marriage once he came into his inheritance. The younger brother, Robin, professed his genuine love of Moll and his plans of marrying her. After weeks of unbalance and uneasiness of this, their marriage was approved; Moll being payed off by the elder brother, and because she wanted stability.
Robin died five years later, Moll gave her children to Robins parents, and she went off to start her new life. She sought to marry rich, so that she may be supported, and be a gentlewomam. Deception landed her a tradesmen, or a draper, that spent all her money, his own money, and money he didn’t have. Debts accumulated, and he was arrested for debt and put in a sponging-house (a place of confinement for debtors). He instructed Moll to take what she could fom his shop and their home to try and pawn for money. His escape left her alone again, and without bothering for a divorce, she started again. In London, she helped a woman get a man, so inturn, asked for aid back. The seaman Moll chose owned a plantation in Virginia, which the two, after marriage, moved to. Moll enjoyed the company of this man, and they got along well. His mother, who lived on the plantation too, befriended Moll. One day, Moll’s mother-in-law was telling Moll about her past; about how she had a child in Newgate, but was allowed transportation to the colonies after the child’s birth. Moll discovered that this was her long-lost mother, and after a struggle with the decision to say anythig about it or not, she confronted her mother. The thought of sleeping with her husband, now her brother, repulsed her, and seeing their children was even worse. Moll convinced her brother to allow her to go back to London, and he sent her with money and her belongings. The two corresponded ater that, but as sister and brother.
Moll returned to London, and took up residence in Bath. There, under the pretense that she was awiting money from Virginia, she met a married man, whose wife was distempered in her head. Moll cooked and served this gentlman’s meals and kept him company, as he helped her out financially. The two became friends through a sickness he had, and one night, after too much wine, the two went to bed together. This evolved into a six year relationship, as Moll had a child with him. He furnished her and the child in an apartment in London, and all was well until he became ill. After this, he broke off ties with her by sending her money for the child. Moll was now forty-two years old.
Moll then met her soon to be 4th husband, Jemmy. And, althought their relationship was founded under the pretense that both were wealthy, a true love resulted. When the truth of their poverty did suface, Jemmy tried to leave, but couldn’t; he couldn’t bear to be away from her. The two did part to go their seperate ways in search of money, but always thought of one another. Moll, after returning to London, learned of her pregnancy, and had midwife help her out with the delivery and adoption. A bond developed between Moll and the midwife, as Moll prepared to marry for the fifth time. This time to a respectabke bank clerk she had met before running off with Jemmy. This marriage was, in Moll’s words, a safe harbour, after the stormy voyage of life past was at an end, and I began to be thankful for my deliverance. This marriage was a contended and easy five years, until the banker lost a huge some of money, fell ill, and died over the stress of it. After three years of poverty, with her son by the banker, Moll began stealing. She was succesful at it, but needed guidance as to hat to do with the silk and beads, and such, she had stolen. So she returned to the midwife for help, who also helped her get her son, by the banker, adopted. Many years of this partnership in crime ensued, and both profitted from it.
Moll’s ingenious disguises, (beggar, gentlewoman, working woman, etc.) helped her evade prison for many years, in spite of the fact that a number of her accomplices were caught and hanged or transported to the colonies. Moll was able to weave incredible lies to escape possible captures, and through this her heart hardened. Greed drove her on until she became known as the richest thief in London. Her governess, what Moll now called her midwife, guided her, and forced her to continue, even when plenty of money was being brought in. The governess later grew penitent and devout and remained Moll’s loyal friend for many years. At one time, a wealthy baronet picked her up, they made love, and Moll stole all his possesion on him as he lay asleep. This evolved into a one year love affair.
When Moll became less cautious, she was finally captured. She was caught stealing linen, and no amount of bribery would help her this time. She was taken to Newgate Prison where she was taunted by the other prisoners, as all were glad the famous Moll Flanders finally got caught. Moll repented momentarily as she confessed her crimes to her spiritual adviser, a minister sent by the governess. Because of his intervention, Moll’s death sentence was commuted to transportation to the American colonies. While in prison Moll re-encountered Jemmy, who got caught from his adventures as a highwayman, and her heart came alive again. She persuaded him to join her on the ship transporting convicts to the colonies. The governess pulled some strings, waived money around, and it was accomplished. They bought tobacco to plant, and made their way to Maryland, where they became successful plantation-owners in about a year’s time.
In Virginia, Moll’s former husband-brother was living with one of their sons. Moll found out about her inheritance, money and a plantation in Virginia, and was anxious to receive it from her mother’s estate. She also, in m opinion, finally found a maternal instinct, and wanted to meet her grown son. But, because she was equally reluctant to confront her brother, a meeting was prolonged. When she did meet her son and prove her relation to him, he was devoted and fair, and lodged he in the plantation she inherited. (Jemmy was in Maryland setting up their new home.) When she left to Mryland, her son gave her goats and farming tools to get ready, and the money her plantation had earned that year. The two kept in contact, and the son later met Jemmy. At the age of almost seventy, Moll returned with Jemmy to London, where they planned to live out their lives in repentance for their criminal activities.