Moll Flanders is a story that is based on a woman and her struggles. The story later shows how she evolves from a poor economic status to the mid-class caste. Moll Flanders was both meticulous and cunning as she struggled to survive at this point in her life. The author shows the reader how Moll Flanders was born with a clean slate and had nothing to her name. Eventually Moll Flanders decides to resort to sexual immorality as a mean of survival. She decides to become a whore after realizing that her husband would die quite fast after giving her money in exchange for sex.
This is a woman who was born in abject poverty. Moll Flanders became an orphane at birth when her mother was killed by the state because she was sentenced to a death penalty. Moll ended up landing at the doors of the church. She learnt how to read and write. She later leaves the church in a manner that is unorthodox. She now has no choice but to move from house to house. She learnt to live through the hard times and to appreciate the kindness of others. She soon finds it hard to find money considering that she had no proper upbringing, was not educated; her material and social position were pathetic.
Living in a urban and hostile world that did not allow for any show of weakness was not easy for Moll Flanders. She found herself in a world where one's social position and wealth determined whether one survived or not. Realizing that she had neither wealth nor a position in society, she had to struggle to achieve it. She is able to survive only because she is able to persevere and is clever. She is able to stay alert and ceases opportunities. This is how she manages to survive and even becomes rich.
The author, Defoe, brings out the role that money plays in our daily lives by showing us the normal anxieties that come as a result of the social insecurities and economic hardships. The author particularly focuses on the effects that these hardships had on women at this point in time and the struggles that Moll Flanders had to go through in the criminal world. Even the author himself was considered an outsider and often lived by his wits being constantly followed by creditors. At some point Defoe had to spend time in prison because of debt. In his novel, Moll Flanders is influenced to a large extent by economic issues and money matters.
This is the choice she had if she were to survive in her economic situation. During this time in history, the legal system did not favor women. Women in the 80s did not inherit property from their husbands when the husbands passed on. This was the reason why Moll Flanders felt she had no other choice but to turn to a life of immorality and later criminal activity. Moll Flanders turned to crime when she was older and realized she no longer looked good enough to operate as a prostitute. In the result she was found guilty of a crime, imprisoned and found herself in America where she remarried and lived peacefully with her husband.
Often referred to as the rogue novel, Moll Flanders is a story about the expedition that a woman makes from poverty to the middle class level in society. This was not easy especially considering the fact that at this point in time, the legal or justice system did not act in the favor of women. It is against this backdrop that Moll Flanders finds herself with no other choice than to become a whore in order to get the money which she desperately needed to survive. A woman who is resourceful but stricken by poverty has to make use of whatever little she has got in order to survive.
Moll Flanders decided to become a prostitute. Even in the instances when Moll Flanders got children, she decided to sell them or would sometimes give them away. For her, children were simply byproducts of sexual activity and nothing more. The decision to become a prostitute was influenced by the fact that she needed money to survive. The instinct to survive is one that most animals have. Each time she got married, the men would give her money because she had sex with them but the men would die soon after. After the man died, she would have no choice but to find another man who would continue taking care of her.
These men she married were for her a source of money that she would use to pay her rent and to buy food. Out of desperation, she turned to crime at the age of forty-eight. At first, she feels guilty when she steals. At first, she steals only a watch from a little child and at some point even harbors thoughts about killing the child. After this incidence, she feels guilty and begins to run but eventually stops running and is disturbed by her actions. Her conscience does not set her free as she does not feel good about what she has done. These feelings of guilt do not last too long because she soon realizes that stealing is actually lucrative.
Once again, money was the driving force that led her to do the things that she did. After she decides that stealing is a lucrative business, she uses her intelligence to steal things from people until the time when she is thrown into jail. Mostly Moll steals watches which in my view represent the fact that Moll remembers her past innocence and would wish to turn back the time in order to live in those days when she had a honest life. This is even clearer when towards the end of the story Moll feels a desire to return to her past. Her return to Colchester does not help much as she still feels the need to go back to the place where she was born.
Her desire to go back to Negate prison pushes her to be part of several criminal activities until the point when she is caught and put back there. It is while Moll is in prison that she is visited by a priest who manages to convince her to repent. She manages to repent for the sins she has committed her entire life which marks the big change in her life. It is at this point, in my opinion, that Moll Flanders is able to reach a point that can be called the middle-class chaste. Prior to her repentance, Moll Flanders could not care less whether she died or lived. After repenting, however, Moll feels like she has a reason to live. She then moves to America with her husband Jemmy with whom she is able to live a good life.
Moll Flanders is a good example of a woman who refuses to bow to the pressures of life despite her circumstances and all the odds that are against her. She is a woman who was born into a world that had padlocks everywhere she knocked but was able to overcome all these to rise. Moll is able to rise from lack of wealth and abject poverty to live among the middle class members in society. The author here tries to give hope to those of lower classes who are able to read her story. She does not sit back and accepts her situation, rather she is able to question the true worth of privilege and rank in society.
Moll Flanders attempts to understand how the economy works in her world even as she questions her own motives for doing the things she did as she tried to understand it all. The role of money is further brought to the forefront when even though she prefers the handsome men but settles for those who are not because she needs money from them. She lives in a world where nothing is guaranteed and she constantly had to deal on her own with whatever she got. In a world where her poverty and her gender were no excuse, she realized that she had to do all she could do to survive.
In an effort to make some money, Moll Flanders is ready to ditch the men or to accept whenever she is ditched by men. She learns quite fast that the only way to survive is to accept change and to adapt to it. When Moll Flanders finally turns to crime, it is not surprising that she is able to show a genuinely cold heart when her circumstances are considered. In my opinion, the author tries to justify the fact that Moll Flanders had enough reasons to have a cold heart due to her background and upbringing. Despite this justification by the author, modern readers may find it hard to accept the way Moll Flanders treated the children she had as a result of her multiple sexual encounters.
Modern readers must understand that the novel is set in the 18th century which is quite different from the 21st century. While Moll abandoning her children was strange in the 18th century and is unacceptable even now, it was probably the only way out for her considering her economic situation. She must have figured that her children were better off with foster parents than staying with her when she was already starving due to poverty. It must not be forgotten that this was at a time when women had absolutely no control over property and depended on their husbands for financial security. Men would sometimes destroy the financial securities of women and it is no wonder Moll sought to make the best of her situation at all times. There are scenes in the novel that Moll even dressed as a man to pursue some of her ventures whenever it was necessary. In this novel, the author shows that women are capable and very strong. Even though the woman in the story is deprived of a good education and does not have an opportunity to control their financial affairs. Even though Moll is a woman who is isolated, marginalized and with very few friends and no family, she is able to raise above all that. She is able to keep reinventing herself in order to survive. A good example is when she loses her good looks and youth, she chooses to turn to crime as a way of survival instead of giving up on life and becoming depressed. In an attempt to show that the woman in the novel is able to rise from the gallows to become financially secure, the author does not allow Moll to become attached to any of the people she meets. Even the relationships with her children are cut short when she is forced to get rid of them.
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