In a poignant scene early in the novel, Moll, who was born in prison and is poor, learns from her nurse that now that she is eight, she will be put out to service. This means she will have to become a servant in somebody's household. This idea frightens her, and she starts to cry. When her nurse asks why she is sobbing, Moll says:
. . . if I can't do it they will beat me, and the maids will beat me to make me do great work, and I am but a little girl and I can't do it.
The nurse then asks, mockingly, if she wants to become a gentlewoman. Moll says yes, and the "old gentlewoman" laughs at her and asks her how she is going to accomplish that feat? She is laughed at by the nurse and others because she is so poor and has no connections to help her out. She needs to start supporting herself, because in that society, nobody felt obligated to feed even a child of eight who could go to work. Moll would liked to have a life she was not born to—that is laughable to others in her class-based society, but Moll will not be one to accept her fate without fighting back as hard as she can.