Suggested Essay Topics
Preface and Parts 1-2
1. Discuss the significance of the fact that Moll was born in Newgate Prison. After summarizing the details Moll provides about the jail, describe what an individual who was born there during this era might expect to accomplish in life.
2. Explore Moll’s ambition to become a “gentlewoman.” Explain Moll’s misunderstanding of this term and describe how the wealthy matrons of the town responded to Moll’s aspirations.
1. Discuss Moll’s view of the draper. Explain why she did not mind his tendency to spend beyond his means.
2. Explore the relationship between Moll and her mother. Discuss Moll’s mother’s recommendation that Moll keep her true relationship with her husband to herself.
3. Examine Moll’s misalliance with her husband-brother. Try to determine why Defoe would place this unnatural marriage among Moll’s calendar of crimes.
1. Examine the role of money in Moll Flanders. Trace Moll’s obsession with money from the pleasure she received from the coins the elder brother gave her to her appreciation of the way the banker handled her accounts.
2. Explore Moll’s view of motherhood. Be sure to note the way she seems to lose track of exactly how many children she has had.
1. Discuss the significance of Moll’s relationship to the baronet. Try to explain why Moll would be eager to place herself in such a demoralized relationship.
2. Examine Moll’s increasingly irrational approach to crime. List the indications that Moll wanted to be caught.
3. Examine the parallels between Moll’s adventures in marriage and her adventures in crime. Discuss the personality traits Moll exhibits from early adolescence through late middle age.
1. Explore the validity of Moll’s repentance. Be sure to note exactly when and how Moll decided to show remorse for her sins.
2. Discuss the implications of the prosperity Moll achieved at the end of her life. Explain what you think Defoe meant to suggest by emphasizing how well-to-do Moll became in her old age.
3. Discuss Defoe’s view of the American colonies by comparing Moll’s first sojourn in America with her second stay there.