Moll Flanders Additional Summary

Daniel Defoe

Summary

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

If Moll Flanders is Defoe’s most highly regarded fictional narrative, Moll Flanders is probably Defoe’s most memorable narrator, with her compelling account of a life spent largely in attempts to survive in a society hostile to unattached women.

Born to and abandoned by a convicted felon, Moll Flanders is reared first by Gypsies and then as a ward of the parish of Colchester. At fourteen, she is hired as a servant to a kind family who educates her along with their daughters. Moll, believing she is loved, loses her virtue to the oldest son, who later pays her to marry the youngest son, Robin. Widowed after five years, Moll is married four more times, to a draper who spends all of her money, to a sea captain who turns out to be her half brother, to a roguish Irishman (from whom she separates when he decides to continue highway robbery), and to a bank clerk (with whom she finds happiness until his death). Between the brother and the highwayman, she spends six years as the mistress of a gentleman whose wife is insane. Moll also bears several children to husbands and lover, but she seems ill-suited to motherhood. In the end, she is reunited with the great love of her life—Jemmy E., the charming Irishman—with whom she resolves to live respectably.

Because she has no social status and no real financial possibilities, Moll Flanders, like so many eighteenth century women, is dependent to a great degree on men—as husbands or keepers or employers—and on her own industry for survival. Her adventures following Robin’s death are focused on marrying profitably: Moll learns to say little about herself, to pretend to wealth in order to attract men, and to behave like a lady in order to appear worthy of gentlemen. Like so many women of the middle class and the aristocracy, her principal objects are money and security, and she employs all of her energy in the pursuit of a financially lucrative marriage. She has two embarrassing failures and achieves only modest success with the bank clerk, and when he dies, she...

(The entire section is 833 words.)

Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

When her mother is transported to the American colonies as a felon, eighteen-month-old Moll Flanders is left without family or friends to care for her. For a time, she is befriended by a band of gypsies, who desert her in Colchester. There the child is a charge of the parish. Becoming a favorite of the wife and daughters of the mayor, Moll receives gentle treatment and much attention and flattery.

At the age of fourteen, Moll Flanders is again left without a home. When her indulgent instructor dies, she is taken in service by a kindly woman of means, and she receives instruction along with the daughters of the family. Moll is superior to these daughters in all but wealth. During her residence there, she loses her virtue...

(The entire section is 1036 words.)