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Moll Flanders | Study Guide

Daniel Defoe

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Moll Flanders | Character Analysis


Moll Flanders

Moll's life is a rags-to-riches story, with many detours in between. She is a beautiful and smart woman who quickly learns to use her allure over men to her advantage. Moll attaches monetary value to relationships, dismisses the notions of emotional attachment, dependability, and fidelity, and instead uses the men in her life for social advancement and financial gain. Claiming to be the victim of circumstance—as a woman of low birth without a support system, she has few options for social advancement—Moll readily excuses her questionable behavior. Since nothing is scarier than poverty, everything becomes an acceptable means to achieve economic stability, even immoral and criminal activity. While she constantly professes to regret her wicked ways, she does not try to mend them—until the end, that is, when she is too old and wealthy to worry about her next step.

The midwife

The professional services the midwife offers—assistance with pregnancy, childbirth and abortion—run the gamut of typical fates endured by unmarried women of the lower class in 17th- and 18th-century England. The midwife is a source of protection, good advice, and practical support for many fallen girls. She assists a pregnant Moll when her husband abandons her, helps Moll navigate a life of crime when she is broke and too old to attract another husband, and sticks by Moll when she ends up in prison. The midwife never passes judgment and asks for nothing in return. Although her help is rather unorthodox—she teaches Moll to become a world-class thief—the midwife wants only the best and provides for Moll as best she can. She is loyal and devoted, and it is no surprise Moll comes to think of her as the mother she never had.


Jemy is the only husband Moll claims to love. He seems to be a great catch—handsome, smart, and rich. However, he turns out to be a better match for Moll than she bargained for. He is a fortune hunter just like her, a clever crook who changes his identity depending on the situation. Neither has any money—the grand prize they are both after—and hence he leaves her, despite their obvious attraction to each other. Like Moll, Jemy turns to crime to make ends meet, ends up in Newgate prison facing a harsh sentence, yet always lands on his feet. The two seem like a perfect pair, and so it is no surprise they end up together in the end.

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