Moll Flanders | Study Guide

Daniel Defoe

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Moll Flanders | Section 9 | Summary

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Summary

Moll and Jemy arrive in Virginia. She does not want to stay there for fear her relatives—her mother, her half-brother whom she mistakenly married, and her son Humphrey—might find out who she is and learn of her criminal life. Yet she cannot help but anonymously inquire. She finds out that the true story of their relations is known, and that her "mother had left a sum of money ... to be made good to the daughter, if ever she could be heard of." She cannot conceive of telling Jemy about the true nature of their relations, and talks him into leaving Virginia to move to Maryland. All Jemy knows is that she does not want to run into her relatives because she does not want them to know about her criminal past.

After they move to Maryland, Moll returns to Virginia alone and sends a letter to her half-brother, hoping he will make good on their mother's promise. Her son, Humphrey, receives and opens the letter because her half-brother has turned near blind. Much to Moll's surprise, Humphrey comes to visit her, and they have a joyful reunion: "I can neither express nor describe the joy that touched my very soul." Her son makes good on her mother's promise and even wants her to stay on the plantation. She briefly regrets her relationship with Jemy, wishing to be able to stay with her son, but then reflects that she truly loves Jemy. Although the good fortune makes her deeply regret her "past wickedness and abominable life," she does not tell her son about her marriage to Jemy, and instead lies to him, saying she cannot bear staying so close to her ill-fated half-brother.

Humphrey then arranges for his mother to receive an annual income from the estate her mother left her. Moll returns to Jemy, sends for her belongings from England, which—together with Jemy's possessions—allows them to live rather comfortably. It seems as if Jemy and Moll have come full circle. Jemy, who once courted Moll because he thought she was rich, now believes he did indeed: "I have married a fortune, and a very good fortune, too." After Moll's half-brother dies, her son Humphrey comes to visit, and she introduces Jemy as her new husband, never telling Humphrey the full truth. However, she does finally tell Jemy the full truth. At age 70, Moll returns to England, and a short while later, Jemy follows. Finally Moll settles down with a man she loves.

Analysis

While thus far pragmatism has reigned supreme, this section pays homage to the depth of Moll's emotions. Unable at first to disclose her identity to her son, words fail Moll when she tries to express her love to him: "What yearnings of soul I had in me to embrace him and weep over him ... and I knew not ... how to express those agonies!" Moll tries to hide her identity from her son, as it would mean she would have to disclose both her criminal past and her marriage to Jemy, but she must also hide the true nature of her relationship to her half-brother and son from Jemy. Because of this, Moll is entangled in a complicated web of lies and deceit that causes—and illustrates—her ultimate loneliness: "I could never so much as think of breaking the secret of my former marriage to my new husband." Never fully honest with anyone her entire life—too many marriages, to many lovers, too many criminal acts—Moll ultimately must fend for herself.

At this stage of Moll's life, however, the pragmatism that placed sheer survival over companionship seems to catch up with her, and she laments her loneliness: "A secret of moment should always have a confidant, a ... friend to whom we may communicate the joy of it, or the grief of it." Confession relieves the soul, which is, Moll explains, why even murderers end up admitting to their crimes—and why she has written down and published her own immoral tales.

Although Moll seems only to return to Virginia and disclose her true identity to her son in order to get her hands on the estate her mother left her, the reunion with her son is a deeply joyful occasion. Thus far entirely unemotional when giving up or losing the many children she had from various fathers, Moll allows herself to feel like a mother for the first time. The estate her mother left her allows for a relatively secure life, and Moll can finally let go of her callous pragmatism to follow her heart: "I loved my Lancashire husband [Jemy] entirely." The question as to whether her emotional attachment to her husband and son is sincere, or whether economic necessity would make her look for better opportunities never comes up, because now at the end of her life Moll and Jemy are financially secure. Economic stability gives her the strength to expose herself and be vulnerable—she tells Jemy the truth about her incestuous relationship to her half-brother. Her honesty is rewarded. Jemy accepts the news with ease, and they "lived together with the greatest kindness and comfort imaginable."

However, a bit of deceit remains. Moll lies to her son about the date of her marriage to Jemy—she claims she married him after Humphrey's father died—and she never tells her son about her criminal past. In short, although Moll claims she and Jemy resolved "to spend the remainder of [their] years in sincere penitence for the wicked lives [they had] lived," a hint of opportunism seems to taint all her actions and decisions. The novel seems to defer the final judgment of Moll's character to the reader: "But I leave the reader to improve these thoughts, as no doubt they will see cause." The question of whether Moll has developed strength of character and will follow her moral compass, or will adjust her morality to suit the circumstances, yet again ultimately remains untested.

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