Section 5 (The banker, and Moll's Lancashire husband)
"I was now a single Person again," Moll remembers, "loose'd from all the Obligations either of Wedlock or Mistresship in the World." She has 450 pounds to her name, but at forty-two years old she is aware that her assets of personal beauty are in decline. She knows what she wants ("to be placed in a settled State of living") but says she does not know how to attain that end. What she really means is that no easy opportunity presents itself, and so she sets out to create an opportunity. Moll again allows people to think she is richer than she is. She meets and befriends a woman who carries herself like a gentlewoman and who encourages Moll to move to the North Country, where the cost of living is lower and where, she hints, there are plenty of rich husbands to be found. Moll decides to take her up on this offer, except that she needs someone to look after her finances in London. She is referred to a banker, who offers to handle her money for her and then offers to marry her in the bargain. He is married already, as it turns out, but his wife has been cheating on him. He is wealthy and congenial, and Moll agrees to consider his proposal if and when he can obtain a legal divorce. In the meantime, she still means to travel north, stating, "I made no scruple in my Thoughts of quitting my honest Citizen, who I was not so much in love with, as not to leave him for a Richer."
In Lancashire, Moll is introduced to Jemy, who poses as her friend's brother and who supposedly has a great estate in Ireland. He understands from his "sister" (who is actually his accomplice) that Moll has a fortune. He courts her in grand style, and at great personal expense. Not until they have been married for a month does Moll's actual poverty come to light. Jemy then is forced to reveal his own fraudulence. He has no Irish estate; he has in fact wasted his last pennies trying to impress Moll and was counting on her supposed fortune to restore himself to solvency. "We are married here upon the foot of a double Fraud," Moll tells him; "you are undone by the Disappointment it seems, and if I had had a Fortune I had been cheated too, for you say you have nothing." They discuss various get-rich-quick schemes to alleviate their distress, but Moll wakes up the next morning to find her husband gone. She is quite forlorn: "Nothing that ever befel me in my Life sunk so deep into my Heart as this Farewel." He soon returns, but Moll cannot persuade him to stay. He heads off to try his luck in Ireland, in spite of all her protestations. If he meets with any success there, he tells her, he'll look her up.
We see in Moll's calculating treatment of the banker how much she has learned since her handling of the two brothers at the time of her first seduction. With respect to that affair, she sees retrospectively that "if I had known his Thoughts, and how hard he thought I would be to be gain'd, I might have made my own Terms with him." By this time, however, Moll knows how to string a man along; "I play'd with this Lover as an Angler does with a Trout," she brags. When the banker suggests that she marry him immediately, promising to seek the divorce afterwards, she is tempted only momentarily, and knows not to reveal her eagerness to her suitor. She plans her moves so as to keep her options open and refuses to rest her confidence in anybody but herself.
In Jemy, however, Moll meets her manipulative match. They cross each other in the same game, and although they banter about which of them is more "undone," each is good-tempered enough not to harbor any real resentment. For all their anxiety about what to do next, both take a certain delight in their predicament, and Jemy's attitude toward adversity is much like Moll's: "I must try the world again; a Man ought to think like a Man: To be Discourag'd, is to yield to the Misfortune." Jemy is in fact the only man Moll has any real and lasting affection for, probably because they have so much in common. "I really believe...that he was a Man that was as well qualified to make me happy, as to his Temper and Behaviour, as any Man ever was," she reminisces. He is one of the few characters in the book who has a name (in fact he goes by several). While this is partly an expedient to his reappearance later in the story, it is also a signal of the fact that he makes a lasting impression on Moll's affections--something few of the people she meets manage to do.
This segment of the story is full of little morals and bits of wisdom that seem at times to come from Defoe's mouth rather than Moll's. For example, he writes, "When a Woman is thus left desolate and void of Council, she is just like a Bag of Money, or a Jewel dropt on the Highway, which is a Prey to the next Comer." This statement reinforces the connection between economics and feminine virtue that the novel has been exploring all along, but by literary-sounding analogy rather than in direct, pragmatic, and causal terms. Nor does the fatalism of this passage sound like Moll. She is aware of the role that chance plays in her own outcomes and choices, reinforcing for the reader the fact that, whatever her moral shortcomings, "the Vice came in always at the Door of Necessity, not at the Door of Inclination." Even though Moll subscribes to an ethics of convenience and speculates about the circumstances under which she might have behaved differently, she never renounces her own free choice or ascribes her decisions entirely to fate or to the power of other people.
Readers' Notes allow users to add their own analysis and insights to our SparkNotes—and to discuss those ideas with one another. Have a novel take or think we left something out? Add a Readers' Note!