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Moll Flanders

Daniel Defoe

Section 9 (Moll and Jemy in America, and conclusion)

Section 8 (Moll in Newgate)

Analysis

Summary

Moll and Jemy land safely in Virginia, but Moll knows she cannot stay there because of the chance of running into her Virginia relatives. She is led by curiosity to inquire after her mother and brother, and she learns that the old woman is dead and that her former husband, who lives on a nearby plantation with their son Humphrey, has gone almost blind and a little bit crazy. Seeing her son from a distance, Moll goes into a rapture of filial emotion: she can barely restrain herself from embracing him, and feels moved to kiss the ground where he has walked.

Remembering her mother's promise to provide for her in her will, Moll tries to devise a way to collect her inheritance without exposing herself. She has concealed her earlier ill-fated marriage from Jemy; he knows only that she has relatives in the area who ought not to know of their current shame. She cannot therefore let Jemy into all the particulars of her current dilemma over the inheritance, but tells him as much as he needs to know to agree with her that they ought to move elsewhere. They settle themselves on a farm in Maryland, and then Moll returns to Virginia to pursue the inheritance. She writes a letter to her brother, which her son receives first. He is moved deeply by the rediscovery of his lost mother and receives her passionately and with great generosity. Without informing his father of anything that passes between them, he makes arrangements for Moll to receive the yearly income of the estate her mother has left her. She returns to Maryland laden with her son's gifts and in a fair way to make a great success in the New World. After her brother dies, Moll invites Humphrey to visit in Maryland, pretending to have married Jemy only recently. She also tells Jemy the whole story of her Virginia relations, and thus frees herself from all her lies and entanglements. Moll returns to England at the age of seventy, where she and Jemy "resolve to spend the Remainder of our Years in sincere Penitence, for the wicked Lives we have lived."

Commentary

Moll presents it as a basic truth of human nature that "a Secret of the Moment should always have a Confident, a bosom Friend, to whom we may Communicate the Joy of it, or the Grief of it, be it which it will, or it will be a double weight upon the Spirits, and perhaps become even insupportable." This reflection is particularly poignant in light of the fact that Moll has so often been lacking in such a friend or confidante, and thus has been forced to bear most of her life's burdens alone. She does not draw out the connection very explicitly in her own case, but goes on to affirm that the lack of friends has been the source of much weakness in many of her acquaintances.

Moll's outpouring of emotion upon seeing her son seems incongruous with the strikingly unsentimental way she has borne the loss of so many children, and especially with her particular disdain for the children of her incestuous relationship with her brother. Such sentiment, it would seem, is a luxury for Moll: only in moments of relative security and prosperity does she find leisure to indulge in such displays of emotion. Her new filial piety is also presumably meant to accord with her religious conversion, as testimony--however thin it may seem--to the fact that her outlook has really changed. The fact that she does not hesitate to tell a whole web of lies to protect herself and promote her own convenience casts some doubt on the image of Moll as a reformed woman, however, and her eagerness to retrieve her share of her mother's legacy has a similar effect. Much critical debate has centered on the (questionable) sincerity of Moll's reformation by the end of the novel. By her own account, her repentance is sincere enough. The fond manner in which she relates her past life, however, suggests otherwise, and the fact that the novel seems to offer piety as an option only after economic security and social stability have been obtained represents a more bleakly materialistic view of human spiritual possibilities. On the religious register as well as on others, the question of whether Moll actually develops as a character or merely responds to changing conditions remains a troubling one.

More Help

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Marriage to the Banker

by smh000, May 04, 2014

The novel stated the Moll had two children by the banker. Did I miss something in that I don't think the novel stated what she did with those two children.

Marriage to the Banker

by smh000, May 04, 2014

The novel stated the Moll had two children by the banker. Did I miss something in that I don't think the novel stated what she did with those two children.

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