The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders (commonly known simply as Moll Flanders) is a novel by Daniel Defoe, first published in 1722. (From Wikipedia)
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Part I is actually like the first chapter in this novel. In it, the author will tell you how and why this novel has been written. He will also offer up an apology as to why the novel is written the way it is. Apologies are a common literary technique when an author feels the need to defend his or her writing. As you read this apology, think about what the author is really trying to accomplish.
Which statement best summarizes the author's intentions for this novel?
Did you know that you can use the define tool to look up the definition of most words in this text? Highlight any word, and select the "Define" option. A short list of definitions will appear. Otherwise, you will see a link to Google search result that will provide a definition for your word.
This novel is over 400 years old. Think about how differently people spoke English back then. As you read, remember the differences that exist with regards to time and culture.
The Ancient Romans had a saying about literature that went "Prodesse et delectare." It means to teach and delight. Defoe states that this novel will teach. As you read, however, be prepared for how entertaining the novel is as well. Defoe is making an understatement, but it is appropriate because he wants people to read his novel.
Is this editor serious? Apparently, a major strength of this novel is that we will learn how to avoid small surprises and disasters.
The "editor" who writes this preface goes to great lengths to defend the publication of this novel. He makes major adjustments to immoral acts and tells the reader to focus on positive lessons that can be learned. How does the author convey that the seriousness of this preface is just satirical? Use evidence from the text to support your response.
This story will be told in first person. The narrator chooses to remain anonymous due to the consequences of revealing her "immoral" behavior.
What primary cause does Moll attribute to her unfortunate life?
To "plead her belly" means that Moll's mother begged the judge to pardon her death sentence because she had a child within her womb.
There are many Gypsy groups throughout the world, and each is characterized by their own set of values and traditions. Most Gypsy groups, however, are nomadic, often poor, and have strict cultural norms that make it difficult to assimilate with other cultures in which they live. Some Gypsies are shown below. (This annotation contains a link)
Define the highlighted word. Which of the following is a victual that Moll would need?
Moll's definition of gentlewoman means a woman who is self-sufficient. The other women in her life mean a woman who is sophisticated, wealthy, and in the upper class of society.
Which of the following is a reason people want Moll to be a gentlewoman when she grows up?
The focus of this "autobiography" is to explain how Moll develops over the course of her lifetime. While some stories focus on smaller segments of time from characters' lives, this story provides the reader an opportunity to see the character develop in different stages of life. The following video will help you understand how authors develop their characters. Be prepared to answer questions about this standard in the upcoming chapters. (This annotation contains a video)
What word best describes how the good old woman's daughter speaks to Moll?
In the comfort of her early home, Moll dreams of being a gentlewoman. When her foster mother dies, though, the rubber meets the road and she realizes she has to be practical--not overly ambitious.
What inference can be drawn about Moll based on her reaction and endeavors at her new residence?
Vanity has several definitions. In this context, though, it means excessive pride in one's appearance or abilities. In literature, it is called hubris and has been the hamartia (tragic flaw) of many characters--Hamlet, Satan (in Paradise Lost), Othello, and many others.
Most of the language in this text is very straightforward. There are occasions, though, when the author uses figurative language. The highlighted phrase is an example. The video below explains the difference between figurative and literal language. Watch the following video and be prepared to respond to questions about figurative language throughout the book. (This annotation contains a video)
The argument here is about whether men are more likely to want a woman with money or a woman with beauty.
What of the following words best matches the meaning of this highlighted figure of speech?
The protagonist in most stories in Western literature up to the point of this novel had been men. Women began to take the spot of the protagonist in novels and plays. A common conflict that these women faced was the struggle to remain virtuous (sexually pure) in a society that encouraged otherwise.
What moral truth does Moll want her readers to know?
Define this word using the Define tool. What connotation does this word suggest?
Why does Moll give in to the eldest brother and give her chastity to him? Use evidence from the text to support your response.
Carriage here does not mean an antique form of transportation. It means "a way of carrying oneself." Here it means the way that this family acts towards Moll.
What lesson could be inferred from Moll's experiences with the brothers?
Why does Moll want to speak with the older brother?
Moll is actually in love with the older brother. However, the older brother sees his younger brother's proposal as a way to possibly get rid of Moll. Their relationship is scandalous, and he wants nothing more to do with it.
Why does Moll refer to herself as a "whore"?
Moll has faced and will face several conflicts throughout her story. This conflict is complex. It is both internal and external. Watch the following video and answer the question that follows. (This annotation contains a video)
What type of internal and external conflict does Moll face throughout this section of her story?
Why does the family most likely not want Moll to marry Robert?
Moll plans on leaving this family, not marrying Robert, and moving on.
How does Moll regain the favor of this family?
Moll does not want to marry Robin. She still loves the eldest brother. To spare herself (and him) from "ruin" she realizes that she has to hide her affair and marry the youngest brother. What in the narration tells you she is opposed to this?
This passage contains an example of irony. Watch the following video on irony, and answer the question that follows. (This annotation contains a video)
In what way is the eldest brother's new relationship with Moll ironic? Use evidence from the text to support your response.
What does the 500 pounds of money symbolize?
Although the plot in this book may seem to unfold very slowly, the themes and the characters can be developed more thoroughly. Take the theme, for example, in the highlighted passage. The villainous older brother epitomizes selfishness, and we have read about plenty of his actions to agree with the author's point of view.
Does the way Moll simply dismisses the children surprise you? Does it seem harsh or justified? A woman in her time could not easily employ herself and take care of two children, so this move might have been prudent, considering her in-laws were wealthy.
How did Moll's first love fiasco affect her outlook on life?
What does the draper suggest that Moll do before she bails him out of jail?
Holland is a kind of fine fabric that a draper would use for window curtains. The image below are examples of what this material might have looked like. (This annotation contains an image)
Part I Quiz
As Moll grows up and learns more about the world, she begins to become disillusioned with what she sees. Her view of love, for example, is less idealistic than it was earlier in her life, and she takes on a more practical, realistic view of marriage.
What does this statement about the state of marriages in England imply?
Moll and this young lady are attempting to make it so difficult for this gentleman to court anyone else, he will have no choice but to come groveling back to her. He played this young lady once before, but they are artfully keeping every lady he meets at arms length from him. Think about the techniques they use to keep this man from all these ladies.
What does the transformation of this young gentleman suitor most importantly reveal about Moll's character development?
An emerging theme in this novel is that many women of Moll's day were taken advantage of by men--for money, sex, marriage. Part of the lessons she teaches us is that--though often immoral--many women have to do whatever it takes in order to survive and thrive in this kind of society that gives men much more authority and power than women. If you think about it, this is an early form of feminism in literature.
How does Moll recommend that women of her day empower themselves in an age that gives more power to men than women? Use evidence from the text to support your response.
Most women in Moll's time lack courage to stand up to men because they are afraid that if they say no to a man, another one won't come along. Men have plenty of fish in the sea; women do not. The thought of remaining unmarried the rest of their lives forced many women to accept the first proposals that came their way.
Moll's friend is willing to help her find a husband. Moll must agree to follow all her directions.
How does Moll determine if this suitor really cares for her?
Many Englishmen owned farms in Virginia, where they planted and harvested tobacco. Most of these farms, as shown below, used slaves to do the majority of the work. (This annotation contains an image)
Which word does NOT describe Moll's new husband?
The York River, as shown below, runs east to west across Virginia. (This annotation contains an image)
Do not confuse this with slaves who were purchased from Africa or indentured-servants who volunteered to work for passage to America. These workers are criminals who had to serve their sentence outside of England. They owed a number of hours, days, or years of work to purchase their freedom. The main point being that all of them could actually work towards freedom. African slaves never had this opportunity.
What shocking news do we learn about Moll's mother in-law?
What theme does Moll's present predicament MOSTLY intend to convey to readers?
The theme at the heart of this novel is about morality. Is Moll justified to leave? Should she stay even if the internal conflict eats her alive? Societal or religious precepts may say one thing, but those in the situation usually don't feel so black and white about moral decisions.
In other words, women can be stubborn or very resolved. This is certainly true of Moll.
How does Moll's husband decide he is going to deal with her?
Moll's husband wanted to know if she was making up a lie about not being his true wife just so he would send her away. She assured him that she was being honest. How do you think this would make you feel if someone withheld the truth from you for so long?
A famous proverb says, "The truth shall set you free." Do you agree or disagree with this statement within the context of Moll's struggles? Explain why using evidence from the text.
Does the mother's reaction surprise you? She seems to look very negatively at the situation, making Moll feel like their whole family is cursed. It could be her shame that brings her to these conclusions.
What is the author's intended effect of Moll's behavior towards her husband at this point in the novel?
Which of the following is NOT a consequence of Moll having to finally reveal the truth?
It seems like Moll can never escape unfortunate circumstances. One thing that we come to realize about her character, though, is that she is resolute; she never gives up in trying to make herself happy and do the right thing.
Moll is most likely talking about prostitution. This was the only way some women could make money. With little education and no training in trades, women turned to this to stay alive.
What character trait seems to help Moll make friends so easily?
What is the purpose of Moll explaining that she did not have "the least immodest word or action" with this man?
Moll has never met a man with such apparent self-control and good intentions for her. This man's character and actions towards her make him more appealing.
Doesn't it seem like common sense to you that if two people sleep together in the same bed and are attracted to each other, that eventually they are going to have intercourse? Moll appears to be honest with us about what happens, but not totally straightforward about her intentions. She wants to be married for pragmatic reasons; financial security is the most obvious one. Forget love; she doesn't want to return to a destitute life.
Why does Moll save her money?
Moll has become a recluse--someone who spends most of her time indoors away from people. She has no choice because she is sleeping with another man's wife, and the more people she knows and meets, the more likely it is that her secret will be discovered.
How does Daniel Defoe, the author, MOST EFFECTIVELY make the reader suspend judgment about Moll's character and virtue?
Why does Moll's adulterous relationship with this man end? Use evidence from the text to support your response.
Since the draper, Moll has been married once and slept with another man. She technically was never divorced or freed to marry someone else. She feels the weight of guilt upon herself in light of her latest lover's religious persuasion. It is important to note again how Moll's morality is developing throughout this text.
An emerging theme in this novel is that circumstances make good people make bad decisions. Living in poverty is one of those circumstances. There are many more, though, that are explored in this book. Watch the following video from Les Miserables, a novel with many similar themes as this book. Consider how Moll and Fantine are both victims of their environments. (This annotation contains a video)
What Moll means is that if anyone is tempted long enough with something, she or he will most likely eventually give in. This understanding shows us that Moll is maturing.
What do these highlighted comments imply about Moll's perception of women?
Although Moll had many unsuccessful marriages, she was at least faithful to her husbands during the time she was married.
What does the narrator mean to convey about herself as you read about her encounter with this "honest" man?
This word became a famous self-insult in Shakespeare's Hamlet. Laertes exclaims, "That drop of blood that’s calm proclaims me bastard, /Cries cuckold to my father, brands the harlot /Even here between the chaste unsmirched brow /Of my true mother." Most English readers would be very familiar with this term that refers to a man who is married to an unfaithful wife.
The banker's wife chooses to be unfaithful to him. Unlike Moll, who, according to her presentation of the story, uses sex as a way to survive. She wants us to sympathize more with her sexual sin and understand how it's hard to morally judge her.
What theme does the interaction of the banker and Moll reveal?
These comments touch upon a social truth of Moll's day--women had to cast themselves in the best possible light and make themselves appear wealthy, happy, and virtuous so that a man would want them. The competition for marriage was extremely rough. Women had to become dishonest, according to Moll's thoughts, to survive. Is it ethical to do the wrong thing if it helps you survive? This is a central question in this story.
How does the highlighted passage reveal the change that has come over Moll since her first lover? Use evidence from the story to support your response.
In England (and many other parts of the world), people in rural areas are generally more humble, simple, and less pretentious than people who live in the city. This is a common theme in literature.
Which of the following statements best summarizes this highlighted passage?
The following video is from an adapted version of "Moll Flanders." It features Daniel Craig (as Jemmy). As you watch the clip, compare the characterization of Moll with that of the Moll in this book. You can watch segments of the clip or the whole thing to see Moll in different contexts. (This annotation contains a link)
After watching the scene from the Moll Flander's video and having read this section of the story, consider how the movie represents Moll. Does it cast her in a negative or positive light? Use evidence from the text to support your position.
What do Moll's comments reveal? She might have actually been in love with this man. One can't but help feel sorry for Moll, who seems to have matured so much, and finally found a person she wanted for more than security.
Based on this highlighted passage, in what way has Moll NOT changed?
Does this sound like a soap opera to you? Although not a genre during this time period, one can imagine any of these scenarios working well in a modern day context on a soap opera. What elements in this story do you think make it this way?
Why does this "kind" woman MOST LIKELY take such good care of Moll?
Most of these children were sold. This is an example of human trafficking.
Why does Moll have such a conflicted relationship with the Governess?
One of the conflicts that seems to go unnoticed throughout much of the first part of this book, is that Moll very easily gets rid of and leaves her children. Although it doesn't get much attention from Moll, it most likely raises many questions in the mind of the reader as to why this woman can so easily leave so many children behind.
What does Moll's moralizing in this passage reveal about her?
Notice how Moll uses the pronoun "it" to describe this child. If a child is referred to as an "it" and not "he" or "she" then it is easier to emotionally distance oneself from this child.
Why does Moll MOST LIKELY have such a hard time giving up this child?
The Banker plans on marrying Moll. He will need a minister to marry them.
What effect are Moll's words supposed to have upon the reader?
Part of the intrigue in this novel is that Moll seems to find a way to make her life increasingly more complicated without anyone else (for the most part) knowing how difficult her life has been. Husband and husband, forgotten child after forgotten child, she seems to move through life unsettled. As you read, you might want to judge her actions. You might want to question her sincerity. All of this is what this novel is about--learning how to understand how difficult life can be for others and how these difficulties shape choices.
How does the reappearance of the Lancashire husband MOST affect how we read this story?
Moll has had many conflicts throughout this story, but this conflict is probably the most disconcerting to her. Her secretive life has not caught up with her yet. Now it might.
Part II Quiz
Which word best describes Moll in her present state?
Moll feels remorse for the life she has lived up to this point, and believes that her present troubles are punishment for not living a more virtuous life in the past.
"Booty" is another word for stolen goods.
Why can't Moll return to the tankard?
The Governess suggests that Moll live a life of crime by making money stealing goods.
Read the highlighted phrase within the context of this paragraph. What does Moll mean that she has been "hardened"? Explain using evidence from the text.
There is not a lot of figurative language used in this story, but this metaphor describes very well just how much trouble Moll feels she is in.
What does Moll mean?
Does this interaction seem strange to you? It is a bit odd what Moll is doing, but she is using the fire as an opportunity to steal people's property (and children) by claiming she is there to "help" them. How deceptive!
How is Moll's life a cycle of events that often feel to her like both "the greatest and worst prize"? Explain using evidence from the text.
Moll is a good thief. Her success makes her want more because she realizes that she can get quite a fortune from stealing.
Flanders lace is an intricate type of lace that was made mostly in Flanders, Belgium. It was sold all over the world, and highly valued for its beauty. (This annotation contains an image)
What is Moll's greatest threat during her life of crime?
Does it make sense now how Moll got her name? We can at least see how one who steals Flanders lace should get Flanders as a surname. If you define the word Moll you will see why she was given this first name. Do you think this is fitting?
Why does Moll MOST LIKELY want to quit a life of crime?
Moll develops clever ways to survive, as always. In her life of crime, she does not let anyone else (except the governess) know who she really is, where she lives, or anything else. This leaves the justice system no trace to her identity.
The Bartholomew Fair is a charter fair--a royal street fair established by the crown to bring people together to purvey goods and provide entertainment. These fairs still happen today, and are much more like a farmer's market or street fair in the United States.
What important criticism about English society does the author make through this incident between the gentleman and Moll?
Why does the gentleman so quickly forgive Moll?
The word "paint" in this context means makeup.
Isn't it interesting that Moll wants to see the gentlemen, even though it poses a great risk to her. Why do you think part of her really wants to see him again?
Many readers of the day were used to virtuous heroes and heroines. Moll, though, is such a polarizing figure because she is hard not to like, but does very disreputable things. In character, though, we learn about the internal struggles with morality. This highlighted passage, for example, gives us insight into her internal conflicts.
How does the affair with Moll MOST affect Moll?
How does Moll escape going to jail in this predicament with the satin thief?
Although Moll is innocent, she was asked by a civilian to be arrested by an officer. This officer does not have the authority to release her--only a judge does. So now Moll must go before a judge to be released. What do you think will happen?
Which of the following is NOT a consequence of Moll's fiasco with the mercer and the constable?
What does the widow's dress symbolize?
Coiners, or counterfeiters, make fake money. The punishment for this crime was worse than hanging.
Why does Moll MOST LIKELY show us how her life of crime is escalating?
Moll earns money by gambling. She uses another man's money, gains a profit, and he gives her some of his winnings.
How does Moll convey her sincerity when she describes her faults and mistakes? Use evidence from the text to support your response.
Moll escapes yet again. However, as we read, we grow suspicious that sooner or later she will be caught.
The following video contains a very condensed version of the text in a few short scenes of the PBS version of Moll Flanders. As you watch, think about the "hardness" of Moll's character that has come over her as a result of her life of crime. A question follows this video. (This annotation contains a link)
Moll often describes the hardness of her heart, and makes no excuse for doing wicked things. How well does the movie depict the "hardness of heart" and wickedness that characterize Moll? Use evidence from both the text and movie to support your response.
One of the great injustices of Moll's time was the injustice system. Many people were given harsh sentences for minor crimes. Some historians believe that it was an attempt to rid the world of evil by killing off people who would breed children just like them. If you notice, even Moll hints at this by her frequent reference to the fact that she ended up just like her mom.
Another emerging theme in this story is that of sincerity. Moll has "repented" or wanted to many times. She admits her repentance this time is more out of fear of dying and being judged than it is out of sincerity.
What does the "ordinary of Newgate" represent?
Which event DOES NOT add intrigue and suspense to the plot?
As we study the development of Moll and her ability to survive, we learn that she pulls herself out of a dark hole by coming to a new conclusion. Reread the highlighted passage. What do you think this new conclusion is?
What makes the governess want to repent and change her life?
Moll confesses that she does not have the authority to tell us how to live. Her hope, though, is that she can simply tell us what she was thinking as she changed and repented. We as readers have to judge her and decide if her approach is sincere and relevant.
This is a legal term that is used to describe a postponement of a legal punishment.
Why does Moll speak directly to the reader?
Moll is pardoned from her death sentence because she is not a repeat offender. Much like the "three strikes" rule we have today, criminals were punished more severely if they were repeat offenders. Moll had committed many crimes, but had only been tried in court once before.
What might help Moll gain freedom more quickly?
Unlike other husbands, Moll seems to be drawn to Jemmy the most. One gets a sense of destiny in how their plots are so intertwined. The other husbands seem to just fade into the background. What makes Jemmy so different from the others in your opinion?
What perception of Jemmy does Moll give when the reader encounters him again?
Both Moll and Jemmy have lives that reflect misfortunes and good luck. The idea that they are stuck in this cycle of both that they cannot control, though, lies at the heart of this novel. This view implies that they have no control of their destiny. Do you think the author is trying to tell us something else? Are they able to control their futures?
"Adventures" as is used in this story, is another word for
The English currency that Moll and Jemmy carry is useless in the colonies because they use a different type of money. Therefore, the only thing that would be of value would be possessions, like furniture, jewelry, etc.
A major theme in this story is that people can often change their misfortune. What events lead Moll to believe that life is not just circumstance?
Not all routes from England to Virginia followed the same direction as the one below, but most voyages took between two and three months. Many hardships came upon the people on these voyages, and it wasn't uncommon for people to die. (This annotation contains an image)
Why is Moll probably so emotional about seeing her former family?
If Moll wants to redeem her inheritance she has to reunite with her brother (ex-husband). This will be so awkward! Do you think she will go through with it?
As you read this passage, what theme does the author seem to MOST convey?
The Carolina colonies were full of tobacco plantations. The warmer weather was conducive for growing this crop. The image below shows this region during Moll's time. (This annotation contains an image)
Redemption, at last. Though not reconciled with all her past, Moll is finding peace, at last, with her sins of the past.
People don't always get the punishment others think they deserve. The word grace means "undeserved favor." In what way does Moll receive grace in the last parts of this story? Use evidence from throughout this text to support your response.
Part III Quiz