Heroine Moll Flanders

Topics: Daniel Defoe, Theft, Crime Pages: 11 (1852 words) Published: March 23, 2008
Moll Flanders in Daniel Defoe’s novel is portrayed as a witty feminine heroine of

survival and an innocent fallen angel of circumstance, rather than the vile and cruel

criminals in factual materials in the 18th century. In comparing Moll Flanders with

criminals in factual fiction, such as Anne Holland and Mary Frith (Moll Cutpurse), there

are a lot of resemblances. For example, the gender of these characters are all female; the

last name Holland and Flanders are both some kind of clothes and represent feminist

characteristic; Moll Cutpurse and Moll Flanders share the first name and they both

pickpocket. Also, there are a lot of differences among them, such as the paths that lead to

their thievery behaviors, the natures of the crimes, and the characters of them. In

comparing the differences, we could see the heroine emphasis on Moll Flanders, as

contrasting to other criminals.

Moll Flanders has clear working/ stealing ethics. Moll Flanders is originally a

diligent gentlewoman who tries to work to survive herself, while Anne Holland works in

order to steal. Moll Flanders used to work with the needles to maintain her living from a

young age. She has a notion of working by herself to earn an independent life: “I

understood by being a Gentlewoman, was to be able to Work for myself, and get enough

to keep me without that terrible Bug-bear going to Service, whereas they meant to live

Great, Rich, and High, and I know not what” (14). Moll’s early notion of working to earn

a living is noble and honest. Moll distinguishes working from stealing very well. She

never mixes these things together or cheats/steals from her employers. Even when she

becomes a thief, Moll Flanders’ relationship with her governess is very trusting and

honest in sharing the gains. On the other hand, Anne Holland mixes up working and stealing: “her usual way of thieving, was the Service-Lay, which was hiring herself for a

Servant in any good Family, and then, as Opportunity serv’d, robb’d them’ (313). In

comparison, Anne Holland shows ingratitude to the people who employ her.

Moll Flanders uses skills and wits to get her prizes, while other criminals use

violence and forces to gain what they want. The crimes that Moll Flanders committed are

only subtle and skilled thefts without violence, which she regards to as an art. In

depicting the scene before Moll Flanders trying to steal the rings from a store, it shows

that she thinks carefully and plans a great deal of how to detect if people are noticing her

and how to make excuse to leave: “I could see no body, but still I was not sure; it came

presently into my thoughts to rap at the Glass, as if I wanted to speak with some Body,

and if any body was there they would be sure to come to the Window, and then I would

tell them to remove those rings, for that I had seen two suspicious Fellows take notice of

them” (155). In another scene at a Meeting House, when Moll attempts to steal a

woman’s gold watch, she is almost caught, but she escapes. After the episode, Moll

analyzes the circumstances of what she has done smartly to escape and how folly the

woman is reacting to theft then. Such analysis of the circumstance shows that Moll is a

very witty woman, who seems to deserve her “prizes” with her skills. Also, Moll is

selective in the types of crimes. She refuses violent and risky crimes, such as breaking

into houses/shops, confeiting money, or confronting with people. Once, after Moll

Flanders robs a child’s necklace, she thinks about killing her to get rid of the evidence,

but still she sends her home safely. Other criminals are/become somewhat more violent in

crimes. Anne Holland, who is earlier a maid to steal the host, later pairs up with a male

comrade and rob a doctor: “So whilst Nan (Anne) was busy in tying [the doctor] Neck...
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