by Daniel Defoe
Moll Flanders Criminality Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Paragraph)
All the exploits of this lady of fame, in her depredations upon mankind, stand as so many warnings to honest people to beware of them, intimating to them by what methods innocent people are drawn in, plundered and robbed, and by consequence how to avoid them. ("Preface," 14)
Defoe can get away with describing the many crimes and ill deeds of his heroine by presenting them as moral "warnings." So what at first seems like a rather explicit romp through London's seedy underbelly becomes an instructive moral parable. But Shmoop is not convinced. Do you really think Defoe intended this book to teach good behavior? Or is he just buying himself an out?
I have been told that in one of our neighbour nations, whether it be in France or where else I know not, they have an order from the king, that when any criminal is condemned, either to die, or to the galleys, or to be transported, if they leave any children, as such are generally unprovided for, by the poverty or forfeiture of their parents, so they are immediately taken into the care of the Government, and put into a hospital called the House of Orphans, where they are bred up, clothed, fed, taught, and when fit to go out, are placed out to trades or to services, so as to be well able to provide for themselves by an honest, industrious behaviour. (3)
Sneaky Defoe is using the discussion of the treatment of criminals as a way to criticize England in comparison to its age-old enemy, France. France treats people like Moll better, and if she'd been born there she might have had less of a problem avoiding crime herself as an adult. So right off the bat, we're feeling a little less inclined to blame Moll for all her bad behavior.
We had, after this, frequent opportunities to repeat our crime – chiefly by his contrivance – especially at home, when his mother and the young ladies went abroad a-visiting, which he watched so narrowly as never to miss; knowing always beforehand when they went out, and then failed not to catch me all alone, and securely enough; so that we took our fill of our wicked pleasure for near half a year; and yet, which was the most to my satisfaction, I was not with child. (97)
Moll's first "crime" wouldn't be called that by today's standards. All she is doing is having sex with her boyfriend. Considering who the guy in question is, though, we'd probably call this an error in judgment. But according to the standards of Moll's society, sex prior to marriage might as well be illegal because it ruins your reputation for life.