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Analysis

What’s Up With the Ending?

Lucky us, it's a happy one. And in a lot of ways, the ending of Moll Flanders is pretty different from the high stress string of lies and adventures that makes up the rest of the book. Moll and her Lancashire man have done well for themselves in America, and move back to England to finish out their lives in peace and prosperity. Not too shabby for a woman who was born in a prison. Of course, because the couple has to wait until the time of their exile has finished, seventy years have gone by since Moll's birth in Newgate, so that past is long gone.

Despite many events conspiring against them, and the many criminal hats they've worn over the years (prostitute, thief, con-artist, highwayman), they have come out on top. Which is no small feat in a society that wanted them hanged for their deeds. Instead, they're rewarded with a steady marriage, a large fortune, and a life of leisure.

That sounds great and all, but it makes the moral of Defoe's story a tough nut to crack. Sure, in the last line of the book, Moll promises that she and her husband "resolve to spend the remainder of our years in sincere penitence for the wicked lives we have lived" (1227). But they'll be getting to repent from a location of their choice, with companions whom they love, and in the kind of fine, easy situations to which they have grown accustomed. The pair has done everything wrong, according to society's rules, but at the end of the day they seem to be better off than almost anyone else. How is that fair? And do we even believe that they are actually repentant?

There are two ways to read this:

(1) Because Moll's repentance is sincere, she is rewarded with all the nice things her life of crime prevented her from having.

or

(2) Nice guys finish last, which is why Moll and her gold-digging hubby end up on top.
How you interpret the ending just might tell you a lot about yourself, so tell us, awesome readers, what's it gonna be?

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