by Daniel Defoe
Moll Flanders Theme of Identity
None of the people in Moll Flanders are who they say they are. Often, they are not who Moll says they are, either. And hey, even Moll isn't who she says she is. We're exhausted just thinking about it. We never learn Moll's real name, even when she's in prison and about to die. She moves through life constantly encountering fraud and tricksters, and she defrauds and tricks them right back. Moll's husbands are no different. One husband turns out to be her brother, and another turns out to be a gold-digger and a highwayman, though he starts out saying he's a gentleman. Even the book's author, Daniel Defoe, takes on a fake identity as another "Daniel Defoe" just to introduce Moll's story and to claim this tale is very much the truth. Is your head spinning yet? With all these lies and aliases Shmoop wonders how we're supposed to keep it all straight. Maybe we're not.
Questions About Identity
- Moll's husbands often deliberately deceive her (we're looking at you, Lancashire). But are there places where a deception is unintentional? Does Moll ever unintentionally deceive her husband, too?
- If someone asked you, "Who is Moll Flanders?", what would you say?
- Why is Moll so adamant about never revealing her true identity throughout the text? Is she protecting someone or something? Is she ashamed?
- Does any character in the book present his or her identity honestly? If so, who?
Chew on This
Through the use of constant pseudonyms, or lack of names altogether, both Moll Flanders and Daniel Defoe work to make sure that no character in the book is recognizable as a real person.
Because Moll really could be anyone, her story serves as a powerful allegory about what it was like to be a woman in that position during the late 1600s.