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Moll Flanders

Moll Flanders

by Daniel Defoe

Society and Class Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

In the provision they made for me, it was my good hap to be put to nurse, as they call it, to a woman who was indeed poor but had been in better circumstances, and who got a little livelihood by taking such as I was supposed to be, and keeping them with all necessaries, till they were at a certain age, in which it might be supposed they might go to service or get their own bread. (11)

What's this "hap" she's talking about? It sounds an awful lot like luck. That means that because Moll was born into the lowest possible class – that of a prisoner – she should feel lucky that she has a chance to go live with a nurse. Do you agree?

Quote #2

"Because they will take me away," says I, "and put me to service, and I can't work housework." "Well, child," says she, "but though you can't work housework, as you call it, you will learn it in time, and they won't put you to hard things at first." "Yes, they will," says I, "and if I can't do it they will beat me, and the maids will beat me to make me do great work, and I am but a little girl and I can't do it"; and then I cried again, till I could not speak any more to her. (16)

Moll may only be a "little girl," but she understands some harsh truths about her society. She knows she lives in a hierarchy, where even the people near the bottom are cruel to those lower than they are. Moll wants something better, even if she's too young to express that fully, and you can't help but admire her ambition, right?

Quote #3

Now all this while my good old nurse, Mrs. Mayoress, and all the rest of them did not understand me at all, for they meant one sort of thing by the word gentlewoman, and I meant quite another; for alas! all I understood by being a gentlewoman was to be able to work for myself, and get enough to keep me without that terrible bugbear going to service, whereas they meant to live great, rich and high, and I know not what. (35)

This is a good reminder that one should be careful about the kinds of words one uses, in case they mean different things to different people. Moll's "gentlewoman" is totally different from the "gentlewoman" other women in her society think of. As we'll find out soon enough, this distinction is all too important.

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