by Daniel Defoe
Moll Flanders Theme of Society and Class
Moll Flanders who longs for upward mobility in a time and a place that won't allow it. Seventeenth century England had strict rules about who you are and what you can do with your life. These rules help to explain Moll's downward spiral into prostitution and thievery. She's trapped in a society that gives her few options, after all. But the rules also help to explain just what keeps Moll going. Through all her misdeeds and struggles, our girl saves her money, and that frugality pays off when she arrives in the New World with a full savings account. There, having money matters the most, and people who work hard can improve their station no matter where they come from.
Questions About Society and Class
- What different classes does Moll belong to throughout the course of the book? How does she manage to move through the different classes?
- In Moll Flanders, are members of the upper class superior to those of the lower class? What is Moll's answer to this question?
- Why do you think criminals in England – particularly those of the lower classes – were punished so severely during this era? What does that tell us about the England of this time?
- What other path could Moll have chosen to improve her class? Or did she take the only road that was open to her?
Chew on This
By the end of the book, Moll has improved her station only because she has spent so much time at the bottom of it, committing all kinds of crimes.
No matter how much money she makes or how many possessions she has, Moll will never be accepted by English society as a fine lady.