by Daniel Defoe
Moll Flanders Women and Femininity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Paragraph)
However it was, this they all agree in, that my mother pleaded her belly, and being found quick with child, she was respited for about seven months. (6)
Apparently, a female criminal can actually take advantage of her gender and avoid the ultimate punishment (death) by pretending to be pregnant, or "plead[ing the] belly." While in most other aspects of this society being a woman is a disadvantage, imprisoned women can use the anticipation of motherhood to put off their executions. Of course if they're lying, it become obvious in a matter of weeks.
I thought it was fine to be a gentlewoman indeed, for I had quite other notions of a gentlewoman now than I had before; and as I thought, I say, that it was fine to be a gentlewoman, so I loved to be among gentlewomen, and therefore I longed to be there again. (49)
Moll starts out thinking that being a "gentlewoman" is just being higher class than she is. So all you have to do is be nice and clean and ladylike, right? Wrong. What she doesn't realize is that a gentlewoman is actually a member of an entirely different class. And while you can make efforts to be clean and ladylike, in England in those days, you absolutely couldn't change your class, especially if you were a woman. But don't worry. Moll will have that rude awakening soon enough.
But my new generous mistress, for she exceeded the good woman I was with before, in everything, as well as in the matter of estate; I say, in everything except honesty; and for that, though this was a lady most exactly just, yet I must not forget to say on all occasions, that the first, though poor, was as uprightly honest as it was possible for any one to be. (54)
Despite the fact that Moll's mother is long gone, she's not without good female role models. Her nurse is kind and loving, and her new mistress "exceed[s] the good woman." So why then, with all these honest, moral ladies around, does Moll lower her moral standards so quickly?