Study Guide

Moll Flanders Moll's Manifesto

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Moll's Manifesto

But enough of Shmoop's opinions. Let's hear about this from the woman herself:

In the next place, when a woman is thus left desolate and void of counsel, she is just like a bag of money or a jewel dropped on the highway, which is a prey to the next comer; if a man of virtue and upright principles happens to find it, he will have it cried, and the owner may come to hear of it again; but how many times shall such a thing fall into hands that will make no scruple of seizing it for their own, to once that it shall come into good hands? (487)

This passage really sums it all up, don't you think? According to Moll, a woman is "is just like a bag of money or a jewel dropped on the highway." She's a thing of value, with a big emphasis on thing. A bag of money or a jewel can't take care of itself and it doesn't have any feelings. It's bought, sold, and worn as decoration. When men treat women like jewels, then, they're basically equating them to inanimate objects.

The other thing Moll compares a woman to in this passage is "prey." Like a jewel, an object of prey doesn't have control over the situation, compared to the predator who's about to snap it up. With this comparison, women are completely dependent on good luck: whatever kind of man runs into them is the kind they're then stuck with, whether that's a guy with "virtue" or one with "no scruples."

So, these women are reduced to their physical parts, their bodies, and in just about all cases their personhood isn't given nearly as much worth as their sexuality. No wonder Moll feels like a jewel, or like prey. And no wonder, then, that uses the one valuable thing she has – her body – as long as she can in order to survive off the men who want it.

But here's the real question. If this is how Moll's world views women, is she a victim in the story? Or do you think she's the one preying on the men in her life?

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