Study Guide

Moll Flanders Wealth

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"Why, what can you earn?" says she; "what can you get at your work?"

"Threepence," said I, "when I spin, and fourpence when I work plain work."

"Alas! poor gentlewoman," said she again, laughing, "what will that do for thee?"

"It will keep me," says I, "if you will let me live with you." And this I said in such a poor petitioning tone, that it made the poor woman's heart yearn to me, as she told me afterwards. (22-25)

When we learn the kind of numbers a small girl like Moll could expect to earn for honest labor like "plain work," it's not surprising she would turn to a job with better hours and better pay. Too bad that job is prostitution.

I was frighted out of my wits almost, and knew not what to do, for I was, as it were, turned out of doors to the wide world, and that which was still worse, the old honest woman had two-and-twenty shillings of mine in her hand, which was all the estate the little gentlewoman had in the world; and when I asked the daughter for it, she huffed me and laughed at me, and told me she had nothing to do with it. (51)

Okay, it's sad that Moll's nurse has died, there's no doubt about it. But what Moll is really worried about here is where she's going to live and how she can get her hands on the dough her nurse was holding for her. Even at such a young age, Moll is first and foremost concerned with cash.

[…] if a young woman have beauty, birth, breeding, wit, sense, manners, modesty, and all these to an extreme, yet if she have not money, she's nobody, she had as good want them all for nothing but money now recommends a woman; the men play the game all into their own hands. (63)

Moll, you sure do tell it like it is, no matter how bleak. Check out this laundry list of accomplishments. Those are a lot of great qualities that should matter in a person, right? And yet, as the book points out here, without "money" those qualities are totally meaningless in any woman. If a woman doesn't have money she might as well not exist.

I was more confounded with the money than I was before with the love, and began to be so elevated that I scarce knew the ground I stood on. (80)

Both money <em>and </em>love produce the same feeling in her of elevation and an almost gleeful lightness in Moll. It's hard to know what she's happier about – her relationship with the elder brother, or the fact that he just gave her a fat wad of cash. We have to say, this doesn't bode well for Moll's future.

As for their common design, that I understood too well to be drawn into any more snares of that kind. The case was altered with me: I had money in my pocket, and had nothing to say to them. I had been tricked once by that cheat called love, but the game was over; I was resolved now to be married or nothing, and to be well married or not at all. (228)

If love is a cheat, there doesn't really seem to be much point to it, does there? It's no wonder, then, that Moll abandons love in favor of money. She's learned a hard lesson: love and marriage have way less to do with each other than money and marriage, and a good marriage is a wealthy one.

This knowledge I soon learned by experience, viz. that the state of things was altered as to matrimony, and that I was not to expect at London what I had found in the country: that marriages were here the consequences of politic schemes for forming interests, and carrying on business, and that Love had no share, or but very little, in the matter. (248)

Once again, love gets shoved out of Moll's idea of marriage in favor of money. After all, she calls marriage a "business." And if Moll wants to be a good businesswoman, she can't afford to be a romantic.

And thus I got over the fraud of passing for a fortune without money, and cheating a man into marrying me on pretence of a fortune; which, by the way, I take to be one of the most dangerous steps a woman can take, and in which she runs the most hazard of being ill-used afterwards. (317)

Check out all the words used here that refer to cheating: "fraud," "passing," "cheating," "pretense," and "hazard." It's not all fun and games (although "hazard" can also refer to a kind of game, by the way). This is really serious stuff, and Moll could get in major trouble if she's caught.

As he had furnished me very sufficiently with money for the extraordinary expenses of my lying in, I had everything very handsome about me, but did not affect to be gay or extravagant neither; besides, knowing my own circumstances, and knowing the world as I had done, and that such kind of things do not often last long, I took care to lay up as much money as I could for a wet day, as I called it; making him believe it was all spent upon the extraordinary appearance of things in my lying in. (440)

If you had any doubts about Moll's resourcefulness, well this should get rid of them. She's saving for a rainy day. This just might be the one place in the novel where she sets a good example for her readers.

This grave matron had several sorts of practice, and this was one particular, that if a child was born, though not in her house (for she had occasion to be called to many private labours), she had people at hand, who for a piece of money would take the child off their hands, and off from the hands of the parish too; and those children, as she said, were honestly provided for and taken care of. What should become of them all, considering so many, as by her account she was concerned with, I cannot conceive. (651)

Moll puns on the word "account" here. It means both the amount of money the midwife is pulling in as well as her story about where all of that money is coming from. There's a similar pun at the end where Moll says she can't "conceive" of what happens to all these children – but conception of her own child is <em>exactly</em> what forced her to end up at the mercy of the midwife. Moll has such a way with words.

It is with horror that I tell what a treasure I found there; 'tis enough to say, that besides most of the family plate, which was considerable, I found a gold chain, an old-fashioned thing, the locket of which was broken, so that I suppose it had not been used some years, but the gold was not the worse for that; also a little box of burying-rings, the lady's wedding-ring, and some broken bits of old lockets of gold, a gold watch, and a purse with about £24 value in old pieces of gold coin, and several other things of value. (796)

The problem here isn't <em>not</em> having enough wealth, it's having too much. Moll stole far more than she meant to and feels guilty about it, though not guilty enough to take any of it back. For a brief moment, discovering so much "treasure" is a "horror." But why isn't Moll happier about the surprising worth of her loot? Is she really feeling guilty, or is she simply worried that it puts her at a greater risk of being caught?

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