Study Guide

Moll Flanders Section 8

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Section 8


  • Upon entering prison, Moll is pretty miserable. Let's face it, who wouldn't be? She wishes she could take all her criminal activity back and is worried about being executed. Hey, at least she has learned her lesson.
  • She can't sleep and all the other criminals inside the prison are mean to her. Well, it is prison.
  • Moll talks to one of them, a woman who's been in the jail for a while. She got a stay of execution by pretending to be pregnant, but it's clear now that she isn't, she could be executed at any time. The woman seems resigned to, almost okay with her situation.
  • Meanwhile the midwife is horrified that Moll has been caught and comes to visit her in Newgate. She fights tooth and nail to get Moll's charges dropped, including attempting to bribe the witnesses who accused Moll of stealing from them. The witnesses all refuse, though. No dice.
  • Realizing there's no hope, Moll faces facts: her death is imminent. (Of course we can guess from the title that it's not.)
  • The prison chaplain comes to console her but it doesn't help. Moll doesn't respect him anyway because he's a drunkard.
  • Somehow, the midwife manages to get Moll's trial moved back for a while. Moll grows strangely used to prison life, and goes from feeling guilty and terrible to just feeling pretty numb.
  • Then, some male robbers are caught and brought into the prison. Moll recognizes one of them as the man she married in Lancashire. He doesn't recognize her, though. Prison must have taken its toll.
  • A guilty Moll blames herself for the path his life has taken. She feels much worse about him than her own case because he's in even more danger of being hanged for his crimes than she is for hers. This brings her back out of her numbness, and she starts worrying about her own fate again.
  • The midwife does all she can, but Moll is put on trial anyway.
  • All the prison people think she'll be hanged, and even one of the jailers says she should prepare for death, so Moll prays and prays.
  • Finally Moll's trial begins. She says she's innocent, but then all the witnesses testify against her. People don't seem to believe her, and the court rules Moll did commit a felony, which comes with a death sentence. How's she going to get out of this one, we wonder.
  • Moll begs for mercy, but the sentence stands.
  • You know who's even more freaked out than Moll? The midwife. She's so freaked out in fact that she starts to change her own bad ways. Maybe she'll try life on the straight and narrow for a while.
  • As Moll waits and tries to prepare herself for death, she repents and thinks about eternity.
  • She meets with the prison chaplain a few times and tells him all her sins, which he helps her make peace with.
  • Less than two weeks after her trial, Moll's execution is scheduled. She can't bear it.
  • But the chaplain is really moved by her story and gets her out of being executed.
  • Holy cow. Moll is totally overwhelmed by his kindness, and becomes more religious than ever as a result.
  • The next day she has to watch and listen as six other prisoners are taken to be executed, while she has somehow been spared. Probably thinking, that could have been me, Moll has a nervous fit.
  • When the chaplain comes to check on her that night, he tells her that he has helped her, but that she's not off scot-free. Apparently her execution sentence has been lessened to one of exile (the same sentence her mother received all those years ago). Okay, that's not perfect, but it's a heck of a lot better than dying.
  • The chaplain encourages her to stay reformed once she's free, and when the midwife comes to visit Moll in jail they talk about ways to make that happen. The midwife says they'll figure out a way to supply Moll with money in her new location, wherever that may be.
  • It takes more than three months of waiting in the prison before being put on a ship and sent to her new home, along with many other criminals.
  • But before telling us about all that, Moll reflects on what happened to her Lancashire husband, you know, just in case you were wondering.
  • After entering prison, he lasted it several months before being put on trial, along with one of his fellow robbers. The other had already been tried.
  • The court calls for witnesses to their crimes and Moll puts herself forward as one so she can see her husband.
  • She goes to see him in disguise and as soon as it's safe, reveals herself. They have a swoon-worthy reunion, once he realizes that she's not really going to testify against him.
  • They realize they're both in the same tough position, and Moll fills him in on what's been happening in her life.
  • When he finds out that she saved him from being caught years earlier, he says he'll do whatever he can to save her now.
  • Then the Lancashire husband tells Moll what's been going on with him since they parted: he was a highwayman before they met and had hoped to get out of the career by marrying well. He made a lot of money and tried to get in touch with Moll, but never heard back from her.
  • Oh, and he tells her what landed him in prison this time. Apparently he may be able to avoid execution, because there aren't any witnesses who can place him at the robberies.
  • This prompts Moll to tell him that exile is a possibility, to which he says he'd rather die. Well that's a bit dramatic, Lancashire.
  • She tries to convince him that being exiled would be better, and that if they can get their hands on some money once they get to America, they'll be okay.
  • They agree that they don't want each other's money, but that they'll both help each other. And then her Lancashire husband agrees that they should both aim for exile, so they can be together and have a life.
  • Eventually, the Lancashire husband is offered the chance for exile, which Moll convinces him to take. It's on the condition that he doesn't come back to England for a while, or he'll be executed.
  • So, the two are committed to going to America together, which is a relatively happy ending to this little episode, considering the alternative.

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