Moll Flanders was the daughter of a thief and she was born in Newgate prison. Her mother was sentenced to death but she managed to have her sentence changed so that she was moved to Virginia. Moll grew up in the house of Mayor of Colchester and at the age of fourteen she was sent to serve a rich family. She was a pretty and smart girl and had a relationship with the son of the family she was serving. As she grew to a woman, she got married five times and had children. In her struggle to survive she became a prostitute and a thief until she was arrested. After she was deported to Virginia she started to work hard becoming a wealthy plantation holder. In the end she returns to England and while she’s finally living a decent life she thinks of her past and regrets all the experiences and mistakes she had done and she should have avoided.
Defoe sets the novel in London and in English counties giving information about urban society and the customs of the time. He pays particular attention to the problems of society, like crime and prostitution and misery for the orphans. Defoe tries to make the novel realistic and authentic by including documents such as hospital bills and letters and many other tangible things such as Moll’s possessions that are described in terms of their value. The weight and value of all these objects is important as they are associated to the wealth and the social status of the people who owns them. Moll’s can be seen as Crusoe’s counterpart; she follows her passions, she prefers theft to poverty, she’s obsessed with keeping up appearances and she searches self-assertion and material benefit showing many of the sign that belong to the middle-classes. A major them of the novel is the juxtaposition of contradictory moral elements by which we could define Moll as an anti-heroine.
The novel is narrated with the technique also used in Robinson Crusoe, the retrospective first-person narration, which means that it is Moll herself telling her own story, from her point of view, when she’s older. At times a further narrative device is used, the narrator directly addressing the reader, which has the purpose of producing an emotional response in the reader. The narration rarely focuses on feelings, but the realistic and matter-of-fact language successfully conveys both the character’s experiences and actions and her attitudes and thoughts. The language is simple and direct and it aims to generate in the reader a sense of identification and sympathy.