Gender Roles in Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe

Published: 2022-08-30
Gender Roles in Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  English literature Gender
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 945 words
8 min read

The beautiful ideas in Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe are the gender roles as depicted by Moll among other characters. The main character Moll who lives a mixed up life that is full misfortunes but fights her way to survive and get out of anything that catches up with her portray a lot about women. Her life is one outstanding issue in the novel because right from her birth issues comes up. Firstly she is born in New gate prison to criminal mother who is later exiled in America, and Moll is taken to a foster mother who is a nurse but poor. Her journey does not end here but she is transferred to another wealthy family, and this is where she experiences love and confusion as she plays two brothers but eventually gets married to the younger one. The fascinating thing about Moll is that she has been in a series of relationships and has been married five times. She moves from one marriage to another with children in every marriage. Defoe brings out the gender roles through various characters, but the most string and weird functions are brought out through Moll for in. She lives a life of crime, gender, and class struggle.

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The most striking idea in the novel is the gender roles where women have no choice except to sing along to the tune of what life's struggle brings them. Women have been assigned tasks that they have no option to choose from. Firstly, women can be wives or mistresses, and this is seen from the life of Moll who plays the role of being a wife five times but still becomes a mistress in various relationships. All her marriages fail except the last one with a fellow criminal the man from Lancashire. Her mother is also a mistress perhaps because her married life is not revealed. Secondly, a woman's role in the novel is servitude for instance when Moll is in prison she is exiled and she serves until her jail term is over. Similarly, her mother helps in jail for some time.

Additionally, women are also portrayed as criminals, and they are exiled because of various crimes such as thievery, murder prostitution among others. For instance, moll is convicted because of stealing, and her mother at the beginning of the story is in prison. Besides, women are assigned the role of childbearing and rearing a part that Moll defies most of the times. Moll is a character who can do anything to get her way, and this is seen when she moves from relationships marriages and crime to make her life comfortable.

The questions that this passage raise for me is that why is it that women suffer so much in the course making their lives better? Another issue is that why are women dominating crime in the novel? Are they desperate for money, Love, or marriage? Gender roles in the book have been used to define a woman's place in the society through the various tasks they are assigned. Moll is looking to establish herself as an independent gentlewoman, but she is entangled in a chain of issues while trying to achieve her goal. She states "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" (Defoe, p. 49). In the first instance, She wants to get married and live a settled life, but this does not happen as she seems not to get the satisfaction she desires from four marriages but becomes successful in the fifth one. She tries to become a gentlewoman by getting married but ends up leaving a couple of unions because she is not satisfied. On the other hand, she desires a good life but she does not have the money to sustain her, and the only things she can do is to get them from men or steal another issue that entangles her in the process of wanting to be a gentlewoman.

Moll status as a woman limits her agency because women in her time were only supposed to be home keepers and submissive to their husbands and any other role belonged to men. She states "you may see how necessary it is for all women who expect anything in the world, to preserve the character of their virtue, even when perhaps they may have sacrificed the thing itself" (Defoe 533). Her behavior often diverges from the prescribed gender roles of early eighteenth-century England and that is the reason she can gain agency despite her limitations. It is important to note that she is a gentlewoman who wants to make her life worthwhile, but she encounters limitations at every stage. She, however, gains agency despite her flaws. She can be best described as a go-getter. The best interpretation of Moll Flanders is that it is a novel that is dominated by crime, women and feminism and morality and ethics. It can be illustrated by the number of people who are convicted or serving their jail term for different crimes. It is also full of women and feminism issues as every other scenario surrounds a woman.

In summary, it is important to note that women have diverse roles in the novel, but Moll plays almost all the roles both positive and negative. She has defined her boundaries, and despite the limitations, she has to find her way. She can be described as a gentlewoman who struggles to make things work for her.

Work cited

Defoe, Daniel. Moll Flanders. Broadview Press, 2005.

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Gender Roles in Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe. (2022, Aug 30). Retrieved from

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