Moll Flanders is a story about the fall and rise of a beautiful woman who was born in Newgate Prison. Because of her determination to be someone other than a servant, and because of her great greed, she sought to marry a wealthy man. She married some with money and some without. One of her husbands, she learned to her horror, was her brother, by whom she had several children. Her fear of poverty led her to commit many criminal acts. However, even when she had obtained a large store of cash and goods, she continued stealing.
Her ingenious disguises helped her evade prison for many years, in spite of the fact that a number of her accomplices were caught and hanged or transported to the colonies. Moll’s heart hardened as she continued to escape arrest. Greed drove her on until she became known as the richest thief in London. Her “governess,” who was at one time Moll’s midwife, became her partner-in-crime and guided her criminal activities. She later grew penitent and devout and remained Moll’s loyal friend for many years.
When Moll became less cautious, she was finally captured and taken to Newgate Prison where she was taunted by the other prisoners. Moll repented momentarily as she confessed her crimes to her spiritual adviser, a minister sent by the governess. Because of his intervention, Moll’s death sentence was commuted to transportation to the American colonies. While in prison Moll re-encountered Jemmy, a highwayman who was her most recent living husband. She persuaded him to join her on the ship transporting convicts to the colonies. This they accomplished and settled in Maryland, where they became successful plantation owners in about a year’s time.
In Virginia, Moll’s former husband-brother was living with one of their sons. Moll was anxious to receive her inheritance from her mother’s estate and to meet her son, but was equally reluctant to confront her brother. Everything turned out all right for Moll: she was able to get her inheritance, she was able to avoid her brother, and she met her son, who proved to be devoted and fair.
At the age of almost seventy, Moll returned with Jemmy to London, here they planned to live out their lives in repentance for their criminal activities.