Greed, vanity, and repentance in "Moll Flanders" by Daniel Defoe

Essay by Anonymous UserJunior High, 9th gradeA+, December 1999

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Three recurring themes in Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe are greed, vanity, and repentance. Theme is defined as an underlying or essential subject of artistic representation. These three themes play an important role in the development of the story of Moll Flanders.

The first theme, greed, is shown in Moll's acts of prostitution. Moll turns to thievery in many instances to support herself. She also allows her morals to disintegrate; a result of her greediness.

Moll's first act of prostitution is thrust upon her unknowingly. In the beginning of the story, she is living with a gentle woman and her family. One of the brothers takes interest in Moll and seduces her into becoming his lover. 'He took these freedoms with me... when this was over he stayed but a little while, but he put almost a handful of gold in my hand...' (Defoe 26). Moll lets down her guard and meets with the brother frequently.

'... so putting the purse into my bosom, I made no more resistance to him, but let him do just what he pleased and as often as he pleased...' (Defoe 30). Later in the story, Moll becomes acquainted with a woman who persuades Moll to work for her as a prostitute. Even though Moll is now married, she agrees to sell her body for profit. 'I found presently that whether I was a whore or a wife, I was to pass for a whore here...' (Defoe 144). Moll's acts of prostitution show that she will carry out illegal practices in order to get money.

Moll's many instances involving thievery also express the theme of greed. At the end of the story, Moll gives her son a stolen watch. '... I stole it from a gentlewoman's side at a meeting house in London' (Defoe...