Moll, the heroine of the book, was born in Newgate Prison and abandoned at about a year-and-a-half. She was a forceful, persistent, resolute young girl who obtained her way in most things. She was attractive and so vain about her appearance that she was easily convinced men were in love with her.
Moll often moralized about her fear of poverty, her greed, her increasing hardness of heart, her criminal activities, her numerous husbands and lovers. Her evolving theory was that if England had provided properly for orphans she would not have fallen into bad hands and thus needed to fend for herself before she could be trained to make her way honestly in the world. According to her theory, a young girl in poor circumstances had the right to find support as best she could. Moll, vain and fearful of poverty, pursued her goal of obtaining security in life.
One aspect of this determination was Moll's drive to marry a rich man. A second aspect was her ruthless pursuit of money.
The result of the acts she performed to achieve these goals was the transformation of a beautiful innocent young girl into a hardened middle-aged criminal who was finally captured and sent to Newgate Prison. Her resourcefulness and conniving brought her release from prison and her transportation to Virginia. There, with Jemmy, her favorite husband, she was able to become, in a year's time, a wealthy plantation-owner. Throughout the novel we see Moll's dual nature — a penitent woman reproaching herself for her misdeeds, and a ruthless pursuer of ill-gotten wealth.