In Colchester, Moll Flanders lives with a wealthy family in which the brothers and sisters argue about what has more value in the marriage market, good looks or money. The younger brother, Robin, argues that for a woman to attract a husband on the marriage market, she needs to be “handsome” (20). The sister, who feels like Robin is calling her ugly, responds that she has money instead of beauty, and money is more likely to win her a husband:
“I understand you, brother,” replies the lady very smartly; “you suppose I have the money, and want the beauty; but as times go now, the first will do without the last, so I have the better of my neighbours” (20).
The brother tells his sister that money may win at first, but good looks could steal the victory:
“Well,” says the younger brother, “but your neighbours, as you call them, may be even with you, for beauty will steal a husband sometimes in spite of money, and when the maid chances to be handsomer than the mistress, she oftentimes makes as good a market, and rides in a coach before her” (21).
For Moll, the more important question is a person’s ability to use her looks or money to get the best deal. When the elder brother is attracted to Moll’s good looks, Moll fails to use her intelligence to make sure she locks in a good deal. She agrees to lose her “honour” without receiving a commitment from the elder brother to support her. To Moll, money has the most value. The person with money is in the best position to walk away, while the person with no money, like Moll, is forced to take what she can get. Foreshadowing the unhappy end of Moll’s relaitionship with the elder brother, Moll concludes, “there not been one misfortune in it, I had been in the right, but the mistake lay here, that Mrs. Betty was in earnest and the gentleman was not” (22).