Dogs have always been important companions to humans (Crandall 3). By the eighteenth century, pet ownership had grown in popularity in England and served as another indication of one's wealth. But often these domestic pets would end up being "beasts of burden" (Juengel 24) and were subjected to violence and the frustration of their owners.
Laws pertaining to gambling were incredibly strict in order to control the “mischiefs and inconveniences” that were associated with Gambling (Ashton 26) . Thus, the ripped card is an indication that either a disagreement between players had occurred or that gambling was forbidden in the prison. The card in this plate is very similar to the modern playing card, which collectors determined were first printed in France in 1717 (Horr 6).
Moll is condemned to Bridewell Prison. The prison was established in 1533, and was used to house many lower class criminals. The women condemned in prison were usually prostitutes whereas the men were generally imprisoned for debt. The prison’s main aim was to “reform” its prisoners through hard labour and whipping, yet its prisoners were often corrupted further. The most common form of labour was the beating of hemp. Moll can be seen engaging in this hard labour (Hitchcock et al.).
The prison was not only for criminals but for people who were unable to pay their debts. The well dressed man to the left of Moll wearing a wig and topcoat is likely a gambler. He beats hemp in the prison in order to pay for the debt accumulated from all the card games played (Shesgreen, 21-22).
The jailer pretends to be oblivious while his wife pickpockets Moll. She is pickpocketing Moll for the silver on her dress since her dressed is described as, “a gown very richly laced with silver” (Nichols 195). The existence of corruption in London is everywhere.
Bridewell Prison is a "nurturer of crime," (Shesgreen, 21), another layer of corruption. In plate 4, the jail-keeper uses a, "leg-iron and cane to threaten Moll to lift her mallet and continue her work." (21) The weapon is used both as an enforcement tool and to distract Moll from the jail-keeper’s wife who is stealing the silver threads from Moll’s dress.
Depicted as a man hanging, Sir John Gonson was a puritanical Westminster magistrate who ran a campaign against the prostitution industry, earning him the nickname as the “harlot-hunting justice” (Benton 34). Drawn hanging from a noose, the stickman represents the hatred prisoners had for Gonson.
Moll, stuck in prison due to the attitudes of Sir John Gonson has most likely spent time with the whipping post (Ireland 15). “The wages of idleness” is inscribed by Gonson to reward prisoners for their groundlessness and worthlessness . These words symbolize that regardless of status, citizens who do not contribute to society procure idleness and have their wages paid in a different manner.
Moll is in Bridewell Prison. She beats hemp for hangman's nooses, while the jailer threatens her and points to the task. Fielding would write that Thwackum, one of Tom Jones's sadistic tutors, looked precisely like the jailer (Tom Jones 3:6). The jailer's wife steals clothes from Moll, winking at theft. The prisoners go from left to right in order of decreasing wealth. Moll is standing next to a gentleman, a card-sharp whose extra playing card has fallen out, and who has brought his dog with him. The inmates are in no way being reformed, despite the ironic engraving on the left above the occupiedstocks, reading "Better to Work/ than Stand thus." The person suffering in the stocks apparently refused to work (Source: Wikipedia).