The Moonstone

The Moonstone Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Family is an important theme in The Moonstone. The story of the Diamond largely concerns one family, and the first epistolary piece is an “extract from a family paper.” What role does being a part of the Verinder family play in the story, if any? What role does family play in trying to solve the mystery?

    The story is mostly told from the perspective of those who are not in the Verinder family, even though the whole Diamond situation is contained to the Verinders, as well as a result of a family “crime.” Those like Gabriel and even Mr. Bruff, however, consider themselves to be a part of the Verinder family, as close associates. Family gives the main characters a sort of anchor in the world, and something to look forward to. Those without families and backgrounds are seemingly without identities – Ezra Jennings, Rosanna Spearman, etc.

  2. 2

    The Moonstone is believed to be cursed, and has a fanciful past. In what ways does this “recurrence of the past” extend to situations in the Verinder family beyond that of the Diamond? Why is the way that the Diamond is stolen relevant to what happens decades later? (Think about the relationship between England and India.)

    The whole Diamond debacle is an unwelcome return of the past—that of family history. (Other cases can be made for Rosanna Spearman’s criminal past, Franklin’s debts, and Godfrey’s hidden debts.) Furthermore, the Diamond is stolen in a way which analogizes England’s former conquest of India (it is even taken during one such storming), and inevitably, conquered colonies begin to take on their own identities and reclaim their heritage, much like the Indian priests are doing to the Diamond.

  3. 3

    Because The Moonstone is a detective story, a central focus is on information. How does the author manipulate information and the delivery of it? How does he use characters to do this? Consider how suspense is created. (In answering this question, choose no more than three characters as examples.)

    The author often uses multiple characters to convey information to where it is needed. This creates a tense atmosphere of suspense. For example, Mr. Bruff and Franklin follow the wrong men at the bank. Gooseberry follows the right man, but they do not find out until the next day. Sergeant Cuff is also involved, and the name of the thief does not reach Franklin until it passes through the observers at the hotel bed, to Sergeant Cuff, and finally to Franklin.

  4. 4

    Franklin Blake was educated in Europe and as a result, he and Betteredge often reference the “subjective-objective” method of thinking. How does this term/motif exemplify larger patterns in the story?

    As a mystery story—a whodunit story—the objective truth is very important to The Moonstone. However, because it is told from the limited perspectives of humans, subjectivity inevitably plays a part. In fact, it is the confusion of subjectivity and objectivity that gives The Moonstone all of its twists and turns (wrong accusations, for example: Seegrave, Cuff, and Rachel all make these).

  5. 5

    The Moonstone is told from a backwards-looking perspective, and in an epistolary format. How does this piece-by-piece format influence the way the story is told? The way the story is perceived? How does the editorial presence (and sometimes even physical footnotes) influence the way the story’s narrative is created?

    This piece-by-piece format creates an almost 360-degree perspective on the story. It is told both from viewpoints of major characters (Franklin, for example) and minor characters (Betteredge is rather minor in actuality; Miss Clack is very minor). It also gives honest but subjective perceptions from characters of other characters, adding a layer of realism (Miss Clack does not like Franklin or Rachel, even though they are protagonists; Godfrey Ablewhite is saint-like in her eyes, although he is ultimately the thief). This format, as well as the presence of editorial footnotes, creates a story that is more or less focused on the relevant events.

  6. 6

    "The Loss of the Diamond" is told virtually completely from Gabriel Betteredge’s perspective. How does this influence the story? How is it helpful to moving the narrative forward? How might it be detrimental to the story?

    Betteredge shapes up to be quite a major character, despite The Moonstone’s tale being put together by Franklin Blake. This is because of his large narrative presence – he recounts basically the entire loss of the Diamond (besides the small family paper introduction). This is beneficial because Gabriel is able to observe at close quarters most of the events concerning the disappearance of the Diamond. This is also the same reason why he was chosen by Franklin to do so. It can be detrimental because Gabriel will inevitably include some of his own subjective interpretations. Students should hint at this tying into the subjective-objective theme of the story.

  7. 7

    Belief systems and ideologies are an important part of the story, as they influence characters’ decisions. Pick two of the three following, and explain how they shape the characters’ actions, and argue a case for their significance within the story: Betteredge and Robinson Crusoe; Franklin and his European education; the Indian priests and their religion.

    a. Betteredge and Robinson Crusoe: Betteredge is known to reference Robinson Crusoe almost religiously, and uses the book to randomly “predict the future.” If the random book reference is negative, he is loath to do something; if positive, he is overeager. He is also upset when others do not abide by the same superstitious usage of his book. Students can reference his hesitation toward Ezra Jennings’s experiment, his attitudes towards Sergeant Cuff, and his prediction of Franklin’s child. It can be interpreted as a sort of mockery against organized religion and holy books.

    b. Franklin and his European education: returning from continental Europe having received a lofty and “exotic” education, Franklin frequently references what he has learned, especially the “Subjective-Objective” way of problem solving. After his schooling, Franklin has become very practical, methodical, and logical, and applies these qualities to solving the mystery. His hard work eventually pays off, just like his education.

    c. Indian priests and their religion: to obey their gods and religious decrees, the three Brahmin priests give up their priestly caste to follow the Diamond no matter where it goes. They even resign themselves to being lowly street entertainers in order to get onto the Verinders’s property. The Indian religion is something completely foreign to the English in the story, yet it forms the basis for the narrative conflict: Englishman John Herncastle (out of greed) wanted the Diamond; the Indians need the Diamond back for their religious worship.