“Under present circumstances, the one thing to be done was to clap the extinguisher upon Penelope’s curiosity on the spot. I accordingly replied that Mr. Franklin and I had both talked of foreign politics, till we could talk no longer, and had then mutually fallen asleep in the heat of the sun. Try that sort of answer when your wife or your daughter next worries you with an awkward question at an awkward time, and depend on the natural sweetness of women for kissing and making it up again at the next opportunity" (78).
Betteredge often makes asides discussing his opinions on matters, and one matter he has strong opinions on is the role of women. He has a very traditional, rather condescending view on gender roles. In this passage, he demonstrates very clearly that “foreign politics” and other matters of importance are to be dealt with by men—even when his own daughter shows intelligent curiosity. Betteredge’s opinions are not necessarily Collins’s own, and in this case, it is almost certain that this is not Collins’s own opinion towards women. However, it adds dimension to Betteredge’s character as an old man who clings to tradition and is often narrow-minded, even while he is an earnest individual.
“The memories of innocent people may suffer, hereafter, for want of a record of the facts to which those who came after us can appeal. There can be no doubt that this strange family story of ours ought to be told. And I think, Betteredge, Mr. Bruff and I together have hit on the right way of telling it" (39).
In this passage, Franklin tells Betteredge the “how” and “why” they are writing this story. This reference to the “memories of innocent people may suffer, hereafter” is also a reference to Franklin himself. Franklin realizes how narrowly he escaped being known as a guilty man. In writing this record, he also helps his late friend Ezra Jennings, and any suspicion that might be on individuals like Rachel and Rosanna. He also acknowledges that this is a “strange family story”—but that it needs to be told, lest rumors about Colonel Herncastle (which took place before the 1848-49 events) were left floating and unfinished.
"If I had only been a little less fond of you, I think I should have destroyed it. But oh! How could I destroy the only thing I had which proved that I had saved you from discovery? If we did come to an explanation together, and if you suspected me of having some bad motive, and denied it all, how could I win upon you to trust me, unless I had the nightgown to produce? Was it wronging you to believe, as I did, and do still, that you might hesitate to let a poor girl like me be the sharer of your secret, and your accomplice in the theft which your money-troubles had tempted you to commit? Think of your cold behavior to me, sir, and you will hardly wonder at my unwillingness to destroy the only claim on your confidence and your gratitude, which it was my fortune to possess" (378).
In the letter left behind after her suicide, Rosanna finally directly confesses her love for Franklin, the source of her strange behavior. These passages are particularly shocking for readers, since it is the first time that readers discover (and through Franklin’s own eyes) that the stained nightgown was Franklin’s. Readers also find out the extent to which Rosanna sacrificed herself for Franklin’s sake. While this reveal is certainly a plot element, it also demonstrates Collins’s ability to invoke powerful emotional responses. Poor Franklin had no idea of any of this, and poor Rosanna resorted to killing herself.
“It’s hard to get over one’s bad habits, Godfrey. But do try to get over the habit of paying compliments – do, to please me" (277).
The presence of habits is a major motif throughout the story. It is also a crucial one—Franklin’s smoking habit turns out to be of importance; likewise, Godfrey’s habit of paying compliments effusively also turns out to be a means to hide his true prodigal character. Although “paying compliments” seems like a good habit, Rachel calls it a “bad habit,” and in doing so foreshadows the reveal of Godfrey’s character that is to come.
“There is much that I might say about the merciless treatment of me by my own family, and the merciless enmity to which I have fallen a victim. But the harm is done; the wrong is beyond all remedy. I decline to weary or distress you, sir, if I can help it. At the outset of my career in this country, the vile slander to which I have referred struck me down at once and for ever. I resigned my aspirations in my profession – obscurity was the only hope left for me. I parted with the woman I loved – how could I condemn her to share my disgrace? A medical assistant’s place offered itself, in a remote corner of England. I got the place. It promised me peace; it promised me obscurity, as I thought. I was wrong. Evil report, with time and chance to help it, travels patiently, and travels far. The accusation from which I had fled, followed me" (428-9).
Opium-addict, doctor’s assistant Ezra Jennings is one of the strangest characters in the story. He comes in late in the story, assisting Franklin with discovering the truth about the birthday party night, and leaves just as quickly—dying of an illness. In many ways he seems beyond the story. Indeed, he is an outsider, not part of the family, and acts as a counterpart to Franklin. This passage, in which he describes the futile situations which have plagued him all his life, illustrate what could happen to Franklin if the mystery of the Diamond were not solved and Franklin absolved of guilt.
“I beg your ladyship’s pardon – I don’t say the Diamond is stolen. I only say, at present, that the Diamond is missing. The discovery of the stained dress may lead the way to finding it" (144).
Sergeant Cuff arrives as a mysterious, morose character. Betteredge describes him as the opposite of Superintendent Seegrave—and immediately showing up the local police officer. Sergeant Cuff is also an outsider, and carries with him the gravity of being part of the London police force, as well as being famous. In the mess of the household, Cuff is a pillar of calm—despite everyone’s accusations and suspicions, Cuff manages to tell everyone that the Diamond is only missing and not confirmed stolen yet. The stained dress is a reference to the real-life case of the Road Hill House Murder, committed by Constance Kent and investigated by Cuff’s real-life inspiration Jack Whicher.
“I turned, and saw on the rocky platform, the figures of three men. In the central figure of the three I recognized the man to whom I had spoken in England, when the Indians appeared on the terrace at Lady Verinder’s house…They were Brahmins…who had forfeited their caste, in the service of the god. The god had commanded that their purification should be the purification by pilgrimage. On that night, the three men were to part. In three separate directions, they were to set forth as pilgrims to the shrines of India. Never more were they to look on each other’s faces. Never more were they to rest on their wanderings, from the day which witness their separation, to the day which witnessed their death" (526).
Mr. Murthwaite is the English/Westerner’s primary connection to the sinister and mysterious East. He has journeyed there, survived, and knows much about their culture and language. Mr. Murthwaite provides a way for the West to understand the East, and while his language is also sometimes condescending, his presence maintains a certain respect for the Indian culture which his fellow Englishmen do not understand. His epilogue shows that he understands the religious obedience of the Indian priests to their deities.
“Nothing escaped me at the time I was visiting dear Aunt Verinder. Everything was entered (thanks for my early training) day by day as it happened; and everything down to the smallest particular, shall be told here. My sacred regard for truth is (thank God) far above my respect for persons. It will be easy for Mr. Blake to suppress what may not prove to be sufficiently flattering in these pages to the person chiefly concerned in them. He has purchased my time; but not even his wealth can purchase my conscience too" (235).
Miss Clack can be described as meddlesome; her narration could even be called annoying. Many of her observations and asides are very ironic. In this prefacing passage to her narration, Miss Clack makes note of the editorial presence of Franklin Blake that she is aware of (in a following footnote, Franklin notes that he has not made any alterations to Miss Clack’s narrative, and furthermore that he believes that Miss Clack’s way of narrating and her condescending remarks are more revealing of her own character than anyone else’s). This passage draws the reader’s awareness to the fact that The Moonstone is told in retrospect, with its protagonists looking back at the events that occurred.
“To put it seriously, my dear pretty Miss Rachel, possessing a host of graces and attractions, had one defect, which strict impartiality compels me to acknowledge. She was unlike most other girls of her age, in this – that she had ideas of her own, and was stiff-necked enough to set the fashions themselves at defiance, if the fashions didn’t suit her views. In trifles, this independence of hers was all well enough; but in matters of importance, it carried her (as my lady thought, and as I thought) too far. She judged for herself, as few women of twice her age judge in general; never asked your advice; never told you beforehand what she was going to do; never came with secrets and confidences to anybody, from her mother downwards. In little things and great, with people she loved, and people she hated (and she did both with equal heartiness), Miss Rachel always went on a way of her own, sufficient for herself in the joys and sorrows of her life. Over and over again I have heard my lady say, ‘Rachel’s best friend and Rachel’s worst enemy are, one and the other – Rachel herself" (87).
Betteredge’s description of Rachel is another demonstration of his views on gender roles, but it is also a revealing and important sketch of her character from someone who knows her well. This description of Rachel will become important later on as her behavior becomes strange and unexplainable; it also explains how she is capable of taking on Franklin’s apparent guilt upon herself, in order to save him because she loves him.
“This question has two sides…An Objective side, and a Subjective side. Which are we to take?”… “That’s the Subjective view. It does you great credit, Betteredge, to be able to take the Subjective view. But there’s another mystery about the Colonel’s legacy which is not accounted for yet. How are we to explain his only giving Rachel her birthday present conditionally on her mother being alive?” (75).
After being educated in continental Europe, Franklin often references his European education (between these two statements, Betteredge informs the reader about Franklin’s education in various countries). Franklin’s approach of the problem from both a Subjective and an Objective viewpoint reflect the story’s central conflict; how are subjective people to find out from each other the different pieces which add up to an objective truth? (The Subjective view Betteredge takes is that Rachel—or any other young girl—would not be able to resist the gift of a beautiful diamond, but Franklin reminds him to consider the Objective side – that is, the facts. Betteredge’s statement is a generalization.)
The Moonstone Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Moonstone is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.