The Moonstone

The Moonstone Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

The Diamond (symbol)

The Diamond is abnormally large, uniquely colored, and in short, a mystery. Furthermore, it is a cursed thing, a symbol of the East: it is beautiful and splendid, but carries dangerous implications with it.

Gooseberry's Eyes (symbol)

Octavius Guy, nicknamed Gooseberry at Mr. Bruff’s office, is one of Mr. Bruff’s youngest and sharpest workers. Franklin Blake notes that the boy has “extraordinary prominence of his eyes. They projected so far, and they rolled about so loosely, that you wondered uneasily why they remained in their sockets” (485). The use of “uneasily” is not ill; later, Franklin is disturbed by Gooseberry’s fascination with Godfrey’s murder. Gooseberry’s eyes seem to indicate that those who are particularly good at sleuthing are a little abnormal, and they see everything—perhaps even too much.

Rosanna's Deformed Shoulder (symbol)

Rosanna’s deformed shoulder is one thing that makes her stand out—in a negative way. The poor servant girl is particularly conscious of her shoulder, and hates it. The deformity is of a natural cause, as far as readers and characters are aware, and on an otherwise fine body; it is symbolic of Rosanna’s botched past as a thief, which she cannot escape. Even though she is a good person, as recognized by the Verinders and the Betteredges, she seems to have been born, naturally, to leading this miserable life.

Roses (symbol)

One of the first things Sergeant Cuff comments on when he arrives in Yorkshire is the condition of the rose garden—he recommends to Lady Verinder to use grass instead of gravel on the walkway by where the roses grow. This is one of the only things he talks about which continues to be irrelevant past his investigation period. Because roses often represent ladies, and Rachel does frequently dress florally and once attends a floral show, the way Cuff and Begbie argue over the rose is akin to the way Franklin and Godfrey fight quietly over Rachel.

Opium/Laudanum (symbol)

The opium and laudanum plays an essential role in the plot of the story (it is what causes Franklin to accidentally steal the Diamond), but it is also a symbol of the unexpected side effects of modern medicine and other human advances. Franklin and Mr. Candy argue over the benefits of modern medicine, and even though Mr. Candy’s practical joke is successful and helps Franklin sleep, medicine and the like will continue to have negative or unforeseen repercussions.

The Diamond (allegory)

The journey of the Diamond through the hands of the Indians, Colonel Herncastle, the Verinders, and its eventual return to India can be interpreted as an allegory of the colonialism process. India was a British political colony from approximately 1858-1947, although commercial dominance and de facto British control began as early as 1700. In the early to mid-1900s, Indian independence movements swept across the nation, and the first Indian prime minister was established in 1947.

Colonel Herncastle obtained the Diamond through corruption, murder, and force. He wrongfully stole the gem away from a people with an established but foreign culture and belief system. The Diamond was an important and prized part of the Indians’ worship of their Moon Deity. In essence, Herncastle’s theft of the Diamond was stealing a piece—even a core—of the Indians’ cultural identity.

While Herncastle did not sell the Diamond for profit during his lifetime, he certainly understood the monetary value behind the gem. The commercial value of the Moonstone is reminiscent in many ways of the original reason the British eventually became rulers in India—the East India Company opened on the subcontinent in 1612 in order to extract resources.

Just as Herncastle forcibly took the Moonstone through murder, the British established their rule in India and took away the Indians’ sense of national identity. The Moonstone journeys from Herncastle to his niece to her thieving suitor, all the while being pursued by its rightful owners—the Indian priests. The priests’ unflagging pursuit is similar to the Indian independence movement’s perseverance, despite oppression. Ultimately, the Indian priests reclaim the Diamond, and set it in its original place: at the centerpiece of their religious ceremony.

Editorial Footnotes/Epistolary Formatting (motif)

As a result of the unique narrative framing of The Moonstone—the epistolary format, Franklin Blake’s ability to look back on these events—there is an editorial presence through the story. Several times, narrators will reference another narrator’s epistolary section. Other times, Franklin will directly comment in the form of a footnote, as he does in the Second Narrative, to Drusilla Clack’s contribution.

Yellow (motif)

Yellow is a recurring color. The Diamond is a huge jewel that isn’t clear, but actually yellow. Rachel often dresses in yellow. The harvest moon, which the Diamond is compared to, is a very yellow image. Furthermore, yellow is a key color of the “East” or the “Orient,” used to symbolize the mysterious nature of that side of the world at that time.

Counterparts (motif)

Many characters, especially main ones, have counterparts that act as a “could have been” or complete some sort of dichotomy.

  • Penelope and Rachel: Penelope is Rachel’s personal maid. She is also young, and pretty, but simply because of the social status she was born into, is not the lead female.
  • Ezra Jennings and Franklin: Ezra Jennings is a ghostly character; he displays what Franklin would be had the blame not been cleared from the younger man’s name; Franklin would have to run from his notoriety, and be separate forever from his love.
  • Betteredge and Cuff: Betteredge tags along with and aids Sergeant Cuff with much of the latter’s sleuthing. Betteredge is around the same age as the old detective, but is his honest-spoken, straightforward, and simpler counterpart. When Cuff chooses not to say certain things, the simple steward will.
  • Rosanna and Rachel: Rosanna is another “could have been” counterpart to Rachel; born into a lower social status, with plain features and a deformity, Rosanna’s love for Franklin actually does, literally, kill her.
  • Godfrey and Franklin: More competitors than counterparts, Franklin and Godfrey are both suspected of the crime of taking the Diamond—and both are actually involved, although one consciously and one not. Both are in love with Rachel.

Habits/Bad Habits/Addictions (motif)

These include Franklin’s smoking, Rachel’s independence, Godfrey’s compliments, and Ezra Jennings’s opium use.