Wilkie Collins – The Moonstone (1868)

A “family paper” opens the novel, describing the theft of a precious yellow diamond during a siege of India in late 18th C. Three Indians are committed to restoring diamond at costs.

Gabriel Betteridge opens narration, having been requested by Franklin Blake to write out his perspective on events. His daughter Penelope is a servant to Rachel Verinder, daughter of the august Lady Verinder. Rahcel’s suitor Franklin Blake is told to give her the diamond for her birthday. He does, but diamond is stolen. Sergeant Cuff investigates and suspects Rachel to be in cahoots with a servant Rosanna Spearman, who commits suicide in the Shivering Sands (supposedly has a crush on Franklin Blake). Cuff resigns job after suspecting Rachel. Franklin leaves for Africa or something. Godfrey Abelwhite, another suritor, becomes engaged to Rachel. Franklin returns, intent on clearing his name from his involvement with the Moonstone, but finds out that he in fact stole the diamond. Ezra Jennings proposes an experiment with opium, b/c his master Dr. Candy had drugged Frankling the night of the birthday and he had stolen the diamond under the influence of opium. Cuff, Jennings, and lawyer Bruff meet to watcht he experiment, which works. Rachel is there, too, and is convinced of his innocence even before it goes off. Menawhile, the diamond is taken out of the bank by Mr. Luker and folks try to track various people, and eventually find Godfrey Abelwhite dead in his hotel room in disguise. Novel finishes with a travelers tale in India, the Moonstone has been replaced and there’s a huge ceremony. Rachel and Franklin get married.

A lot of the same narrative issues as Woman in White; same troubles finishing. Why the opium experiments after they discovered Godfrey Abelwhite? Goes deep into questions of sensation and impression. Can be read as a “Humean” experiment…

Structure: two periods and an epilogue. The first period is comprised of one narrative completely given by Gabriel Betteridge, the second contains eight different narratives, and the epilogue contains the authoritative official account of Cuff and two reports from abroad, recounting the diamond’s restoration. Interesting arch of fragmentation and restoration.

Many scenes of reading Robinson Crusoe dramatizes the act of fitting facts to pre-determined interpretations—the book has supposedly foretold everything to Gabriel.

SHIPS: cf. Dracula and Sign of Four. Travel by sea becomes unsteady.

Convergence of inconveniences: people out of town, sick, lost memory, etc., all right before narrative comes to close.

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