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The Moonstone

Wilkie Collins

Analysis of Major Characters

Character List

Themes, Motifs, and Symbols

Rachel Verinder

Rachel Verinder stands at the center of The Moonstone's plot, yet never speaks her own narrative. In fact, her character is defined largely by omission—omission of her own story—and her withholding of her knowledge about the theft of The Moonstone. This reticence makes Rachel an alluring heroine, according to the cultural logic by which women in a position of holding back are invested with a particular attractiveness. Aside from this quality, Rachel seems an un-idealized image of a heroine. Collins makes clear that she is slightly unconventional, physically, with small stature and dark features. Rachel challenges Victorian propriety and gender roles by treating men and women alike with a straightforward manner that can be startling in its lack of coyness. Rachel's most important character trait is her unwillingness to tell on the misdeeds of another. Collins is clear on the fact that this never amounts to dishonesty—instead of lying about a delicate subject, Rachel says nothing at all.

Rachel's main conflict in the novel is an internal one: the evidence of her senses, which tell her that Franklin Blake stole her diamond and lied about it, must combat her passionate feelings of love and trust in Franklin. Rachel seems to have a tragic counterpart in the outcast Rosanna Spearman. The two women are kindred in their impassioned natures and love for Franklin Blake.

Franklin Blake

Interestingly, Franklin Blake's character is not completely elucidated in The Moonstone and is, in fact, called into question on several occasions. Franklin serves as the presence behind The Moonstone, and it is he who has asked all of the narrators for their contributions and who organizes them as editor. Yet his own character remains unspecific. Often when narrators speak of Franklin, their opinions reveal more about themselves than about him. Franklin's own narrative is conspicuously bare of personal history or opinion. We can say that he is cultured and educated, capable of imaginative belief, and generally good-natured. Franklin is thought of well by many trusted characters, such as Betteredge, Mr. Bruff, and Lady Verinder. Rachel loves and trusts him, and he loves her in return. His character is called into question in his interactions with Rosanna Spearman, in which Franklin seems somewhat callous, even to the girl's memory. Additionally, he is known to be often in debt—a state only alleviated when he inherits his father's fortune toward the end of the novel. Franklin's physical appearance is un-ideal—he is short with dark facial hair.

Franklin's main conflict is in internal one similar to Rachel's. He must reconcile the objective fact of the evidence, which points to him as the thief, with his subjective opinion and memory that he did not steal the diamond. As Rachel's tragic, outcast counterpart is Rosanna, Franklin finds his tragic counterpart in Ezra Jennings.

Ezra Jennings

Ezra Jennings is a tragic figure on the margins of the Victorian society depicted in The Moonstone. His strange appearance seems to define him for others and encourage their social rejection of him. He is tall and gaunt, with a wrinkled face that makes him seem older than he is and hair that is black on top and white on the sides. Jennings's character seems to relate to the larger theme of English interaction with colonial peoples, in that Jennings is of mixed parentage and was raised in a colony. Unlike Mr. Murthwaite, who poses as an Indian but is stolidly English inside, Jennings's truly possesses some of the more mystical and exotic characteristics of the Indians—Jennings's "dreamy eyes" are mentioned more than once. Jennings' opium addiction is related to his status as a part-colonial subject (opium having originated in the East).

Like Franklin Blake, his respectable Victorian counterpart, Jennings encompasses several contradictions. His capacity for dreaminess and imagination is countered by his status as a representative figure of objective science. Jennings is an aspiring doctor and researcher. He meticulously uses respected sources and experimental techniques to prove Franklin Blake's innocence. Jennings is related to Blake in that, earlier in his life, he has been accused of a crime he didn't commit but could not prove his innocence. He is thus a tragic figure, roaming around England to escape malicious gossip. In this sense, he represents what Franklin Blake might have become, if he could not clear his name. By the end of the novel, Jennings dies of the disease he has staved off using opium for years.

Godfrey Ablewhite

At the beginning of The Moonstone, Godfrey Ablewhite seems to be everything that Franklin Blake isn't. Godfrey is tall, conventionally good- looking, religious-minded, educated in England, and has good financial standing. We do not begin to see Godfrey's hypocritical side until Miss Clack's narrative. Miss Clack is herself hypocritical and her alignment with Godfrey reveals some of his dishonesty and duplicity. By the end of the novel, Godfrey is revealed to be a sham. He has been leading a double life and all of the qualities (except his good looks), which had made him seem a more attractive partner for Rachel than Franklin, turn out to be lies. Thus, Godfrey's character is used as a metaphor for the movement of the novel as a whole, in which appearances are not what they seem, as well as how English society suspects Indian intruders to be responsible for crimes on English soil when the crimes are actually committed by an Englishman.

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