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The Moonstone

Wilkie Collins

Important Quotations Explained

Second Period, Seventh Narrative–Epilogue

Key Facts

[T]he idea is that we should all write the story of the Moonstone in turn—as far as our own personal experience extends, and no farther.

This quotation comes at the beginning of Chapter I, First Period, and is the instruction received by Gabriel Betteredge from Franklin Blake regarding the project of assembling narratives about the Moonstone. The language Franklin uses here is explicitly setting up each of the narratives as subjective ("our own personal experience")—a classification which rings true. Each narrative offers us the subjective opinions and viewpoints of the narrator, and we must sift through this to arrive at the objective matter—the facts and events—of the narrative. Blake's vision of each narrator telling the story "in turn" also proves true. The Moonstone does not feature disparate narrators each giving their version of the same set of events. Instead, each narrator picks up where the last left off—The Moonstone offers a variety of narrative voices, not of plot.

The horrid mystery hanging over us in this house gets into my head like liquor, and makes me wild.

Gabriel Betteredge speaks these lines in Chapter XVII of the First Period. The motif of intoxication runs through the first period and infects various strands of the plot. The intoxication can arise from the Moonstone itself, in whose depths one loses oneself. The intoxication also arises from the mystery surrounding the Moonstone. Gabriel proclaims that he has "detective fever" and other members of the household (such as Rosanna) react as though their mind obeys an outside force, such as "liquor." Gabriel's insistence that the liquor- like effect makes him "wild" highlights a sub-theme—The Moonstone seems to propose that people obey their natural, or subconscious, instincts when under the influence of a substance.

I am asked to tell the story of the Diamond, and, instead of that, I have been telling the story of my own self. Curious, and quite beyond me to account for. I wonder whether the gentlemen who make a business and a living out of writing books, ever find their own selves getting in the way of their subjects, like me?

Betteredge writes this quotation in Chapter II of the First Period. It is part of a larger motif of the First Period in which Gabriel dramatizes the difficulty of writing narrative. This is a tongue-in-cheek reference by Collins to his own (difficult) craft of novel writing. However, Gabriel's admission that the narrative of the self gets in the way of his narrative about the diamond is part of a larger theme throughout The Moonstone in which many of the narratives seem to deal on the level of subtext with the creation of a self. We read all of the narratives with one eye to the events told and one eye to how the telling of the events gives us information about the teller. Finally, the larger project of the assembled narratives is to fill in the gap of Franklin Blake's self—the part of his own history that he doesn't remember. In this sense, all of the narratives contribute to the reconstruction of Franklin as a solid, respectable self, a self of the community.

Ha, Mr. Betteredge, the day is not far off when the poor will rise against the rich. I pray Heaven they may begin with him.

This quotation is spoken by Limping Lucy Yolland in Chapter XXIII of the First Period. The quotation refers to Lucy's dissatisfaction with class difference and the way members of the lower class are treated by the upper class (and specifically the way Rosanna Spearman was treated indifferently by Franklin Blake). Collins was somewhat known for addressing social problems in his fiction—Charles Dickens, in fact, expressed distaste for this habit of Collins's. Yet, the unfairness of class distinction is addressed only slightly and subtly in The Moonstone, with Lucy Yolland being its main mouthpiece.

"They seem to be in a conspiracy to persecute you," she said. "What does it mean?" "Only the protest of the world, Miss Verinder—on a very small scale—against anything that is new.'"

These quotations are from a conversation between Ezra Jennings and Rachel Verinder in the Fourth Narrative of the Second Period. Rachel questions Jennings about the reticence of the household staff, Mr. Bruff, and others, toward him. Jennings's reply gestures immediately to his role as imaginative experimenter—the other, more "English," characters are resistant to new, seemingly mystical (until proven), ideas in science. Rachel, however, also seems to be asking to the reaction of others to Jennings's strange appearance. Jennings's reply thus speaks also to the fear of anything that is different from the status quo, such as people of other colors, appearances, religions, or races.

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