The Moonstone

Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

full title  The Moonstone: A Romance

author  Wilkie Collins

type of work  Novel

genre  Victorian novel; sensation novel; detective novel

language  English

time and place written  1864–1867; London

date of first publication  1868

publisher All the Year Round (England), Harper's Weekly (USA)

narrator The Moonstone features eleven different narrators: an unnamed cousin of John Herncastle; Gabriel Betteredge (steward to Lady Verinder); Miss Clack (Lady Verinder's niece); Mr. Bruff (Lady Verinder's lawyer); Franklin Blake (Lady Verinder's nephew); Ezra Jennings (assistant to Dr. Candy); Sergeant Cuff; Dr. Candy; Sergeant Cuff's investigator; the Captain of the steamboat Bewley Castle; Mr. Murthwaite (traveler to India). Gabriel Betteredge and Franklin Blake narrate more than two sections each. Everyone else narrates one section.

point of view  The point of view is first person, according to whoever is narrating. Franklin Blake has solicited all of the characters' first-person narrations and acts as editor. He occasionally steps into a narrative with a footnote to offer a different viewpoint.

tone  The tone differs according to narrator. Betteredge's narrative has a tone of provincial good humor. Miss Clack's has a tone of self-righteous piety. The tone of the remaining narrators is mainly journalistic.

tense  Franklin Blake begins to solicit the narratives in May of 1850, so the narrators are writing in 1850 of events that took place in 1848 or 1849. Their narratives are largely in the past tense, slipping into the present tense to describe current interactions with Franklin as editor.

setting (time)  June 1848–November 1850

setting (place)  Yorkshire; London; India

protagonist  Franklin Blake or Rachel Verinder

major conflict  The Moonstone is stolen from Rachel Verinder's bedroom. Rachel eventually reveals that she saw the man she loves—Franklin Blake—steal it, but Franklin has no memory of taking the diamond.

rising action  Sergeant Cuff is called in to investigate the stolen Moonstone, but his suspicions are disproved and he is dismissed from the case. Rosanna Spearman, a suspicious housemaid in Lady Verinder's house, commits suicide and seems to have hid a package.

climax  Ezra Jennings correctly guesses that Franklin was under the influence of opium when he took the diamond. Godfrey Ablewhite is revealed to have taken the diamond from Franklin and to have pawned it. Godfrey is killed by the Indians, who then take the diamond.

falling action  Franklin and Rachel are married. The Indians return the diamond to its proper place in the forehead of a Hindu idol in India.

themes  Subjective experience versus objective knowledge; the disparity between different systems of value; the nobility of self-sacrifice; The unwelcome return of the past

motifs  Editorial presence; outcast counterparts; skepticism and mysticism; addiction

symbols  The Moonstone; Robinson Crusoe; Godfrey's disguise

foreshadowing  Rosanna Spearman's death is foreshadowed in the conversation between Betteredge and Rosanna in Chapter IV of the First Period. The discovery of the non-criminal nature of the diamond theft is foreshadowed in Sergeant Cuff's comment of Chapter XII: "Nobody has stolen the diamond.