In this essay I will explore the relationships between male and female characters in the novel The Moonstone. This essay will evaluate all of the key characters, from the annoyingly religious Miss Clack to the caring and loving Gabriel Betteredge. I will explore the characters personality and decipher whether male or female characters have more influence in the novel.
The book is split into eight narratives written by different characters to show what each character is thinking and to give different perspectives as the events unfold. This technique also adds tension as certain secrets are hidden from individuals so not everyone knows the whole truth. Out of the eight narratives only one is written by a woman (Drusilla Clack) whilst all the others are written by male characters.
The female characters in the novel are all very atypical, as they stand up for themselves and do not just give way. This was uncommon in the Victorian era as women had few rights and were not expected to be hot tempered. Miss Rachel, a young lady born into a rich family, acts in an unlady-like manner at certain points in the story, especially when she refuses to give information on what she knows about the diamond.
Betteredge, one of the characters who knows Rachel Verinder best, said that he could Call to mind, in her childhood, more than one occasion when the good little soul took the blame, and suffered the punishment, for some fault committed by a playfellow whom she loved. This aspect of Rachels character and personality is shown many times in the novel, for instance, when she refuses to talk about the diamond for Franklin Blakes reputation would be shattered if she spoke. This gives the reader the impression that Rachel values her friends and family and she is a women of her word. This adds suspense to the novel and greatly effects the plot as if she had revealed what she knew then Franklin Blake would have been arrested and would not have had a chance of defending himself, resulting in the Moonstone never being found and Godfrey Ablewhite getting away, with no consequences.
In the book the majority of the discoveries are made by men, although this is because the female characters already knew the truth; they just hadnt revealed it. One of the cases of this happening is when Franklin Blake deciphers the code to find Rosanna Spearmens chest. This held many secrets which Rosanna had kept silent about for a long time. This effects the outcome of the novel, as since Rosanna kept quite over her love of Franklin Blake, the truth of the moonstone being revealed is delayed, giving time for the events at London to unfold.
The reader really gets the impression of Rosannas love of Mr Franklin Blake from this act, of saving his reputation, even though holding these secrets could be argued to be a massive factor of her eventual suicide. Despite this, Franklin never really notices Rosanna Spearman; this is probably due to the fact that in his eyes she is just a housemaid with a lumpy shoulder. Social class is outlined here, with the rich Franklin Blake and the poor Rosanna Spearman. The different social classes were more prominent in Victorian times and Collins also uses class in his other novels such as the woman in white, where Walter Hartright and Laura Fairlie fall in love, but due to Walters low social class, they separate.
When Rosanna dies, it could be suggested that Ezra Jennings is introduced to replace her, as these two characters are very similar in personality and are both rejected by most members of society. They are also both attracted to Mr Franklin Blake in different ways; Rosanna has an undying love for him, and Ezra asks himself What is the secret of the attraction that there is for me in this man?. Both characters also had rough upbringings, as Rosanna was a thief as a child and Ezra was beaten and was mistreated mercilessly by his family. Ezra Jennings is also addicted to Opium, as for ten years past I have suffered from an incurable internal complaint.
His addiction to the drug led to his painful and horrific nights, and Opium also destroyed his nervous system. Wilkie Collins probably introduced Ezra Jennings as a character which he could relate to, as Collins himself was addicted to Opium, which is probably why the drug plays such a significant part in the book. Collins believed he had an imaginary friend named Ghost Wilkie and often hallucinated in his sleep. His other novels have opium in them, so his way of relating to his addiction was to put it into his books. Opium plays a significant part in the book, as Ezra uses it in his experiment to discover who took the diamond. The reader feels uncertainty when the book dapples in the secret world of Opium as most readers would not have tried it and therefore do not know how powerful it is and what it can do.
Gabriel Betteredge often talks about which side of Mr Franklin Blakes character is shining through, and believes it to be due to all of Franklins foreign training (Betteredge usually relates his strict character to Franklins German side, his poeticness to his French side, and his bravery to his English side). This gives Mr Franklin Blake no distinct character. This gives you the impression that Gabriel Betteredge is very stereotypically British, supporting his country and almost believing that the English are superior to others. Godfrey Ablewhite however, has a very different character which is hidden from the public view.
He tries to get across the image of a hardworking gentleman who dedicates his life to the many womens charities he patronizes, when he is actually a man swallowed in debt and trying to rob people of their riches to pay it off. His debt was one of the key reasons why he asked to marry Rachel Verinder, as he thought that he would inherit enough money to pay off the debt; however that did not turn out to be the case. When Rachel asked for the marriage to be cancelled, Godfrey did not try to put up any resistance, as he knew that he would not receive the inheritance he had hoped for. Godfrey also gets engaged to another woman, but the marriage is broken off for similar reasons.
At the end of the book, Godfrey is in disguise as a sailor with a dark complexion when he tries to get the Moonstone from the bank. This is symbolism as it outlines the fact that he is leading a double life, and he has a dark complexion as Betteredge and Franklin immediately suspected the Indians of stealing the diamond. Their immediate suspicion of the Indians affects the plot greatly as it means that Godfrey Ablewhite has time to hide the diamond without being suspected, as all eyes were on the Indians. The view the public have of him is different to what he is actually like, and if it had not been for Mr Matthew Bruff, the marriage might not have been called off.
Miss Clack often swoons at the sight of Mr Godfrey Ablewhite; this is because she believes he is a hardworking Christian, and refers to him as gifted and wonderful. It is therefore no surprise that she is shocked when she, by chance, hears Godfreys proposal to Rachel. It is here that he admits that his, Charitable business is an unendurable nuisance and that if I see a Ladies committee now, I wish myself at the uttermost ends of the earth. Miss Clack is highly offended by this, as she is a member of The Mothers Small Clothes Conversion Society, but she dismisses this out of hand as being a slip of the tongue in the heat of the moment. Miss Clacks personality is very different to the other female characters in the book, as she is a character of a certain type of hypocrite.
She never leaves without her Christian pamphlets and she often tries to spread her faith through these tracts. She may be doing this to turn more people Christian, or she may just be doing this as it is in her sphere of power and it makes her feel as though she has more influence on society. A perfect example of Miss Clacks character is when she visits Lady Verinder and Rachel, but upon realising that Lady Verinders doctor is trying to use medication to treat Lady Verinder instead of praying to god and waiting for him to perform a miracle, she spreads religious books of her choice around the Verinders house. She believes that this act did not make her a nuisance, but instead, a True Christian. Miss Clack has a very different opinion of herself compared to what other people think of her.
Even the kind and loving Gabriel Betteredge, who has a good word to say about almost everyone, does not take well to Miss Clack. Before handing over the job of narrating to her, he asks the reader to Just do me the favour of not believing a word she says, if she speaks of your humble servant. This shows that she is believed to not be a teller of truths, and Betteredge is pre-warning the reader of what to prepare for. We believe what Betteredge says and not Miss Clack as he has shown himself to be an honourable character, worthy of the readers trust. Our decision to believe him and not Miss Clack is also influenced by other characters, as Franklin Blake often refers to him as a dear old friend, so others characters have respect for him as well.
In the story, female characters do not reveal what they know straight away. This adds suspense to the story, as you have to wait a long time for the secret which will put together a new piece of the puzzle. A good example of this is Rosannas letter to Mr Franklin Blake, explaining where the chest is hidden, and inside the chest is Rosannas narrative which explains events before and after Rachel Verinders 18th birthday party leading up to Rosannas suicide told through her point of view.
The letters opening is delayed however, as Limping Lucy refuses to give it to anyone other than Franklin Blake himself. This lets the events at London unfold, and the case of the Moonstone is put on hold for a short period. Limping Lucy is Rosanna Spearmans only friend, and was understandably angry at Franklin as she believed that he forced Rosanna into suicide. Limping Lucy has a severe limp in her left foot, and this may be one of the reasons why she and Rosanna are so good friends, as they both have physical deformities and are rejected by most members of society.
I believe that female characters have more influence on the plot of the novel due to their actions which are gradually revealed to the reader. Superficially, male characters seem to have a larger role in the discovery of the secrets behind the moonstone but this is because they are only just digging in to what the female characters already know. The fact that male characters have almost all of the narrations add to the secrecy of the novel and also reinforces the point of male character seemingly having more influence and control of the plot, when all they are doing is discovering what is beneath the surface of an apparently settled world in the novel.