by Wilkie Collins
The Moonstone Theme of Foreignness and 'the Other'
The diamond Moonstone is from India, and the main characters suspect throughout that the three Indians who appeared at the Verinders' country house are somehow involved in the diamond's disappearance. Franklin Blake was educated in a foreign country, and Betteredge doesn't trust the "foreign sides" to his character. Ezra Jennings, the doctor's assistant, is only half English – and so many characters do not trust him. Being non-English, in the world of The Moonstone, is enough to make you a suspicious character.
Questions About Foreignness and 'the Other'
- Which characters are associated with foreignness, and how is that foreignness portrayed?
- Compare the foreign characteristics of Franklin Blake, Mr. Murthwaite, and Ezra Jennings. Which are presented in the most positive light, and why?
- Why does Ablewhite disguise himself as an Indian sailor at the end of the novel?
- The novel begins with an account of the theft of the Moonstone in India, and closes with an almost ethnographic or anthropological description of the Moonstone's return to its place in India from the point of view of Mr. Murthwaite. What do these framing chapters suggest about the place of foreignness in the world of the novel?
Chew on This
Although both Mr. Murthwaite and Godfrey Ablewhite are able to disguise themselves effectively as Indian, none of the Indian characters are able to disguise themselves effectively as English. To be non-English, in the world of The Moonstone, seems to be an indelible mark on one's person.
Betteredge personifies the Moonstone when he says that their "English house" had been "suddenly invaded by a devilish Indian Diamond" (18.104.22.168), suggesting that the diamond itself represents the invasion of foreignness into England.