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Themes

Because The Moonstone is composed of a series of first-person narratives, supposedly written by the characters themselves, there are frequent remarks about the act of writing. What should be included? What should be left out? What is the narrator's responsibility to the reader? The various narrators all address these questions to some extent. The narrators' own reading habits also give us hints as to their reliability as writers: Gabriel Betteredge, for example, reads Robinson Crusoe, whereas Miss Clack reads trite, hackneyed religious tracts.

Questions About Literature and Writing

  1. Which narrator seems to be the most reliable, and why?
  2. What does a character's reading habits reveal about his or her personality? You might consider Ezra Jennings' medical books, Franklin Blake's French novels, Gabriel Betteredge's Robinson Crusoe, or Miss Clack's religious tracts.
  3. Does the novel make a distinction between reading for instruction and reading for amusement? What is it and for which characters is this distinction important?
  4. Miss Clack describes Mr. Bruff as "equally capable of reading a novel or of tearing up a tract." What does Collins seem to want to suggest about Bruff's character from this statement? About Miss Clack's?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Miss Clack insistently reads only texts that offer trite and reductive interpretations of the Bible; her refusal to engage directly with primary texts and her open disapproval of those who do suggest her close-mindedness.

Characters who read fiction are consistently portrayed as more critical, observant, and sympathetic than those who do not – hardly surprising, of course, given that Collins was a professional novelist!

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