by Wilkie Collins
The Moonstone Theme of Society and Class
Some of the main characters of The Moonstone, including the first narrator, Gabriel Betteredge, are servants. This is really unusual for a Victorian novel. In most novels of this time period, servants exist almost as props – they're background characters, and that's it. But in The Moonstone, they are not only important to the story, they actually speak up and talk about their social position. Betteredge and Rosanna Spearman both make some very politically charged comments about social class and the position of servants.
Questions About Society and Class
- To what extent is a character's social class an accurate predictor of his or her fate in this novel?
- Rosanna's father, she tells Franklin in her letter, was a "gentleman." This suggests that her father was a member of the upper class, and that he seduced and abandoned her mother. Why might Rosanna reveal this detail of her past to Franklin?
- Gabriel Betteredge complains that the upper class gets into trouble because they don't have a steady job to keep them occupied. What does he mean by this? Why might he make this argument? What does this reveal about his character?
Chew on This
The Moonstone is unique not just because some of the main characters are servants, but because those characters are portrayed sympathetically.
Wilkie Collins actually makes a profound political commentary through the narration of Gabriel Betteredge, who criticizes the tendency of the wealthy to create messy, pointless hobbies to fill the void left by their lack of productive labor.