Study Guide

The Moonstone Gender

By Wilkie Collins

Gender

And what did Selina say? Lord! how little you must know of women, if you ask that. Of course she said, Yes. (1.1.2.8)

Betteredge has a habit of using his late wife as a stand-in for all women. Whenever he wants to make a generalization about women, he refers to something his wife said or did to prove his point. Here, he says that if you "know [anything] of women," you must know that Selina said "yes" when he proposed to her.

That Mr Franklin was in love, on his side, nobody who saw and heard him could doubt. The difficulty was to fathom Miss Rachel. Let me do myself the honour of making you acquainted with her; after which, I will leave you to fathom her yourself—if you can. (1.1.8.16)

Rachel is one of the many exceptions to Betteredge's generalizations about women. Rachel is a mystery – she has hidden depths to her personality that are difficult to "fathom" or understand.

If you happen to like dark women (who, I am informed, have gone out of fashion latterly in the gay world), and if you have no particular prejudice in favour of size, I answer for Miss Rachel as one of the prettiest girls your eyes ever looked on. (1.1.8.17)

Rachel is a petite brunette. She's pretty, but Betteredge acknowledges that common "fashion" is more in favor of tall, blonde women.

And what about her disposition next? Had this charming creature no faults? She had just as many faults as you have, ma'am—neither more nor less. (1.1.8.18)

Once again, Betteredge appeals to generalizations in order to make a point about an individual woman. This time, though, it's a little different – he asks the reader (whom he assumes is a woman, because he calls her "ma'am") how many faults she has. Rachel, he says, is no different from your average woman. She's not perfect.

She was unlike most other girls of her age, in this—that she had ideas of her own, and was stiff-necked enough to set the fashions themselves at defiance, if the fashions didn't suit her views. (1.1.8.19)

Again, Betteredge describes Rachel by saying how different she is from the norm. She's "unlike most other girls of her age."

She judged for herself, as few women of twice her age judge in general; never asked your advice; never told you beforehand what she was going to do; never came with secrets and confidences to anybody, from her mother downwards. (1.1.8.19)

Rachel's not just different from girls of her own age; she's compared to "women of twice of age."

'When there's a mess of any kind in a house, sir, the women-servants like to look at the gloomy side—it gives the poor wretches a kind of importance in their own eyes. If there's anybody ill, trust the women for prophesying that the person will die. If it's a jewel lost, trust them for prophesying that it will never be found again.' (1.1.11.99)

Betteredge makes yet another generalization about women. (This time, though, it's to reassure Franklin Blake that Rosanna doesn't really know anything about who stole the Moonstone.) Betteredge says that all women – and especially the "women-servants" – like to be pessimistic because it makes them feel important.

'How do you explain Rachel's conduct, Betteredge?' (1.1.22.12)

Franklin Blake has no idea why Rachel is treating him like crap, so he appeals to Betteredge, who, after all, is the resident expert on What All Women Are Like.

'Is it conceivable that a man can have smoked as long as I have, without discovering that there is a complete system for the treatment of women at the bottom of his cigar case? Follow me carefully, and I will prove it in two words. You choose a cigar, you try it, and it disappoints you. What do you do upon that? You throw it away and try another. Now observe the application! You choose a woman, you try her, and she breaks your heart. Fool! take a lesson from your cigar-case. Throw her away, and try another!' (1.1.22.14)

Franklin Blake comes up with his own solution for being treated badly by Rachel. He compares women to "cigars," and says that when a woman disappoints you, you should treat her like you'd treat a disappointing cigar: "throw her away and try another."

'Physiology says, and says truly, that some men are born with female constitutions—and I am one of them!' (2.3.9.33)

This is a perplexing comment by Ezra Jennings, the doctor's assistant. He feels like he needs to give a medical excuse for crying with relief when his only friend, Mr. Candy, recovers from his life-threatening illness. His excuse is that he was "born with a female constitution," which makes him more prone to tears. We're not medical experts, but we're pretty sure that's bogus.