Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Moonstone Week 1: The Finger Pointening


For the briefest of moments, I thought Rosanna might be our Moonstone Marian. When Betteredge was explaining how really quite unattractive she is, I let myself hope. But I should have known Wilkie wasn't setting her up to be a Marian, because there was absolutely no mention of a well-formed backside. And then Marian was never this morbid.

"Something draws me to it," says the girl, making images with her finger in the sand. "I try to keep away from it, and I can't. Sometimes," says she in a low voice, as if she was frightened at her own fancy, "sometimes, Mr. Betteredge, I think that my grave is waiting for me here." . . . 
"It looks as if it had hundreds of suffocating people under it---all struggling to get to the surface, and all sinking lower and lower in the dreadful deeps! Throw a stone in, Mr. Betteredge! Throw a stone in, and let's see the sand suck it down!" (p. 50)

Look, Rosanna! A dog kissing a bunny!

But what ABOUT that Shivering Sand? There's much alluding to its potential for disposing of things, which makes me think it's only a matter of time before someone chucks something important right in there (oh PLEASE, can it please be Rachel and her stupid painted door?). But remember in The Woman in White [minor spoiler if you haven't read it] there was that murky, swampy lake where many important conversations took place and Wilkie totally convinced us someone was going to be murrrrrdered there, and then he used Fosco to MOCK us for ever being stupid enough to think that would be a good place for body-hiding? [end spoiler] So, yeah . . . all this deliberate foreshadowing gives me suspicious face.

Nice TRY, Wilkie.

Something that's really been bothering me and making it hard to side with ANY of the characters (even Betteredge in all his Robinson Crusoe-devoted, self-deprecating lovableness) is their behavior with this diamond. Pretty much everyone (except maybe Rachel) knows how Herncastle got it in the first place (thievery! and murder!), and Lady Verinder had the good sense to shut out her scandalous brother. It's no secret that he's awful (Betteredge's descriptions of him are the BEST). So now they have this cursed diamond. Franklin and Betteredge are convinced that a group of heathen Indians have given up everything and crossed oceans (just one ocean?) to retrieve it and will KILL at the drop of a turban . . . and their first idea is to send it to Amsterdam and have it cut into pieces the way Douchecastle was planning to before he decided to punish his sister with it. Why would they sink to his level? WHY NOT JUST GIVE THE DAMN THING BACK TO THE INDIANS? It belongs to them. It was stolen by an evil man. Stealing religious relics is BAD. BAD things happen to religious-relic stealers AND their accomplices.

Have the Nazis taught us NOTHING?

So the Indians as a whole have been thrice victimized here, by my count. One time when Herncastle stole the sacred stone, a second time when they sacrificed their caste to come after the diamond (allegedly), and a third time when they were falsely imprisoned under suspicion of stealing the diamond even after it was decided they couldn't possibly have done it. On the surface, they're being set up as the major villains of the story. They make somber inquiries and lie about being jugglers and skulk around in the bushes and creepily keep company with a pretty English boy.
"In the country those men come from, they care just as much about killing a man, as you care about emptying the ashes out of your pipe. If a thousand lives stood between them and the getting back of their Diamond---and if they thought they could destroy those lives without discovery---they would take them all. The sacrifice of caste is a serious thing in India , if you like. The sacrifice of life is nothing at all." (p. 96)
And who is saying this about Indian men in general? An Indian man. Seems a little reminiscent of the way Marian would make occasional pronouncements against the capabilities of womankind, no?

So I think it's possible that this is another instance of Wilkie's opinion coming through in that backwards way of his. He did it with feminine stereotypes in Woman in White, and now he seems to be doing it with xenophobia. And I LOVE this man. I love him for his tricksy brain.

I have many more opinions about this tiny section of the book, but I have to save something for our discussions, right?

34 comments:

  1. Oh DUDE, they can't give it back to the indians now that they own it! Have you never encountered the English upper-classes before? Finders keepers (inheritors-keepers?) and all that. Also, not really related but I don't think you have to cross any oceans to get from India to England- just, like the channel?


    Wilkie- he no like Xenophobia. Which is good! He made Betteredge say that he doesn't mistrust people just because they have darker skin than him too, so... YAY WILKIE!

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  2. "
    oh PLEASE, can it please be Rachel and her stupid painted door?"


    Ahahahahahahahaha


    Also I'm SO glad you mentioned the Shivering Sand (best name) and emo Rosanna. I wasn't that great about mentioning her, and she's obviously Important.


    And wait, that one dude isn't an Indian I don't think. He just speaks their language and traveled there a lot. Or are you not saying he's Indian? Also -- ROGUES AND VAGABONDS -- Mr. Betteredge, I love your words.


    Golden Girls gifs forever. I need to get some of thems.

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  3. Right, why wouldn't they just give the diamond back?? Why does it need to be cut up? And hooray for more Indiana Jones references! Wilkie was so ahead of his time. Or Indiana Jones ripped this off.

    "But I should have known Wilkie wasn't setting her up to be a Marian,
    because there was absolutely no mention of a well-formed backside" - Fact. Wilkie loves him a well-formed backside so I'm sure whatever this version of Marian will have one as well. (Please let there be a Moonstone Marian!)

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  4. LOL, very true - why does no one think to give the diamond back? Probably because they were struck up and rich and knew the diamond would make them even richer.
    Rosanna and her depressedness annoys the beejeezus out of me. If the door gets chucked in the sand I hope she goes with it.

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  5. Well then boo to your people, is what I say! Of course, I doubt you could ever pry an American's hands off a diamond that size...so we basically all blow, people in general. (Thanks for setting me straight about general geography...and now I'm embarrassed.)

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  6. Betteredge keeps referring to him as Murthwaite, the Indian traveler...and he described him as being dark...so I assumed? I don't have the book with me right now, of course, so I can't confirm any of this.

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  7. When Franklin was totally ignoring Rosanna and mooning (ha!) all over Rachel, I was like, IT'S MARIAN AND LAURA ALL OVER AGAIN. But Rosanna just isn't gonna cut it as a Marian substitute. NOT gonna.

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  8. I guess Laura has a point about the importance of inheritances and whatnot. But they don't seem to even recognize that it's crazy valuable, because the first thing Rachel does is pin it to her dress and flounce around. That's not the kind of jewel you WEAR, right? You put that sucker in a vault. Silly rich people.

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  9. "being no other than the celebrated Indian traveller, Mr. Murthwaite, who, at risk of his life, had penetrated in disguise where no European had ever set foot before."


    I get what you're saying. But I thought because of the 'in disguise' and European reference (and the fact his name's Murthwaite) that he was English.

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  10. DAMN it. Thanks for ruining my entire point with the TRUTH, Alice!

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  11. THIS IS WHY WE HAVE READALONGS


    Also I'm pretty sure I said like four wrong things on my post, but people have been nice enough not to tell me.

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  12. *Looks for all the wrong things in your post*

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  13. Oh crap. I forgot about Murthwaite. I bet he knows more about it than he's letting on. So many suspects, so little time.

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  14. I don't know. It felt more like Betteredge was pulling an "I'm not a racist, but ..." (I'm not a racist, but I kept an eye on the plate basket." But he's a product of his time, blahdyblahdyblah, so it's hard to hold against him.


    Also, the English give something back? The Empire was, among other things, about finding nice stuff and bringing it back to Civilization where it could be Properly Appreciated by the Right Sort of People :(

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  15. Wait, what? To get from India to England, don't you have to cross the Indian Ocean, then toodle up the west coast of Africa? I mean, unless you want to go overland, which I understand from my (not) vast reading was slower and more dangerous because of all the Mohammedans. Am I wrong? I'm probably wrong.

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  16. I seriously wanted someone to have drowned in that lake.

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  17. OK...I've consulted a map. *glares at Wilkie for making me consult a map* One COULD go up through Asia and over through Europe and cross the English Channel and be in England, OR one could go down through the Indian Ocean, then cut through the Red Sea, hop over some land by Israel, then go through the Mediterranean Sea and over France and through the English Channel and be in England. So we're all right, and no matter how you do it, that is a LONG-ass journey.

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  18. Look at you bein' all industrious. Or something.

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  19. I kind of hope the Indians do get the diamond back
    at the end of this. I do think they would have taken back the gem if given the opportunity (until the kid was sighted on the road, I had half thought he had been hidden in the house after the Indians left). Also, every time Collins mentions Indian jugglers I can't help thinking of the James Bond film Octopussy (though that was a Faberge egg rather than a diamond).

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  20. You've reminded me of another very minor character... which means... MURTHWAITE DID IT. In the dining room, with the wine goblet and the sneaky hand maneuvers.

    I think by the end of this readalong I will have accused EVERYONE of stealing the diamond. *eyes Alice suspiciously*

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  21. It's absolutely lovely how you've dubbed Herncastle = "Douchecastle" because seriously? Giving an innocent (though a tad bratty) girl a world of trouble via a moonstone (which isn't even the size of the moon, it's a dinky egg, and it isn't even made of moon, it's a chunk of carbon) is lame. Not cool, brah.

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  22. I AM INNOCENT


    *polishes shiny new brooch*

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  23. *points finger dramatically at Alice* *pockets diamond*

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  24. That was the biggest disappointment of the whole book.

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  25. I do wonder where the Indians will come into the rest of the story...because they seem to be mostly off the hook at this point. Run while you still can, Indians!

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  26. He seems to have some secret knowledge of the proceedings, but I don't think he had anything to do with the stealing...I don't THINK.

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  27. What about the Shivering Sand, indeed?! This was the only part I remembered about this book from when I read it before (meaning, I only remembered that there was quicksand involved and/or nearby). Something's GOTTA happen with that. Betteredge does keep saying "broad brown face" re: the Shivering Sands - tying the sands to the Indians, mayhap?


    Maybe we'll have a man-Marian this time. Maybe MURTHWAITE is The Moonstone's Marian ...

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  28. MAYBE the Indians travel by quicksand!

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  29. *puts both of you in irons and sends a telegram to Sgt. Cuff*

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  30. As for that, the bottom of page 155, ninja drawing room edition, seems apropos.

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  31. Sergeant Cuff is coming! HURRAY!

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  32. Google: making lazy people seem industrious since 1995.

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  33. VERY true. This is goes right along with the "some of my best friends are [insert minority group here]" argument. It pretty much automatically makes you look prejudiced when you even feel the need to provide a disclaimer like that. But I still love you, Betteredge...I'll always love you.

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