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?