Literature Study GuidesThe MoonstoneFirst Period Chapters 17 18 Summary

The Moonstone | Study Guide

Wilkie Collins

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The Moonstone | First Period, Chapters 17–18 : The Loss of the Diamond (1848) | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 17

Sergeant Cuff, Gabriel Betteredge, and Franklin Blake walk in the garden. They notice Penelope Betteredge and Rosanna Spearman walking as well. Blake pretends not to see Rosanna and answers Cuff's question, "I take no interest whatever in Rosanna Spearman." Rosanna overhears and leaves with Penelope. Cuff leaves for Frizinghall to speak to the Indians.

Blake tells Betteredge that he knew he spoke harshly, but he did it to protect Rosanna from Cuff's inquiries. He asks Betteredge to speak to Rosanna on his behalf, but Rosanna refuses to speak to anyone except Blake.

Chapter 18

Cuff tells Betteredge the Indians are innocent of the theft, but they are definitely after the Diamond. While in Frizinghall, he also discovered Rosanna bought enough high-quality fabric to make a nightgown.

The carriage for Rachel arrives. Cuff arranges for one of his men to follow Rachel. Cuff believes Rachel is traveling with the Moonstone, but he chooses to focus on Rosanna Spearman. A kitchen maid saw Rosanna leave for Frizinghall with a letter. She then gave it to the butcher's man to mail. Cuff plans to go to Frizinghall to get a look at the letter.

Analysis

While Franklin Blake's words and actions seem to be another throwaway scene in Chapter 17, they are incredibly important, not just for Rosanna Spearman, but for the mystery of the Moonstone as well. It is an instance of sowing clues and enabling misunderstandings to affect the narrative. The narrative structure of The Moonstone ensures readers get only part of the story, keeping readers in the dark along with the narrators themselves. If only Rosanna had spoken with Blake, the mystery would have been solved relatively quickly. But because none of the narrating characters knows everything, readers remain just as limited and just as befuddled by the mystery.

Cuff chooses to keep the focus of his investigation on Rosanna in part because she has fewer societal protections: Lady Julia Verinder, Rachel Verinder, Betteredge, and Blake have all formed ranks to protect Rachel. Rosanna is afforded no such protection; she cannot stay with relatives to escape him as Rachel does.

Cuff cannot ask to search the carriage in Chapter 18, even if he thinks she is traveling with the Moonstone. The social hierarchy in play makes it nearly impossible; those with social status enjoy a level of immunity. Cuff has already alienated Lady Verinder and runs the risk of being sent away entirely if he continues this line of inquiry.

Though Cuff remains sympathetic to Rosanna's plight, he is determined to solve the mystery of the Moonstone. By following Rosanna in the hopes of catching her with the paint-smeared nightgown, he hopes to force her hand in giving up her collusion with Rachel. He has already admitted he believes Rachel took the Moonstone herself. If he can get Rosanna to turn on her and admit she is working under Rachel's orders, he will have solved the mystery despite everyone's interference. Cuff is working outside the social norms—another trope common to detective fiction.

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