Literature Study GuidesThe MoonstoneFirst Period Chapters 3 4 Summary

The Moonstone | Study Guide

Wilkie Collins

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The Moonstone | First Period, Chapters 3–4 : The Loss of the Diamond (1848) | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 3

On the morning of May 28, 1848, Lady Julia Verinder tells Gabriel Betteredge her nephew, Franklin Blake, is coming for a visit the following day. The occasion is her daughter Rachel's birthday. Because of Blake's studies abroad, Betteredge hasn't seen the young man since he was a child.

On the day of Blake's arrival, three Indians and a young English boy arrive at Lady Verinder's house offering to perform for them. Betteredge turns them away. Shortly thereafter, Penelope Betteredge hurries in, claiming the Indians mean harm to Franklin Blake. Betteredge dismisses Penelope's concerns. She insists her father ask Blake what the Indians might want with him. He agrees.

Chapter 4

After Betteredge's apologies for the rambling nature of his narration, he mentions the kitchen maid, Nancy, has been searching for Rosanna Spearman. Rosanna is relatively new to the household. Betteredge considers her a good worker and a friend to Penelope but notes she has made few other friends among the staff. He blames her elevated bearing for the rift, saying she has a "dash of something that wasn't a housemaid, and that WAS like a lady."

Lady Verinder hired Rosanna from a reformatory. Rosanna had been a thief before being sent to the reformatory; she has been in Lady Verinder's employ for four months. Only Betteredge and Verinder know of her shady past.

He finds Rosanna at the Shivering Sand, a patch of quicksand near the shore. It is Rosanna's favorite haunt. Betteredge finds her crying near the Sand, thinking of her past: "The stain is taken off ... But the place shows." She says she is drawn to this depressing place because it feels like her "grave is waiting" there. Betteredge attempts to comfort the girl, but before he can do much, Mr. Franklin Blake arrives. Rosanna undergoes a surprising change to her usual demeanor and runs off.

Analysis

Gabriel Betteredge is a skeptic. He is also the lens by which the fantastic events are viewed. When Penelope Betteredge tells him of the Indians and their strange conversation, he dismisses her talk as simple gossip. He is the grounded voice of reason when the fantastical elements of the case of the Moonstone begin to reveal themselves.

The Shivering Sand is as much a character as a literary device. Betteredge and Franklin Blake both describe it as having a face: "the broad brown face of the quicksand began to dimple and quiver—the only moving thing in all the horrid place." It is a malevolent presence in the Yorkshire chapters of the book. Rosanna Spearman's comment about her grave waiting for her foreshadows the part they will play in her future and in the Moonstone's disappearance.

Rosanna is an outsider within the Verinder household. She's a former thief with a deformed shoulder. Nonetheless, she has a kind of nobility that elevates her from mere servant. There is a duality to Rosanna Spearman that dovetails with the theme of perception and actuality. She functions as a foil—a character who provides a contrast—to Rachel Verinder.

Rosanna also introduces the idea of being pursued or haunted by the past. When she and Betteredge are at the Shivering Sand, she mentions that the stain of her past deeds haunts her no matter what she does. She's not the only character haunted by past misdeeds. John Herncastle's theft of the Moonstone follows him in the form of the three Indians hunting the stone. He's shunned by his family for the events that transpired in India; an outcast to those who knew him. The Diamond is the physical sign of his guilt.

The Moonstone is detective fiction that contains elements of the sensational, especially in the curse of the Moonstone and the mysticism surrounding the three Indians. They appear at Lady Julia Verinder's house, pretending to be magicians in the hopes of securing the Diamond. They attempt "magic" to try to determine when he will arrive. All these elements add to the fantastical nature of the narrative, while at the same time they throw readers off the scent of the real perpetrator. Wilkie Collins creates a contrast between mystical Indian spiritualism and practical British realism throughout the events of The Moonstone.

A friend of Charles Dickens, Collins also wrote serialized stories. In order to keep readers interested enough to buy the next installment, writers in this genre often finished their chapters with "cliff-hangers." Chapter 4 ends with Franklin Blake arriving and Rosanna Spearman rushing away upset. Readers keep reading because they want to know why Rosanna got so flustered and if Franklin Blake was the cause of it, just as they already suspect the Indians are searching for him—now they want to know why. His appearance at the end of Chapter 4 spurs readers on to get answers from Chapter 5.

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