Literature Study GuidesThe MoonstoneFirst Period Chapters 5 6 Summary

The Moonstone | Study Guide

Wilkie Collins

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The Moonstone | First Period, Chapters 5–6 : The Loss of the Diamond (1848) | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 5

Franklin Blake tells Gabriel Betteredge he believes he's been followed from London and that he traveled on an earlier train to throw off his pursuer, "a dark-looking stranger." He asks Betteredge to tell him of the three Indians who visited the house, thinking they might be connected to his pursuer. Blake believes the "it" they referred is to the Diamond he's carrying as a birthday present for Rachel, which her uncle John Herncastle bequeathed to her.

Betteredge tells Blake that Herncastle came by the Diamond through dishonorable means while in India. Upon his return to England, he was shunned by everyone in the family. He blamed the Moonstone for his wretched circumstances but still refused to part with it. Two years ago Herncastle visited Lady Julia Verinder's home, but she refused to see him. He left with, "I shall remember my niece's birthday." Herncastle died a year and half later.

Blake wonders if the Indians have followed the stolen stone from India to England and if Herncastle gave Rachel the stone as revenge for Lady Verinder's snubbing.

Chapter 6

Blake explains how he came by the Diamond. His father had sought out Herncastle's help, which Herncastle agreed to give only if Blake's father would be the executor of Herncastle's will and take the Moonstone for safekeeping.

Blake's father had agreed, thinking his strange requests were merely a sign of his opium addiction. Months passed uneventfully until the lawyer, Mr. Mathew Bruff, was called to the dying Herncastle's bedside to make his will. Herncastle willed the Diamond to his niece, Rachel.

Herncastle's will stipulated that if he died by violence, the Diamond should be shipped to Amsterdam and cut into separate stones and sold. The Moonstone would fetch more money cut up rather than in one piece. If the men after him were interested only in the money, they would have murdered him to get at the stone. However, if the men after him were the Indians who'd followed him to retrieve the gem, they would want to keep it intact, and thus would have to wait to retrieve the stone after his natural death.

Betteredge and Blake decide it is best for Blake to place the Diamond in a bank at Frizinghall for safekeeping. He departs to do so, while Betteredge returns to Lady Verinder's.

Analysis

Gabriel Betteredge's explanation of Herncastle's past shows the profound effect that past had on Herncastle. His family had shunned him because of what had happened in India, a possible aspect of the Moonstone's curse. It continued to follow him through the years, even when he visited his sister unannounced and she turned him away.

Opium use is also introduced into the narrative in Chapter 6. Wilkie Collins used opium himself and so was intimately familiar with its effects. One of the reasons Betteredge offers to explain why Herncastle was shunned is his overuse of opium. The Indians also used a strange liquid for their young boy's mysterious foretelling; while not specifically called out as opium, it is possible the boy's dreamlike state was augmented by the drug. Opium use will continue to play a part in The Moonstone, and again in the tales of another famous detective: Sherlock Holmes has his seven percent solution.

Herncastle continues the curse of the Moonstone—if such a curse exists—by willing the gem to Rachel Verinder. Whether he does this out of spite for his sister's snubbing or simply because he seeks redemption is one of the smaller mysteries in the narrative. Readers never know Herncastle's motivation, though Collins provides clues from the narrators about the likelihood of each. The ominous intonation, "I shall remember my niece's birthday," makes it seem like his actions are motivated by a need for revenge. In this way, Collins builds tension, while readers wait for the main detective story to unfold.

Franklin Blake uses a method of reasoning commonly displayed in detective fiction. He asks three questions, seeking logical meaning in their connections. He tries to look at the mystery through "subjective" versus "objective" terms. Sergeant Cuff, a precursor to the most famous of detectives in fiction, Sherlock Holmes, also employs this method. Blake draws his own conclusions about the Indians—they are indeed after the Moonstone, to return it to the statue of their god. They seek to bring it back where it belongs: back to India and out from under British rule. India was often referred to as the crown jewel of the British colonies. The Moonstone and the Brahmins might very well function as a stand-in for India itself, trying to regain its freedom from British rule.

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