Literature Study GuidesThe MoonstoneSecond Period First Narrative Chapters 1 2 Summary

The Moonstone | Study Guide

Wilkie Collins

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The Moonstone | Second Period, First Narrative, Chapters 1–2 : The Discovery of the Truth (1848–1849) | Summary

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Summary

First Narrative, Chapter 1

The second section of the novel is subtitled "The events related in several narratives"; it comprises eight narratives told through the perspectives of seven characters; some of these narratives are further divided into chapters.

The First Narrative is subtitled "Contributed by Miss Clack; niece of the late Sir John Verinder." The most notable characteristics of Miss Drusilla Clack's narrative are her forays into moralizing and her haranguing attempts to convert her relatives to her belief in Christ—her Truth. She is currently in France and writes her account at the behest of Franklin Blake who has asked her to write down the events she witnessed while in London during the weeks following the theft of the Moonstone.

Miss Clack's first visit to the Verinders in London is on Monday, July 3, 1848; she is invited to lunch the following day. Then Miss Clack attends a meeting of the Select Committee of the Mothers'-Small-Clothes-Conversion-Society, a Christian charity. Godfrey Ablewhite is on the charity's board. Miss Clack wonders at his absence from their meeting and is informed by the other women present that Ablewhite, along with another gentleman, Septimus Luker, had been attacked the previous Friday (June 30).

Ablewhite had gone to a house on Northumberland Street, where he was bound, blindfolded, and gagged; his pockets were searched. He was found by the landlady a short time later. She and her husband had rented the apartment to a gentleman who was working on behalf of three Indian noblemen.

On the same day, the moneylender Septimus Luker was also duped and attacked in a similar manner at a different location. In Luker's case the men stole a receipt for a valuable item deposited at the bank. Luker returned to the bank and found everything as it should be.

The police concluded the attackers were after the receipt and that the attack on Ablewhite was only because of his random meeting with Luker at the bank's doors. They deemed the robberies planned, but the thieves had insufficient information.

The next day Miss Clack arrives for lunch with Lady Julia Verinder and Rachel Verinder. She notices Rachel's strange behavior. When Rachel leaves the room, Lady Verinder shares with Miss Clack the story of the missing Moonstone. Miss Clack warns Lady Verinder that, after observing Rachel for some time, she thinks Rachel is keeping a secret. Godfrey Ablewhite arrives for a visit, interrupting their conversation.

First Narrative, Chapter 2

Lady Verinder sends a servant to fetch Rachel. Rachel arrives and asks Ablewhite to tell her of the attack, wishing Luker were with him to hear his account as well. When Ablewhite hesitates, Rachel pushes him to speak. Miss Clack is shocked by Rachel's manner of speech and dress.

Rachel continues to press Ablewhite, claiming to know that there is more going on than he told the newspapers. She questions him about knowing Luker, and about the receipt that was stolen. Ablewhite evades neatly. When Rachel brings up the rumors that surround both Luker and Ablewhite, he responds, "Scandal says that the Moonstone is in pledge to Mr. Luker, and that I am the man who has pawned it."

Rachel grows upset. She responds that she knows Ablewhite is innocent and will set the situation right. While this is going on, Lady Verinder feels faint and asks Miss Clack to help her with her medication so Rachel doesn't see.

Rachel insists she knows who took the Moonstone and writes a declaration to give to Ablewhite. He takes the page on the condition they never speak of it again. While Lady Verinder recovers, several women arrive to take Rachel to the flower show.

Once Rachel departs, Ablewhite burns the paper and asks everyone to keep silent on the matter. He does not want Rachel's reputation tarnished further by gossip. He leaves. Lady Verinder asks Miss Clack to wait with her until her lawyer, Mr. Mathew Bruff, arrives to witness her will.

Analysis

Miss Drusilla Clack is not meant to be viewed as a reliable narrator about anything other than the dates and locations she mentions in her chapters. She is a satirical portrayal of an upright Christian woman. Her flaws and mannerisms are exaggerated for humorous effect. She is hypocritical, often using pious words to inflate herself while criticizing others—especially Rachel Verinder. Franklin Blake, as editor, includes a footnote implying Rachel is willing to allow Miss Clack's commentary because of its "unquestionable value as an instrument for the exhibition of Miss Clack's character."

Blake is much more present as a narrator in this section, thus showing how untrustworthy Miss Clack's view is of the situations she describes. She worries he will cut out portions of her narrative that he doesn't find agreeable, but he assures her this is not the case. Her paranoia (and secret delight) of persecution for her beliefs are clear; something that becomes a motif throughout her narrative.

Her decision to write her version of events is influenced by her financial situation, though she will not admit to it. Hints of her impoverished state are sprinkled liberally throughout her narrative. Her pious words are often in direct opposition to her actions and thoughts revealed during her narration. Even without Blake's more liberal editorial presence, readers would still realize she is unreliable, and her account of things is colored by her own particular prejudice.

Wilkie Collins uses this narrative subjectivity to great effect here; such subjectivity is a staple of detective fiction. The full or objective narrative is never revealed, nor is every character's point of view. But readers get enough—both of the narrator and the characters they write about—to draw their own conclusions. For example, Betteredge thought Godfrey Ablewhite a perfect gentleman for Rachel. Penelope Betteredge's own words show he is not the best judge of what Rachel prefers. Likewise, Miss Clack speaks of the man in glowing terms, but readers are already distrustful of her opinions before they finish reading her first chapter.

Ablewhite's hypocrisy becomes entwined with hers because of her proximity to him. He also couches his deeds in pious language, seeking to elevate himself, much like Miss Clack does. Before his account of the attack in Chapter 2, he says, "What have I done to deserve this sympathy? I have only been blindfolded; I have only been strangled; I have only been thrown flat on my back," as a way of downplaying his heroics. Ablewhite is a master of the "humblebrag."

As such, though Miss Clack wishes to make readers suspicious of Rachel and admiring of Ablewhite, she ends up undercutting her own goal. Collins's use of satire turns Rachel, who is a cipher at best in the previous section and unsympathetic at worst, into an interesting, and even nobly sympathetic, character.

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