In The Moonstone, I was struck by comments made by Betteredge early on about education. On page 28 (Chapter 3), Betteredge described Franklin Blake’s father and his struggle for the Dukedom. He says, “Mr. Blake discovered that the only way of being even with his country for the manner in which it had treated him, was not to let his country have the honour of educating his son” (28). Early on, this quotation introduces the idea that education and knowledge are forms of power. Countries get to assert their dominance over the next generation through the school system; it ensures that the next generation will follow the same social, moral, and political views that currently govern the country. Mr. Blake takes this power away from England by sending his son, Franklin, to school in “that superior country, Germany” (28). Education also sets up a system of hierarchy, legitimizing countries whose education is ‘superior’ and condemning others. The novel points out through the description of Franklin’s education, “he gave the French a turn next, and the Italians a turn after”, that Western countries are the only ones even allowed in this hierarchical system (29). Indian education is not present here, even as the novel centers greatly on Indian origins. As the novel takes place in England, I find it very interesting that immediately the common themes of English power and superiority are inverted through the educational system. Perhaps, this notion is meant to signify that character’s with English education will have a harder time understanding the events of this mystery, as their upbringing was not as well-rounded as Franklin Blake’s.
Betteredge inadvertently affirms the notion that there is power in knowledge frequently throughout the novel. He makes minor comments such as, “My lady, doing me the honour to consult me about most things, consulted me about Rosanna” (35). As Betteredge is lower in society than his lady, he finds his power in the knowledge and gossip that he obtains about everyone around him. He takes pleasure in being the inside man who knows everyone’s secrets. He even knows more than he tells us; he often gives the readers a brief synopsis of the story or leaves out other details entirely, proving that he has more power than we do as readers. I find it very interesting that Wilkie Collins introduces ideas about education, knowledge, and power early on in this mystery or detective fiction. Perhaps, it is a tool to play up the common tension in a mystery: no one character knows the whole story. Betteredge feels powerful knowing gossip, but does he have the full story? Conflicting notions about education could further complicate this tension if we begin to doubt whose education and understanding is reliable as we move through different characters and perspectives later on.