Does The Moonstone Need a Detective to Solve the Case?

“Whether the investigation is conducted by police or private detectives, its sheer intrusiveness posits a world whose normality has been hitherto defined as a matter of not needing the police or policelike detectives.”

On page 3 of Miller’s article “The Novel and the Police”, Miller notes how the presence of police or private detectives in an investigation assumes a “world whose normality has been hitherto defined as a matter of not needing the police or policelike detectives” (Miller 3). I thought this quote was useful in reading Collin’s The Moonstone, as the predominant detective figure Sergeant Cuff, is dismissed from the case earlier in the novel by Rachel’s mother Lady Julia after Cuff suggested that Rachel was hiding something and still has possession of the stone. Although Rachel herself did not have the stone, Cuff was correct in his assumption that Rachel was withholding information about the case. Later in the story during Jennings’s narrative, Cuff returns to help with the reenactment of Franklin under the influence of opium the night of the moonstone’s disappearance. On the 20th of June during his narrative, Jennings says “I also suggested inviting the Sergeant to be present at the experiment…he would be a valuable witness to have, in any case; and, if I proved to be wrong in believing the Diamond to be hidden in Mr. Blake’s room, his advice might be of great importance” (Collins 407). This quote was interesting to me because Jennings has made great progress on the case since Cuff was dismissed earlier on by Julia. By himself, Jennings drew the connection of the possibility of Franklin being under the influence of opium during the disappearance of the stone. Jennings draws on his own personal experience and knowledge of opium and its effects and assumes that Franklin could have very well stolen the moonstone without knowing it. However, despite this observation that arguably only an opium addict like Jennings could make, Collins makes it clear that Jennings wants Cuff to help during the recreation of the night. Jennings says that Cuff “is a valuable witness to have in any case”, suggesting that all cases should have a detective or “policelike” figure (407).  The previous quote from Miller’s article is interesting to look at this dynamic between Cuff leaving and returning to help with the case, as the re-emergence of Cuff proves to be helpful but also doesn’t seem necessary at the time, given the progress made in the case during his absence. By Jennings emphasizing the importance of the presence of Cuff during the investigation, it places the detective figure as a necessary asset when trying to uncover the truth and begs the question if detectives are actually needed.

2 thoughts on “Does The Moonstone Need a Detective to Solve the Case?”

  1. To jump off of your question of whether this case actually needed a detective to solve it, I think it was purely jumpstarted by him, but manifested as a social domestic intrigue above all else. This narrative is most profoundly interested in who gets to desire and in what ways, and it more invested in policing social boundaries at the domestic level than in the formally executed detective narrative. Taken at this level, it could serve as an interesting sociological investigation, but the formal aspect of the involvement of the detective functions more as a plot device to move the social drama along than show us the way that the police system works.

  2. I think this is a great question to pose with detective works like The Moonstone. I wonder why we as a society are so obsessed with media in which the local police are useless compared to the more average people who end up solving the case. Protagonists like the mystery gang from Scooby Doo, Sherlock Holmes, etc all contribute to a seemingly unconventional method of crime solving. Perhaps it relates somehow to Betteredge’s “detective fever,” where we as normal audience members want to solve the case alongside the characters of a piece of media. Crime solvers who are not associated with law or the government might be our way of inserting ourselves more easily into the story in order to try solving a case, although without the obnoxious interjections of Betteredge.

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