A Study in Gabriel Betteredge

In The Moonstone, Betteredge tries to assert his importance in the discovery of the gem. On the arrival of the esteemed detective who promised to uncover the mystery, Betteredge immediately establishes his authority over the house to him in an attempt to include himself in the investigation (Collins 107). In other ways, Betteredge serves as one of the main narrators of the story and takes pride in his breadth of knowledge on the subject. For this reason, he believes he is qualified for the Sergeant to “speak to [him] about the business on which [his] lady was to employ him”, though is disappointed when the sergeant reveals “not a word” about it (Collins 107). Though Betteredge acts as Sergeant Cuff’s main informant of crucial information about the operations and personal lives of the tenants, such as his recommendation of questioning Mrs. Yolland about the whereabouts of Rosanna Spearman, Betteredge still maintains some frustration not participating as a leading proponent of the Moonstone discovery. In other attempts to insert himself, he references the predictive qualities and the advice of his trusted Robinson Crusoe. Reading Betteredge’s assertion of his value in the discovery of the Moonstone, I related him to Sherlock Holmes when reading A Study in Scarlet

Holmes shares Betteredge shares similar arrogance in relation to the cases he investigates, though he is backed with the experience of a skilled and successful detective. In this version, a continuation of Betteredge’s character, Holmes has his own particular way of collecting clues, such as jumping on the back of a cabman’s carriage to chase after his suspect. As well, his peers and those he questions throughout his investigation are often in awe of his ability to discover such explicitly accurate information, such as when he tells Dr. Watson he knew that he came from Afghanistan from a “train of thought that did not occupy a second” (Conan Doyle 22). To this Dr. Watson is astonished and further admires the detective prowess that Holmes maintains that he did not believe possible to “exist outside of stories” (Conan Doyle 22). Holmes’ character is how Betteredge attempts to be perceived by Sergeant Cuff.

O Moonstone! My Moonstone!

In chapter 9 of Moonstone, when the family sees the Moonstone for the first time the scene insinuates a higher, potentially religious, power associated with the stone. In its physical likeness, the stone is compared to the “harvest moon” from the “light that streamed from it” (74). Additionally, Betteredge details “when you looked down into the stone, you looked into a yellow deep that drew your eyes into it so that they saw nothing else” (74). In this way, the stone is compared with the “heavens themselves” and its being tangible was so “unfathomable” to the onlooker that could barely comprehend its presence (74). The family also sets the stone in the darkness, to which they discover it “shone awfully out of its own brightness, with a moony gleam, in the dark”, another fantastical element to the stone’s description that suggests its containment of some type of magical property that allows it to glow in the dark (74).

Aside from the physical descriptions of the stone, the family’s reactions to its glowing beauty are portrayed in emotions and actions of awe, emulating religious stories of being in the presence of God. Betteredge bursts out an “O” himself and Miss Rachel is enamored with the stone (74). Even Mr. Godfrey, who, although is the only one “who kept his senses”, wraps his arm around his sisters’ waists “looking compassionately backwards and forwards between the Diamond and me” (74). The family gawks at the stone in such a way that is similar to that of biblical descriptions of when God reveals himself to his followers through objects, like the burning bush. In this passage, the Moonstone is held with such high regard it sets a contrast between Betteredge’s later description of the stone and its effect on the family upon its being lost. 

As the novel progresses, this passage sets the tone of the family’s interaction with the stone. In their first encounter, it seems they become obsessed with the stone. Although this is not explicitly described, the fantastical tone upon their first sight of it suggests the fascination and obsession with the stone that begins to tear at the bonds of the house upon its going missing. Later in the novel, when the stone is discovered to have gone missing, Betteredge blames the stone for creating a deep negative energy in the house that causes Rachel to shut herself off from everyone, his lady to be in constant distress, Penelope to be on edge and defensive against accusations made of her, and insults the servants to being the subject of repeated searches. Betteredge and the family’s love for the stone turn the household cold and tense, despite initial descriptions of the warm, yellow, “light of the harvest moon” radiating from the stone (74).

Poor Pip

By the end of chapter 8, the poor, “low-lived” boy can finally process the strange situation his sister has thrown him into at Miss Havisham’s (65). This passage concludes Pip’s visit to Miss Havisham’s, a strange woman who he had never met, but was demanded to meet by his sister and uncle. The reprimands Pip receives throughout the chapter, from Mr. Pumblechook, Miss Havisham, and Estella are instilled in his mind by the time he leaves the property. The internal monologue of Pip’s thoughts reveals the impressionability of a young mind to constant verbal reprimands and insults. The novel characterizes a realistic representation of the mindset of a kid. 

This passage illuminates the characterization of the novel’s narrator, a young, eight-year-old boy. The chapter to which this passage follows tells of Pip being given vague orders by his sister and uncle to “play” with a woman whom he had never met before. Pip spends the night at his uncle’s, where he is forced to perform math problems on the spot one after the other and reprimanded for his struggle with multiplication. He was given no further instruction other than a single word. He was then brought to the home, where his uncle was turned away from entering, leaving Pip to enter the unknown place alone. The boy was greeted by a rude girl, Estella, who calls him a “common labouring-boy” and begrudgingly brings him to the subject of his visit (60). Miss Havisham is stern with Pip, calling the boy “sullen and obstinate” when he is hesitant to follow her orders out of confusion, but begs her to not complain in fear of getting in trouble with his sister (58-59). Upon his exit from the home, he is once again insulted during his escort out of the courtyard by Estella, who laughs as he begins to tear up on his walk back to his uncle’s. 

The novel is told through the eyes of the young Pip, and this passage exemplifies the thoughts and reactions of a young boy to such an intense and hostile situation. As he walks from the house, he does not dwell on the confusing events that transpired that day. His inner thoughts do not recount the strangeness of his encounters, but rather focus on the hurtful comments the adults and the girl make about his character and appearance. As he walks back home, Pip repeats to himself the insults to his clothes, his intelligence, and even the texture of his hands which take a distinct blow to his confidence, and feels “much more ignorant than [he] had considered [him]self” (65). 

The insulting comments hurled at him by adults and other older characters are met without backtalk from him, but he dwells on them later discontentedly. Pip’s fixation on the comments made to him highlights the abuse inflicted on him throughout the novel that he is desensitized to. This passage is an explicit point of view of the young narrator’s reaction to his surroundings, shaping the events at the beginning of the novel in the eyes of an eight-year-old in a constant environment of abuse.


Catherine and Her Soul

The chastisement against Catherine is present throughout the novel but begins with her father, Earnshaw. The father compares Cathy to her brother, saying that because she is worse behaved than him her father cannot love her, “‘Nay, Cathy,’ the old man would say, ‘I cannot love thee, thou’rt worse than thy brother. Go, say thy prayers, child, and ask God’s pardon. I doubt thy mother and I must rue that we ever reared thee!’” (43). This reveals Earnshaw instructs Catherine to be better behaved than her brother in order to receive his approval; thus Catherine is set to the expectation of better behavior than her brother while he, in general, gets to roam free. Dean also comments on Catherine’s “tongue always going—singing, laughing, and plaguing everybody who would not do the same”, indicating the family’s displeasure and chastising of Catherine when she speaks (42). 

While the family is not fond of Catherine when she runs her mouth, Catherine is not fond of Isabella. She speaks about how she treats Isabella, in general, with respect regardless and does not feel burning jealousy towards her, she “never feel[s] hurt at the brightness of Isabella’s yellow hair, and the whiteness of her skin…the fondness all the family exhibit for her” (98). Catherine notes Dean’s fondness for Isabella as well when she mentions the family’s liking for her, as many in the family feel opposition to Catherine for her constant rambling. However, Catherine claims she feels no jealousy towards her. Additionally, she mentions “it pleases her brother to see us cordial”, revealing again the pressure the family places on Catherine to get along with family members and expecting her to bite her tongue (98). On the other hand, the men in the family do not face the same type of pressure and freely express their aggressive opinions towards each other. In an attempt to speak positively of Heathcliff, Catherine is met with aggression and opposition as Edgar begins to cry at the sound of the man’s name. Catherine’s indication of her husband and Heathcliff’s behavior, while she is expected to act cordial with Isabella, becomes a turning point for Catherine’s mental state as she begins to realize her lack of control of her own life.

Furthermore, Catherine perceives her connection with Heathcliff as the two being a part of a singular soul, as she claims “‘I am Heathcliff! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being’” (82). For Catherine to watch Heathcliff court and marry Isabella, while she is still criticized by Dean and Heathcliff to bite her tongue about her opinions on the situation, Catherine believes the state of her soul is at risk of being lost to her. Thus, the criticism for Catherine to restrain her speech and the loss of a part of her soul lead to Catherine’s descent into insanity in an attempt to maintain what she believes is rightfully hers.

The Wealthy and Their Departed

In “Poverty and Death”, Mary Barton attends the funeral of Ben Davenport. The passage describes a distinction between the treatment of the poor and the rich that exists after death. In the case of funerals, the rich construct huge tombstones and hold loud, decorated funerals, while the poor share their sorrow in silence and in black. Further in the passage, the funeral is detailed as “a simple walking funeral, with nothing to grate on the feelings of any; far more in accordance with its purpose, to my mind, than the gorgeous hearses, and nodding plumes, which form the grotesque funeral pomp of respectable people.” (73). The decorated funerals serve the purpose of competition as the phrase “..with nothing to grate on the feelings of any…” indicates funerals for the wealthy aim for people to feel guilty for the lack of an extravagant funeral. She claims that the “simple walking funeral” is more respectable because it is “far more in accordance with its purpose”, which is to give honor, respect, and remembrance to the life and legacy of someone who has passed on. Additionally, in describing these tombstones for the rich as “a wooden mockery of stone respectabilities”, once again, the passage depicts the manner in which the rich honor those passed on as more so embarrassing rather than commendable or “respectable” (73). The paupers are left with dead bodies “piled until within a foot or two of the surface”, shallow graves for those deemed less important to society yet, according to the passage, treat each other with greater respect in their burial than the wealthy (73). The comparison in the sentence regarding the “walking funeral” in contrast to the “gorgeous hearses” carries a sarcastic tone, insinuating that the wealthy are so removed from the true purpose of a funeral that they do not show or have respect for their own people enough to have a respectable funeral, they are decorated and pompous and lack genuine compassion. In this way, the passage highlights the sentiment of the impoverished that they are more respectable and honorable than the rich who partake in grandiose and unvirtuous displays of funerals and burials. 

The sentiments highlighted in this passage are one explanation for a portion of the frustration of many Chartists, like John Barton. These individuals in the novel vent their anger toward the wealthier factory owners who treat their workers unfairly yet fail to treat their employees with basic compassion. Just before the death of Ben Davenport, Wilson rushes to the Carsons looking to request permission into the Infirmary. To Wilson’s surprise, John Carson does not “pretend to know the names of the men [he] employ[s]” and Harry, who seems to only be half-listening to the conversation, digs around in his pocket for change and gives it to Wilson “for the ‘poor fellow’” condescendingly (70). The reaction of both Carsons explicitly shows the lack of compassion the wealthy share contrasted with the nursing aid of the poor to their own ill neighbors.