Reverse, Reverse: The Inside-Out Relationship between The Moonstone and A Study in Scarlet

When moving onto A Study in Scarlet, one of the most interesting aspects thus far has been tracing the genre inheritance from The Moonstone. In many ways, the focuses seem to be inside out. Made of the same material, but different sides shown. Implicitly, Scarlet has much more of a lower-class focus, whereas The Moonstone seems more to be concerned with the affairs of the rich, from the granular to large scale. More precisely, Scarlet features more of the consequences of the lack of. As the reader sees the story unfold through the eyes of Watson, the inciting incident for the story as a whole is simply that Watson lacks money to live comfortably (8 Conan Doyle). Additionally, what partially causes this is Britain’s own imperialist practices in India and Afghanistan, providing another Moonstone connection (Conan Doyle 7). Still, Watson was involved in the upholding of this imperialist practice through battle, whereas the characters in Collins’ work mostly just profit off of the plunder. Additionally, Moonstone more directly deals with questions of empire (though what exactly it resolves is debatable) throughout the story. But in Scarlet, the reader sees how Britain’s imperialism impacts the “average” British man as merely a fact of life to uphold, presenting British imperialism merely as something that is, whereas the implicit thematic throughline of The Moonstone is much more concerned with delving into what this imperialism means, for better or worse.

For the characters themselves, Moonstone presents a fuller, albeit perhaps more upwards tilting, in its effort to exploring a complete picture of British society (which is definitely for the worse). Though narrators like Betteredge and Clack are noted to lack wealth, they still spend their narration with the wealthy and privileged. After all, the tragic chain of events caused by the diamond’s loss occurs due to that a wealthy woman wants “her” diamond back. In contrast, the main site of the crime in Scarlet “wore an ill-omened and minatory look. It was one of four which stood back some little way from the street,.., [It] looked out with three tiers of vacant melancholy windows, which were blank and dreary…A small garden sprinkled over with a scattered eruption of sickly plants.” (28 Conan Doyle). Throughout this passage, words like “dreary,” “ill-omened,” and “sickly” among others reinforce the grimness of life where the victim lived, and the reality facing all of the boarders who live there. Similarly, while Sherlock Holmes is portrayed positively as an eccentric character, the characters of Scarlet are more down-to-earth than the colorful persons of Moonstone. For example, John Rance, though perhaps not up to Holmes’ level of intelligence, is not presented with the same massive blind spots of Clack or Betteredge In comparison, The Moonstone features characters of much more “sensational” backgrounds, whether it be through the penitent and troubled former master thief, or the ultimate culprit having a wildly different secret double life. While realistic in their own ways, and much more defined than the common-if- somewhat-suspicious-joe of Scarlet.

When taking these differences in conjunction, it becomes interesting to think about the novel as almost inverses of each other. The lives of the common English people are more directly featured in Scarlet, but the shadow of empire still impacts the proceedings nevertheless. The Moonstone, however, is much more invested in ideas of empire and upper-class concerns, though the voices of those from below still filter through. But as Scarlet progresses, it will be interesting to see if this middle/lower class and insular focus develops further and will perhaps prove itself a true study after all.     

Works Cited:

Collins, Wilkie. The Moonstone. Penguin Books, 1998.

Conan Doyle, Arthur. A Study in Scarlet. Penguin Classics, 2001.

Miss Havisham’s Legacy and the Liminal Woman


Great Expectations rarely opts for subtlety with Miss Havisham. As discussed in class, Miss Havisham sections demonstrate the novel’s most gothic element. Her character acts as a ghost, anchoring Pip and Estella to her history of tragedy even if its activators are long gone. Still, Miss Havisham stands as a unique gothic figure as her dueling status as an aristocratic woman and “the Witch of the place” (Dickens 85). Yet, the basic archetype of Miss Havisham, or the aged, corrupted distortion of the aristocratic maiden archetype has maintained itself throughout ensuing time.

In one lens, Miss Havisham demonstrates the somewhat sexist “mad” older woman trope, despite not being that old. Still, characters are rendered monstrous in their aging and their refusal to accept. And so, they exist as a “perversion” of maidenhood. Though lacking personal concern about age, Havisham still aims to defy time, and is rendered grotesqueness and uncanny in the process. For example, a witch implies an older disrupter, someone not bound by “normal” rules of reality. Miss Havisham’s faded white dress speak to uncanny perversion, too. The white wedding dress may connotate youth and purity, but its’ yellowing and shriveling connotates a distortion of the same effect. This “pure” thing isn’t as it “should” be. This archetype will not submit to time or societal demands, thus making this person a monstrous other in youth-oriented society.

One well documented descendent of the Miss Havisham archetype descent which even Wikipedia acknowledges also applies to the antagonist of the classic noir, Sunset Boulevard, which very name implies a prolonged ending. Norma Desmond is probably the most direct descendent of the Havisham archetype. Essentially, the film centers around former silent film star Norma Desmond’s attempts to get back into the film industry. However, her own incredibly volatile grip on reality and bitterness impedes her at every step. Like Havisham, Norma still mentally lives decades in the past, sustained by her bitterness. In the present day, she too lives in a decrepit mansion and spurns most human contact. Her “sick fantasies” include constant indulgent in the form of adoration and is much more directly sexual, rather than frustration by proxy with Miss Havisham. Still, both make innocent lives a misery because they are not willing to acknowledge the present. Still, as a quick IMDb search will say that Norma’s maddened reclusiveness was based on several reclusive female silent film stars, in a moment of art reflecting reality. Or rather, art and life reflecting the misogynistic societal constraints that do not metaphorically, or literally in Norma Desmond’s case, have societal roles for women beyond that “maiden” stage. But as Havisham and Norma show, the clock does not stop. The “choice” remains to either disappear and pass onto a more passive role or to simply cling to existence who would deny these characters the value associated with youth. Instead, Miss Havisham and all her descendants show how prevalent these ideas of thinking about women, age, and purity remain- and haunt- literature to this day.

Sunset Boulevard Movie Poster









Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Penguin Classics, 2003.

File:Sunset Boulevard (1950 poster).jpg – Wikimedia Commons

Sunset Blvd. (1950) – Trivia – IMDb

Sunset Boulevard. Directed by Billy Wilder, prefromances by Gloria Swanson, William Holden, Erich Von Stroheim, and Nancy Olsen, Paramount Pictures, 1950.

The End of Heathcliff

‘It is a poor conclusion, is it not?” [Heathcliff] observed, having brooded a while on the scene he had just witnessed: “an absurd termination to my violent exertions? I get levers and mattocks to demolish the two houses, and train myself to be capable of working like Hercules, and when everything is ready and in my power, I find the will to lift a slate off either roof has vanished! My old enemies have not beaten me; now would be the precise time to revenge myself on their representatives: I could do it; and none could hinder me. But where is the use? I don’t care for striking: I can’t take the trouble to raise my hand! … I have lost the faculty of enjoying their destruction…

“Five minutes ago Hareton seemed a personification of my youth, not a human being; I felt to him in such a variety of ways, that it would have been impossible to have accosted him rationally. In the first place, his startling likeness to Catherine connected him fearfully with her. That, however, which you may suppose the most potent to arrest my imagination, is actually the least: for what is not connected with her to me? and what does not recall her? I cannot look down to this floor, but her features are shaped in the flags! In every cloud, in every tree—filling the air at night, and caught by glimpses in every object by day—I am surrounded with her image! The most ordinary faces of men and women—my own features—mock me with a resemblance. The entire world is a dreadful collection of memoranda that she did exist, and that I have lost her! Well, Hareton’s aspect was the ghost of my immortal love; of my wild endeavours to hold my right; my degradation, my pride, my happiness, and my anguish—

-Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte, pg. 236

In Wuthering Heights, the characters seem defined by their capacity for hate and cruelty. The novel features a nonstop barrage of abuse and death of one generation, and then starting the same with the next. But yet, from one perspective, the book ends relatively happily for the surviving characters. Catherine Linton and Hareton overcome their differences and abuse, Ellen sees her two surrogate children reunite, and Lockwood ultimately stays far, far away from the troubles up north. Finally, Heathcliff, the sole remaining member of the older generation, finally dies. As discussed in class, the ending seems very abrupt, one that Heathcliff even seems to acknowledge above. However, arguably, Heathcliff’s monologue after seeing Catherine Linton and Hareton together represents the culmination of the novel’s themes, and in some ways the true endpoint of the novel.

As Alexandra Lewis’ “Memory Possessed: Trauma and Pathologies” explains, “[Wuthering Heights questions] the way external traumas quickly become incorporated into the mind, lodging thorn- like beyond the grasp of conscious control.” (Lewis 417). In this quote, however, Heathcliff finally admits his “loss.” On one level, this refers to his loss of Catherine Earnshaw. Objects, people, and everything in nature are “memoranda” of Catherine’s loss. Hareton is naught but a shadow of Heathcliff’s past with Catherine, Hindley, and Heathcliff himself. Living people do not exist anymore- only as memories. Effectively, Heathcliff lives in a world of stasis and death. In this paragraph, Heathcliff admits the truth that has been shaping his actions.

Yet, it also serves as a reminder that Heathcliff has lost his plot of revenge. Using “mattocks,” “demolish,” and “levers” all have associations with machinery. Implicitly, this reminds the reader that Heathcliff has had to be incredibly patient and methodical to effectively kidnap all of the new “representatives” to enact revenge upon, like a machine. Yet, this machinery also reflects a lack of life. Life no longer exists since his first “loss”, and remaining life serves as a game against his “old enemies.” However, his enemies are long dead. Only phantasms remain to actually “play” against. Only a man living in this ghost world would continue to believe this long game has any meaning. Incidentally, the final argument between Catherine Linton and Heathcliff comes from her desire to plant flowers- something new and beautiful (Bronte 232). From this argument springs forth Heathcliff’s monologue. The words in his initial realization all speak to loss of ability, though phrases like “I can’t take the trouble…,” “I have lost…,” and “I don’t care…” (Bronte 236). If Catherine and Hareton together want to create something new outside of all the tragedies that has surrounded their lives, than Heathcliff has lost. When considering Lewis’ article on the effects of trauma, the destruction Heathcliff speaks of can refer to spiritual as well as physical, as he has been so “destroyed” that he essentially cannot function as a living person. But when Catherine and Hareton find a way to heal and live despite the dead’s influence, Heathcliff is finally undone.


Works Cited:

Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights. 1847. Wordsworth Editions Limited, 1992.

Lewis, Alexandra. “Memory Possessed: Trauma and Pathologies of Remembrance in Emly Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.” Pp. 406-423.

Gothic Character Paradoxes in Wuthering Heights

“[Mr. Earnshaw] died quietly in his chair one October evening, seated by the fire-side. A high wind blustered round the house, and roared in the chimney: it sounded wild and stormy, yet it was not cold, and we were all together—I, a little removed from the hearth, busy at my knitting, and Joseph reading his Bible near the table (for the servants generally sat in the house then, after their work was done). Miss Cathy had been sick, and that made her still; she leant against her father’s knee, and Heathcliff was lying on the floor with his head in her lap. I remember the master, before he fell into a doze, stroking her bonny hair—it pleased him rarely to see her gentle—and saying, “Why canst thou not always be a good lass, Cathy?” And she turned her face up to his, and laughed, and answered, “Why cannot you always be a good man, father?” But as soon as she saw him vexed again, she kissed his hand, and said she would sing him to sleep. She began singing very low, till his fingers dropped from hers, and his head sank on his breast. Then I told her to hush, and not stir, for fear she should wake him.”

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, Page 30


In Wuthering Heights, cruelty embeds every development. Though Mary Barton dealt heavily with the exploitation and dehumanization of the working class, Wuthering Heights arguably displays much more of the darkness of the heart. Thus, when reading these incredibly complicated characters, curiosity arises on as to why, and whether they are deserving of sympathy anyway. This is most certainly true of Catherine Earnshaw. Catherine dominates much of the novel, through her literal ghost in the beginning, or even her daughter’s name. Yet, Heathcliff’s emotional damage from familial abuse and societal dehumanization provides psychological background for him, Catherine does not have equal exploration for her volatility. Partly, Ellen’s narration consistently lacks sympathy to Catherine. Ellen repeatedly cites Catherine’s selfishness, while often participating in the same judgements herself. For example, after the Linton’s visit in chapter 7, Ellen automatically thinks ill of Catherine for disregarding Heathcliff, though Ellen does little to help, either (Bronte 41).

Yet, the book does offer subtle insights into Catherine’s anger, such as in her father’s death scene. Interestingly, this scene both breaks with and conforms to Gothic conventions present in the novel’s other parts. As discussed in class and Roger Luckhurst’s introduction to Late Victorian Gothic Tales, the Gothic can be defined as exploration of “The Other” (Luckhurst 10). In Wuthering Heights, this theme can most obviously be seen in the characters. Catherine’s undying passion and Heathcliff’s mysterious origin both push them outside what is considered “normal.” Yet, the scene where they are both sitting quietly reflects a gentler attitude from Heathcliff and Cathy. However, this “normal” behavior for the expectations of a typical child comes off as strange behavior from what Cathy and Heathcliff are usually portrayed as. Still, a powerful storm rages outside, a reflection of the Gothic element of the sublime, as discussed by Bowen’s video (Bowen 6:18).  Perhaps this signals that although things may be briefly calm, the Earnshaws’ dysfunction always rages underneath.

Unsurprisingly, this silence cannot be maintained forever. When Mr. Earnshaw implicitly scolds Catherine by asking why she cannot always be good, Mr. Earnshaw displays a disregard for Catherine that could explain her behavior. This “goodness” only comes from her silence and lessened energy from illness. Only when she pushes back by questioning him as to why he cannot always be a good man that he becomes “vexed.” To Mr. Earnshaw, Cathy being a “good girl” comes in the form of her being reserved and obedient, whereas being a good man would likely have different connotations to him. After all, Mr. Earnshaw does say earlier that he “cannot love [her]” simply because of her mischief, which “made her cry….then, being repulsed continually hardened her, and she laughed….” (29 Bronte). Even on his deathbed, his last words are to chide Catherine. Still, the rest of the passage follows Catherine’s coping mechanism, while still displaying her love for her father when she tries to make up by singing to him in a “low” manner. Despite the casual cruelty Catherine displays later and earlier, this action indicates she is genuinely trying to think of others. And then, Ellen tells her to be quiet and still once more, to not bother her father further, emblematic of her entire childhood up to this point. Catherine cannot stop herself from being her mischievous self, and instead of working to understand her, the adults in her life tell her to be quiet. The world does not want to understand Catherine. Thus, it comes as little surprise she becomes an emotional storm unto herself as an adult, and as wild as the winds over the Heights.

Citation (Other edition):

Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights. 1847. Wordsworth Editions Limited, 1992.

Character Depth in Mary Barton

“‘Oh! Jem, I charge you with the care of her! I suppose it would be murder to kill her, but it would be better for her to die than to live to lead such a life as I do. Do you hear me, Jem?’

‘Yes! I hear you. It would be better. Better we were all dead.’ This was said as if thinking aloud; but he immediately changed his tone, and continued,

‘Esther, you may trust to my doing all I can for Mary. That I have determined on. And now listen to me! you loathe the life you lead, else you would not speak of it as you do. Come home with me. Come to my mother. She and my aunt Alice live together. I will see that they give you a welcome. And to-morrow I will see if some honest way of living cannot be found for you. Come home with me.’

She was silent for a minute, and he hoped he had gained his point. Then she said,

‘God bless you, Jem, for the words you have just spoken. Some years ago you might have saved me, as I hope and trust you will yet save Mary. But it is too late now;—too late,’ she added, with accents of deep despair.

Still he did not relax his hold. ‘Come home,’ he said.”

Mary Barton, by Elizabeth Gaskell, page 163

Mary Barton is a very topical novel. Every chapter, every conflict, and every character ties back the exploitation of the working class in 19th century England. For some characters, this includes exploration of direct political ramifications and activism. In others, constant personal loss exemplifies the darkness surrounding these characters’ lives. The narration wavers between these two modes, sometimes explicitly pondering the methods and reasons behind their suffering (Gaskell 84-85). Famine, disability, and ultimately death are all facets that Gaskell does not shy away from. However, in addition to the direct championing of awareness and sympathy to the working-class struggle, Gaskell also never neglects the emotional and spiritual consequences on the characters.

Small moments reveal the depth of this toll. A prime example of this is a conversation between Jem and Esther on page 163 shown above. Ostensibly, the passage shows Esther’s desire to save Mary, while Jem also encourages Esther to come “home” with him.  Throughout this passage, key repetition devastatingly reflects the everyday emotional states of these characters. For example, the idea of life, death, religion, and determinism are spread throughout this passage. Esther starts this paragraph by exclaiming, and then “charging” Jem with a task. The use of the word “charge” carries a much heavier connotation that synonyms like “ask” or “request,” and invokes an idea of duty. However, Esther displays her deep commitment to Mary’s salvation and her own equal sense of self-loathing in other ways. Esther also invokes God, before expressing the idea that she fundamentally cannot be saved. Conversely, Jem’s own repetitions also show the full seriousness of what Esther has given up on. Three times Jem utters the phrase “Come home.” Home is not only a place of living, but also has at least some sort of community and safety. Jem’s repetition and Esther rejects him every time says volumes about the toll of her life, and how the circumstances of her poverty has destroyed her from feeling worth the blessing of home.

However, Jem also displays the individual impact of this extended exploitation. Jem’s own reactions on Esther’s charges reveal a great deal about him, as both a character and representative of the male working class to Esther’s female. The narrative thus far has presented Jem as a solid, decent person, which remains true. Nevertheless, Jem’s response reveals something quite dark. Instead of being perturbed that Esther talks of murder and death ideation, Jem actually agrees with it, and offhandedly mentions that “it would be better if we were all dead.” Then, as the narration notes, he returns to the task at hand of convincing Esther to come home. Still, as it is his first reaction and he says it “as if thinking aloud,” the effect does not lessen.

Both Jem and Esther are in unique positions within this conversation as male and female members of the working class, yet could likely stand in for many who could see no way out of their economic situation. In the end, Esther and Jem’s positive qualities are not enough to save them from the fundamental misery of a life of exploitation and degradation. Thus, an important facet of Gaskell’s work is revealed. Although Gaskell’s work might not be awash with symbolism and metaphors and other literary devices, realized characters is not one she forgets. To fully and deeply portray the plight of suffering people, it is important to portray them as actual people with actual emotions. In the case of Esther and Jem’s conversation, Gaskell illustrates the individual impact on two characters, highlighting her broader point in conjunction with more specific arguments.