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.

What’s with the Fire?

Two passages I wanted to look at occur in chapter 40 and in chapter 49. Both passages convey images of a fire in a fireplace, which outside of providing warmth and comfort for the characters, leads to moments of contemplation, deep thought, and character development for them. On page 329 after Pip learns that Magwitch is his mystery donor, he sits in front of the fire and thinks about several different things to himself. “All this time I had never been able to consider my own situation, nor could I do so yet. I had not the power to attend to it…when I sat down again shivering, before the fire, waiting for my laundress to appear; I thought about how miserable I was, but hardly knew why, or how long I had been so, or on what day of the week I made the reflection, or even who I was that made it” (Dickens 329). In the paragraph before this passage, Pip lights the fire and falls asleep next to it for some time before waking up and contemplating to himself. In this passage, the fire serves as a space of comfort and warmth as it normally would but is also a place where Pip can quietly interiorize his conflict and emotions. We see Pip question how long he has been “miserable” and how he never had time to “consider his own situation.”

The next example of a fire serving as a tool for character development and contemplation comes in chapter 49 when Ms. Havisham catches on fire and Pip must save her. On page 402, following the paragraph in which Pip notices the situation and rushes to her aid, Dickens’ writing suggests contemplation and lots of thinking from Pip as he is helping put out the fire. “I covered her, the more wildly she shrieked and tried to free herself; that this occurred I knew through the result, but not through anything I felt, or thought, or knew I did. I knew nothing until I knew that we were on the floor by the great table, and the patches of tinder yet were floating in the smoky air, which, a moment ago, had been her faded bridal dress…I still held her forcibly down with all my strength, like a prisoner who might escape; and I doubt if I even knew who she was, or why we had struggled or that she had been in flames, or that flames were out until I saw the patches of tinder that had been her garments, no longer alight nut falling in a black shower around us. ” (Dickens 402). The language and writing style in this paragraph was super interesting given the franticness and severity of the scene and the context of the scene occurring after Ms. Havisham apologizes for leading Pip on to believe she was this mystery donor. In this passage, Dickens uses words that evoke moments of thinking and contemplation such as “think, felt, thought, and doubt.” All these words suggest contemplation and interior thought which was interesting to find in this passage as Pip is helping save Ms. Havisham. Although the words suggest that Pip is contemplating and uncertain about the severity of the fire at the moment, we can also assume that he is contemplating Ms. Havisham’s apology and her comments about Pip professing his love to Estella. We see some of Pip’s character development amid the fire as he is able to forgive Ms. Havisham for so many lies and save her life shortly after. Perhaps the use of words like “think, felt, thought, and doubt” suggest the whirlwind of emotions Pip is feeling since Ms. Havisham’s emotional apology. Although this passage doesn’t explicitly show Pip contemplating during a scene with fire like on page 329, the scene alludes to his interior thoughts and shows his development as a character.

Why not have a more gothic ending?

For this Blog Post, I wanted to focus on two parts on the final 2 pages of Wuthering Heights. I was confused about the ending and how it felt a bit underwhelming considering all the trauma and conflict that occurred throughout the novel. On page 336, Bronte gives us a final ghostly image of Heathcliff and presumably Catherine, walking through the moors as Heathcliff looks on. “I was going to the Grange one evening – a dark evening threatening thunder… I encountered a little boy with a sheep and two lambs before him, he was crying terribly, and I supposed the lambs were skittish, and would not be guided” (Bronte 336). Here we get an undetailed description of Heathcliff and a woman in a phantom-like state, which is underwhelming compared to the gothic ghost scene at the window with Lockwood, especially considering this is the closing scene of the book. I expected to have more images of Heathcliff as a ghost as it seemed to me that the final chapters were building to this. One reason for this underwhelming gothic ending might be because of the concluding lines of the story, when Lockwood questions “How anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers, for the sleepers in that quiet earth” (Bronte 337). Perhaps the reasoning for the limited representation of Heathcliff as a ghost is to uphold this “quiet earth” ending. I suspect that this is Bronte’s way of giving Heathcliff and Catherine a “quiet slumber”, where they can wander the moors together only to be seen by the occasional shepherd. Maybe this quiet ending to the novel is to give Heathcliff a happy ending where he can finally be with Catherine as ghosts in the afterlife. If we had a more exciting and action-packed ending where Heathcliff terrorizes the moors as a ghost, the final quote from Lockwood would feel much more out of place.

Supernatural vs Real In The Ghost Scene

In Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Bronte implements several elements in her writing to maintain the gothic theme of the story, particularly in the ghost scene in chapter three. As John Bowen and Roger Luckhurst suggest in their articles, there are several gothic literary techniques that are commonly implemented in literature including the sublime, or something overwhelming and terrifying (the ghost), the supernatural and real (debate if the ghost is real or imagined), and the theme of inheritance that Luckhurst points too (family significance of ghost/writing in the room). The theme I will focus on in chapter three is the contrasting descriptions of Lockwood’s dreams which contribute to the supernatural and real elements in Wuthering Heights. Bronte sets the dreamlike state for Lockwood by implementing several lines before the appearance of the ghost which seems to contrast against one another, as the reader is left wondering whether Lockwood is dreaming or awake, making the eventual appearance of the ghost and its legitimacy up for debate. Lines like, “I began to nod drowsily over the dim page, my eye wandered from manuscript…I sank in my bed, and fell asleep” (Bronte 22), “I began to dream, almost before I ceased to be sensible of my locality” (Bronte 23), “I listened doubtingly an instant; detected the disturber, then turned and dozed, and dreamt again” (Bronte 24), and “It annoyed me so much that I resolved to silence it…I thought, I rose and endeavored to unhasp the casement” (Bronte 25).  This final line comes after Lockwood’s first dream, right after he is initially awoken by a tree branch, and right before he reaches out the window to see and touch the ghost. The contrast and ambiguity in these lines were super interesting to me as it seems like Bronte is deliberately making it difficult to tell if Lockwood is dreaming or awake. Lines with words like “nod, drowsily, asleep, and dream” suggest that he is dreaming throughout the ghost scene, offering a naturalist explanation of the ghost, but Bronte’s final description of Lockwood before he encounters the ghosts, describes the sound of the branch/ghost “annoying” him so much to the point of “rising” to “Unhasp the casement.” The effects of Bronte creating uncertainty about the state of Lockwood is significant as it contributes to the gothic tone of the story, and sets up a dilemma for the reader, whether the ghost featured in chapter three and throughout the rest of the book is supernatural or real.

Patterns and Contrasts in Vocabulary

Patterns and Contrasts in Vocabulary

  • Passage: Chapter 3, Pg. 20

“The doctor stumbled upstairs by the fire light and met the awestruck look of the neighbour, which at once told him the state of things. The room was till, as he, with habitual tiptoe step, approached the poor frail body, that nothing now could more disturb. Her daughter knelt by the bed-side, her face buried in the clothes, which were almost crammed into her mouth, to keep down the choking sobs. The husband stood like one stupefied. The doctor questioned the neighbour in whispers, and then approaching Barton, said, “You must go down stairs. This is a great shock, but bear it like a man. Go down.” He went mechanically and sat down on the first chair. He had no hope.”


In the passage before my focused reading, John Barton frantically calls for the doctor to help his sick wife who is dying fast. The doctor doesn’t answer right away, so the tone of the passage before and during my selected paragraph is very chaotic, clumsy, and frantic as john is racing against time to help his wife. The frantic nature in which Gaskell writes about the movement of the people in the scene is important in the portrayal of sadness and drama in the scene. Gaskell uses a variety of words like “stumbled, mechanically and tiptoe,” to describe the movement of John, and the doctor in the scene. The contrast of the franticness at the beginning of the scene when the doctor is clumsily stumbling up the steps to help John’s wife, to the end of the paragraph when John sees his dead wife and “walks mechanically” emotionless, like a robot downstairs to grieve. I also made note of a series of repetitions within this passage, particularly with the word “down.” The somber tone, setting, and reality of the scene seems to link well with the word “down” and how it is used to describe the daughter trying to “keep down the choking sobs” by cramming her mother’s clothes in her mouth. In addition to this, the doctor urges John to go downstairs and “bear it like a man” away from the daughter and his deceased wife. The word down is used to describe the grief in this scene and is also attached to death in the burial sense, as one moves the body down into the earth. Lastly, I feel the word “down” can be understood as feeling, (“I’m feeling down in the dumps.”) What I am really trying to say here is that I think there are several sections of lines that work in tandem with one another, particularly from the beginning of the passage where there is still hope that Mary’s life can be saved, to the end of the paragraph when she dies, grief sets in, and John walks away “mechanically” and emotionless to sit down and grieve downstairs by himself. The ending of the passage gives an image of John sitting downstairs alone with “no hope.” Overall, Gaskell’s use of different words to describe the movement of characters in the scene as they try and help Mary, and the use of the word “down” to describe the grieving process after her death, enhances the emotion and sadness in this passage from chapter 3 and sets the tone for the rest of the section.