Solve the Riddle

When I first started reading the novel it reminded me of a riddle. It’s a simple riddle, but let’s see if you can solve it: Make sure to explain why you chose that specific individual.

The owner of the house was murdered Sunday morning. The investigator suspects the employees who were in the house the day of the murder. He questions each of the employees and asks “what were you doing at the time of the murder?” The Chauffeur replies, “I was cleaning the car”, the Maid replies, “I was vacuuming the rooms”, the Butler answers, “I was getting the mail, and the Chef answers, “I was cutting vegetables”, who murdered the owner of the house?

The riddle is not connected to the actual blog topic, but I thought it would be different. The point of the riddle is not so much about solving it, but paying attention to the details that are usually overlooked. Collin’s novel is also filled with information that is unnecessary, he provides several background information and updates on how each character is reacting to another character, but all these information are just distractions. After figuring out the culprit I was really surprised at how the they stole it. I will not say who, but you will not be shocked to know who it is, but how and why it happened. I thought it would be the trusty butler, yes it is a cliché, but that is why I thought it would be the butler. Now I am rambling and not getting to the main focus of this blog.

From the First Period the most disturbing scene is when we find out that Rosanna commits suicide. The lines in her note, “When you next see the Shivering Sand, try to forgive me once more. I have found my grave where my grave was waiting for me” reminds me of the scene where Mr. Betteredge and Rosanna introduce the Shivering Sand. To Rosanna, the Sands are alive and constantly changing. The way Rosanna describes the Shivering Sands resonates with Edmund Burke’s 1757, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. Burke’s conception of the “sublime” evokes an overwhelming sensation of vastness. It elevates our senses of danger, pain, and passion that consumes the mind. Burke believes that beauty can inspire love or admiration, but the sublime inspires awe and astonishment at its mystery and power. Specific lines that reinforce Burkes idea of sublimity is seen when Rosanna exclaims, “isn’t it wonderful? isn’t it terrible?” From Rosanna’s perspective the Shivering Sand is a paradox, it is full of contradiction, but that is why she is completely entranced by it. Burke argues:

The passion caused by the great and sublime in nature, when those causes operate most powerfully is astonishment; and astonishment is that state of the soul, which all its motions are suspended, with some degree of horror. In this case the mind is so entirely filled with its object, that it cannot entertain any other, nor by consequence reason on that object which employs it. Hence arises the great power of the sublime, that far from being produced by them, it anticipates our reasoning’s, and hurries us on by an irresistible force. (Damrosche and Dettmar, 39)

Emotions that are associated with the sublime imprison the individual. For instance, Rosanna is completely enthralled by the Shivering Sands. Her thoughts, emotions, and ultimate death are ruled by the forces of the sublime.

When you read the lines below, what do you think “it” is?, what is being described?

“Something draws me to it”
“I try to keep away from it, and I can’t.”
“…has laid a spell on me,”
“ I dream of it night after night”

These lines are describing the Shivering Sands, but it can also describe the moonstone and drugs. The moonstone just like the Shivering Sands possesses qualities that cannot stop the characters from being entirely awed and absorbed by it. A beautiful object like the moonstone is surrounded by some sort obscurity and darkness. The prelude hints that Colonel Herncastle could have killed the Brahman priest for the moonstone. There are several characters that go above and beyond to either hide the object or protect it. Either way they moonstone is has a hold on the characters. What about the moonstone is so compelling that the characters are willing to put themselves at risk?

Furthermore, last class we touched upon opium. “I dream of it night after night”, this line resembles Mr. Franklin’s sleepless nights. After he quits smoking for Miss Rachel’s sake he acts like a person suffering from withdrawal. Even Mr. Betteredge, can be seen as an addict. He has a habit of having a cigarette with his Robinson Crusoe to give him a sense of “clarity”. How does drugs and the moonstone present “sublime” qualities? What about these two items are hypnotic?


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2 thoughts on “Solve the Riddle

  1. Jason Tougaw

    The connection you make to Burke and the sublime is really interesting. The experience of the sublime is arguably an altered state like the ones that enrapture so many characters in The Moonstone. Also, Collins is pretty explicit in his analogies between the mind altering capacities of drugs, desire, and art.

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