Allingham quotes P. D. Edwards saying the term “Sensation Novel” “was originally applied disparagingly to a broad range of crime, mystery, and horror novels written in the early 1860s.” The Victorian Sensation novel came about around 1860 when the society started to find new ways of reading and printing texts such as an increase in libraries, tabloid journalism, and the circulation of the newspaper. Also around this time, reforms and abolition were occurring; reform in divorce procedures as one could imagine, would stir up possible thoughts about how to end a marriage in another way…. bang bang.
Being that “The Moonstone” by Wilkie Collins was considered the first detective novel in the English language, it has many of the typical sensationalist aspects. One that we discussed in class, is the use of drugs, potions, or poisons. In this stories case, it’s drugs. Ezra Jennings addiction to Opium helps to ultimately solve he crime, and Franklin Blake’s attempt to go cold turkey on his addiction to tobacco makes him an insomniac, thus giving the Dr reason to give him drugs to treat his sleep disorder when in reality it caused him to unknowingly steal the moonstone.
Romantic love triangles are also common in sensation novels. In “The Moonstone”, Godfrey proposes to Rachel twice however she remains in love with Franklin despite her anger towards him on occasion. She proves her love to him by not giving him up when she knows she saw him take the moonstone with her own two eyes.
Another sensationalist trait is characters adopting disguises. At the end of the novel, Godfrey is revealed to be a sham. His disguise as the sailor shows his hidden double life and that appearance isn’t always what it seems. Though Godfrey is described as better looking then Franklin, his personality is what wins Rachel over to him.
This novel very different from, yet reminds me of the famous novel “Clue” by Michael McDowell. There are many different characters who all become suspects in the murder of “Mr. Body”, just as there are many suspects who are accused or questioned for the theft of the moonstone. Just as Mr. Godfrey is in disguise, “Mr. Body” turns out to not be the dead host, but the butler who has set up this whole scandal. I’m sure you all have played the board game before so you know that with allotted clues, the truth is revealed at the end. Heightened suspense, another sensational characteristic can most certainly be felt by the reader in both novels, however I recommend the film version as well. Here is a clip that shows everyone’s anxiousness toward finding out who the culprit is in the film version of “Clue”. Mr. Body, the man who first speaks says “If you denounce me to the police, you will also be exposed and humiliated.” This makes me think of when Rachel chooses not to expose Franklin except not for her caution of being humiliate, but because she loves him. Mrs. Peacock shows her need for alcohol just like the character in “The Moonstone” need their drugs. It also brings up the idea of poison; another sensationalist occurrence.
Both “The Moonstone” and “Clue” display common sensationalist themes, just as most mystery novels do. Enjoy the clip! I suggest the full film/book!