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Objective Knowledge vs. Subjective Knowledge

Something is objective when it is independent of an individual’s personal preference, interpretation, belief or opinion. For example, 2×2=4 is the case whether or not one agrees or feels any different on the matter.

Something is subjective when it depends on personal preference, interpretation, belief or opinion. For example, “Chocolate ice cream is the most delicious flavor of ice cream ever!” This statement is the case because I think it so, and not because it is the case independent of my personal opinion.

In The Moonstone, the relationship between objective and subjective knowledge is largely portrayed by the multiple narration style of the novel. The reader is given several different perspectives that build on the mystery of the missing moonstone and attempt to arrive at the truth. Often times, subjective accounts and events related by different characters skew the truth and lead to further confusion. In the First Period of the novel, Gabriel Betteredge offers his account of the facts on the loss of the moonstone based on his memory of events.  But how reliable are accounts based on memory? Betteredge claims that recalling dates is a helpful way to retrieve memories. He says that “When you come to fix your memory with a date in this way, it is wonderful what your memory will pick up for you upon that compulsion. The only difficulty is to fetch out the dates, in the first place.”

There have been studies performed on the creation of false memories as well as on eye witness accounts of crimes that show that memory is not always a reliable method of accounting for factual events. There have been cases of erroneous criminal convictions based on false memories much like Rachel’s report of “seeing” Franklin Blake take the diamond.

Here are some interesting videos on memory you can take a look at when time permits:
This is a short youtube video that briefly speaks on the subject of false memory:

This is also a very short video that briefly speaks on studies that were made on people who tend to remember based on dates of events:

You can also watch this video when time allows (it is longer) but more detailed when it comes to erroneous eyewitness testimony based on memory:

Different narrators in the novel report accounts of events based on their subjective experience and memory. Some narrators depended on the memories of others as a means of filling in the gaps of their own memories. Here is a quote that is a clear example of the reliance on another’s memory for reassurance: “I resolved—as a means of enriching the deficient resources of my own memory—to appeal to the memory of the rest of the guests; to write down all that they could recollect of the social events of the birthday; and to test the result, thus obtained, by the light of what had happened afterwards, when the company had left the house.”  Ultimately, attempting to reach objective truth based on subjective knowledge is doomed to fail.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

In Leighton and Surridge’s article they begin by discussing the layout of the pictures in the American version of The Moonstone as printed in Harper’s Weekly, focusing on the extra perspective that the images offered as opposed to merely complimenting the text. Their main argument is that “While at times the illustrations share the point of view of the verbal plot… at others they give an alternative perspective, that of a hypothetical outside observer…” (214). Yes, The Moonstone’s format was already complex because of the multiple narrators, but the article is rooting for yet another layer of complexity. “The illustrations thus form an intrinsic part of the novel’s interrogation of class boundaries and the British imperialist project; they are not mere decoration or addition, but form a key part of the text as it reached its American readers” (217) — in other words, a picture is definitely worth a thousand words.

A picture being worth a thousand words is a key component of another novel, one in fact that David mentioned in class: Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis. The difference between the level of usage of pictures in The Moonstone and in Persepolis is large: the images in The Moonstone are not attached or reliant upon the words and allow the reader to encounter them separately from the text, while in Persepolis the format of a graphic narrative ( a fancy way to say comics) force the reader to digest both image and text at the same time. Despite this obvious difference, the common thread remains to be that each novel leaves room for an alternative narrative. Leighton and Surrdige have pinpointed how exactly the serialization of Collins’ novel in America does so, but how does Satrapi’s?

Let’s backtrack for a second to Satrapi’s purpose in writing her novel about her life growing up in Iran: it was, as she states in her introduction, to educate the reader about Iran and to never forget her story. Utilizing the format of a graphic narrative, Satrapi is able to accomplish this goal. This is because there is not any one unifying experience that everyone in Iran went through— it was always subjective. Therefore, by being able to physically draw in two separate narratives Satrapi is introducing two truths, two realities; The Moonstone relies on the same tenets by having chapters narrated from different character’s perspectives. An example of this is on page 102 in Persepolis where the top panel shows young boys, who belonged to poor families, being blown apart on the minefields, while Marji and her upper–class friends have the luxury to dance to punk rock at a party. Satrapi is aware that each Iranian had their own experience, and thus she does not shy away from portraying the other stories because her goal is to educate the reader. This kind of effect is what the article highlights is at work in the American serialization of Collins’ novel, that the pictures offer another take on what the text narrates.

Another example of this can be seen in the image below, one of the chapter pages in Persepolis. A lot can be said about what’s going on, but I’d like to just point out the way that the gutter is working in much the same way that the images in The Moonstone do. The words read “The Veil” and then the image next to it is of just one eye and the outline of a nose on a face. The picture is therefore speaking to the narrative of the veil and offering a separate meaning onto the words. It is already suggesting that what the veil did was hide one’s identity: there is no way to distinguish a person based on their eyes alone, let alone by just seeing one eye.

“The Veil” image:

We’ve established how both The Moonstone and Persepolis interact with pictures as more than just decoration, but another interesting element is how both do so for the benefit of  American readers. The article’s whole premise relies upon the novel’s serialization in America, and how the way it was printed created a different effect than it did in England: “Collins thus unleashed in America a notably different version of his novel, one that through its layout and visual material created markedly different ideological effects” ( 234). Similarly, Satrapi’s medium of a graphic narrative encompassed the same effect, allowing her to relay a foreign tale through the recognizable and relatable medium of comics. My conclusion couldn’t be more simple: when boundaries of language or culture exist, art is the only way to penetrate those boundaries and indeed break through them. It worked in 1868, and it still worked in 2007 ( the year Persepolis was published).

I’ll end off with this: do you guys still agree that pictures possess the ability to help cross cultural boundaries? Or do you think that we’ve reached a point in our worldliness where we can digest foreign tales through words alone without the help of another medium? Additionally, I don’t think the article tackled the reason as to why pictures were needed in the American serialization of The Moonstone, simply discussing the effect of doing so but not the cause. Do you guys think that the cause could be because of what I mentioned, of helping American readers understand a tale from England?


Common Sensation Novel Quaities as Seen in “The Moonstone” and “Clue”

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!

‘The Moonstone’: Wilkie Collins’s ‘Jane Eyre’

Wilkie Collins’s novel, The Moonstone, is thought to be the first detective novel ever written. Just as Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre conveyed personal thoughts, feelings, and autobiographical elements, Collins’s The Moonstone did as well.

As we have spoke about in class, Wilkie Collins was close friends with Charles Dickens, the famous author who often wrote about the lower and middle class’s ongoing struggle with poverty. Whether or not Collins agreed with Dickens’s critique of how the poor and the outcasts were treated and how they lived is unknown, but it certainly looks as if Collins sympathized with Dickens’s feelings.

By making Ezra Jennings – the social outcast who nobody trusted – the hero of the book, Collins clearly expressed his feelings of the old adage, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Ezra Jennings is portrayed as villainous and mysterious by the townspeople, while Godfrey Ablewhite is beloved by everyone. Collins shocks the reader by reversing the perceived notions of the malicious foreigner and the clean-cut Brit.

Also, as Mary Elizabeth Leighton and Lisa Surridge clearly express in their essay, The Transatlantic Moonstone: A Study of the Illustrated Serial in Harper’s Weekly (, (paraphrasing) the Indians are depicted as being victims (in the beginning of the book) and heroes and the rightful owners of the Moonstone at the end of the book. This is another way in which Collins cleverly subverts colonialism. A well-traveled man who appreciated art and culture of all kinds, Collins most likely was of the belief that colonialism was wrong. Much like Shakespeare’s not-so-subtle commentary of colonialism in The Tempest, Collins uses a clever backdrop and an intriguing narrative to disguise his thoughts.

In terms of a more direct autobiographical standpoint, Collins and Ezra Jennings are directly linked. Due to his excruciating pain from rheumatic gout, Collins became addicted to Opium, just like Jennings ( Perhaps this contributed to Collins’s decision to make Jennings the hero of the novel.

Taking what we’ve learned from all of the texts we’ve read in class – Emma, Jane Eyre, A Christmas Carol, and The Moonstone – all of these classic authors tend to use their real-life experiences in their stories. Maybe that’s why these novels are so timeless.

Guidelines for Feedback on Proposals (+ Writing Groups)

These are the writing groups for your research projects. You’ll read and offer feedback on each other’s project throughout the process–starting with the proposal.

Ali, Kelsey, Laura, Sunjida

Kevin, Nathan, Angela

Malorie, Kim, Mike, Sarah

David, Clémence, Alix, Katryna

Feedback on Proposals

Write each member of your writing group a letter in response to his or her proposal draft. Be sure to address the following questions in your letter:

1. Has the writer included four paragraphs, addressing the four prompts included in the assignment?

2. Which of the four paragraphs is strongest? Which is weakest?

3. Is the writer’s sentence-level prose clear and readable? Is it free of typos and errors with regard to punctuation and grammar?

4. Does the project seem manageable? Can the writer accomplish the aims s/he articulates?

5. Can you suggest any sources, ideas, or questions that might be helpful to the writer?

6. Imagine you are me: What revision does the proposal need before I’ll be ready to pass it and give the writer the okay to move forward with the project. (Note: Be tough here. You’ll all get more out of this process if you are rigorous with each other. Remember, these are drafts, so there’s no expectation that they’ll be perfect or ready to go at this stage.)

“And then there were none”

With The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins signed one of the first detective novels in English, and first published it serialized. What’s interesting with it, when we replace it in its time is that it opened the way for one of the most read genre today. The choice of the narration offers an exceptional possibility, and permits to eliminate the suspects one by one, just as in the Ten little niggers’ song. This song is an adaptation made by Agatha Christie of a minstrel American song published in 1868, written by Septimus Winner, and called Ten Little Indians. She modified the title for the needs of her novel; indeed, every time a death happens in the book, a statuette of a black person is broken. The word “nigger” is a reference to those statuettes, and not a way to qualify the characters of her book. It is also a reminder of where the action takes place : on an isolated island called “island of the nigger”, located in Devon, in England. Here is the song:

“Ten little nigger boys went out to dine

One choked his little self, and then there were nine.

Nine little nigger boys sat up very late
One overslept himself, and then there were eight.

Eight little nigger boys traveling in Devon
One said he’d stay there, and then there were seven.

Seven little nigger boys chopping up sticks
One chopped himself in half, and then there were six.

Six little nigger boys playing with a hive
A bumble-bee stung one, and then there were five.

Five little nigger boys going in for law
One got in chancery, and then there were four.

Four little nigger boys going out to sea
A red herring swallowed one, and then there were three.

Three little nigger boys walking in the zoo
A big bear hugged one, and then there were two.

Two little nigger boys sitting in the sun
One got frizzled up, and then there was one.

One little nigger boys living all alone
He went and hanged himself and then there were none.”


The great number of suspects in The Moonstone and the fact that they were all possible culprits immediately made me think of Agatha Christie’s famous novel. Wilkie Collins, in my opinion, hits stronger with his novel than Agatha Christie, by alternating the narrators, without whom it would not be possible to reunite all the clues needed to solve the investigation. . At every change of narrator, the vise it tightening and the list of suspect is reduced. We are leaded on wrong tracks by Sergeant Cuff and we do not have all the clues to solve the mystery by ourselves. Just as in Ten Little Niggers, we need deaths (Mrs. Verinder, Rosanna, Mr. Ablewhite) to move forward in the inquiry.

In both of the novels, it’s interesting to notice that the police is totally (Ten Little Niggers) or partially (The Moonstone) unable to help any of the characters. Indeed, Sergeant Cuff does help the inquiry but does not resolve it, and even suspects Rachel. He tells Mrs. Verinder with an amazing calm and certain confidence that her daughter is guilty, when all she did was saving Mr. Blake’s honor. A particular event, Mr. Ablewhite death, is necessary to guide the characters to the dénouement. The police, in Ten Little Niggers, do not find a solution nor a responsible to the ten deaths that happened on the island, the key of the mistery is given by an external help, a message in a bottle. We finally get a resolution but meanwhile, there were none.

It’s Cursed! It’s Cursed!

After all of our debating in class as to what gives precious jewels like diamonds, particularly the Moonstone, its seemingly inherent priceless value, I got to thinking. The Moonstone (the jewel) is obviously priceless because of its religious iconicity; it’s particularly sought after because it’s a relic of sacredness that is safe in no one person’s hands. But what I also began to realize as I continued reading the book is that, because it’s so sought after and because it’s so valuable, it’s cursed!

Firstly, I think I started to feel this way expressly because of how the novel is written. As we’ve discussed in class, it’s written so as not to offer the reader an omniscient view of the plot. We as readers feel enveloped in the mystique of the storyline, the seemingly unanswerable question—who stole the gem? Because we don’t know this throughout most of the story, and also because we are in a way involved in the storyline as well (not having a sense of what’s to happen next, being on essentially the same level as the characters), we “witness” all the horrifying and mystifying events that unfold because of the cursed gem. Hateful allegations, panic, suicide, unbeknownst drug abuse—the list goes on! It’s almost as if the gem is punishing everyone around it because it had been stolen by Colonel Herncastle, but also because, either way you slice it, it’s likely in the wrong hands.

No matter what anyone does, the fact that the Moonstone’s been stolen time and time again is a truth that’s become an inevitable burden on everyone even remotely involved. In chapter 4 (sorry, I don’t have a page number–I’m using the Project Gutenberg edition) Rosanna uses the removed stain on Betteredge’s shirt as a metaphor for this exact idea. “The stain is taken off,” she says, “But the place shows, Mr Betteredge—the place shows!”

Throughout the story I also couldn’t help but notice references to the past—however explicit or subtle. Being that most of the characters offer their own perspectives of the past—either through their own documented accounts or purely by memory—we must piece together our own opinions of their relationships with the gem. It seems to me that the Moonstone not only represents sacredness and untouchability, but also the past itself: It has its own rich history, characters are frequently trying to recollect what they know about it and its whereabouts, and we as readers frequently backtrack to look for clues as to who could have stolen it from Rachel.

What do you guys think?

The Moonstone and the Moon

Hark! What is that light?
‘Tis the moon, come out at last
Bright, shimmering white

Seeking out others
She softly enters a home,
Pauses on a girl

What is she holding?
The moon shines closely on her
Could it really be?

That what this girl holds
Can shimmer more than the Moon?
She does not like that

Closer, she gazes
Its radiance is blinding
All eyes fixed on it

At last, the house rests
The Moon sees the bright white thing
Penetrating still

The Moon shines brighter
As she fills with deep envy
It, shine more than she?

Hark! What is that sound?
‘Tis someone snooping around
The Moon looks closely

A day passes by
And the Moon rises again
Bright and curious

All is in chaos
All is upset, but the Moon?
She only smiles.

I wanted to try to get in touch with my creative side for this post and came up with a set of haikus; it was so hard to do! This poem is about the theft of the Moonstone from the Moon’s perspective.

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?