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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Background on De Profundis

When Wilde met first met Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie) in the summer of 1891, Wilde had already written "The Soul of Man Under Socialism" as well as the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. Wilde was 36 and Bosie was 20 and a student at Wilde's alma mater Oxford University. The two only saw each other four times over the next year until May 1892, when Bosie was kicked out of Oxford. Though Wilde was married and had two sons, he had been estranged from his wife for quite some time. This relationship with Bosie was the beginning of 3 years of chaos for Wilde.

Wilde describes the relationship with Bosie in De Profundis. One person who expressed his disapproval of the relationship was Bosie's father, the Marquess of Queensbury. Wilde sued Queensbury for libel in 1895 but was forced to drop the case when details about his personal life began to be discussed before the court. Queensbury subsequently took Wilde to court for being a homosexual and was sentenced to two years in prison and hard labor.

During his last six months in prison, Wilde wrote De Profundis, which he originally titled Epistola: in Carcere et Vinculis, meaning Letter: in Prison and Chains. This letter was written to Bosie and describes the relationship from Wilde's point of view. An abridged version of the letter was published by Wilde's friend Robert Ross in 1905, though Bosie likely was not familiar with its entire content until 1912.

Sources used include: Oscar and Bosie: A Fatal Passion by Trevor Fisher
Oscar Wilde by Robert Keith Miller
Oscar Wilde by Donald H. Ericksen
Oscar Wilde by Richard Ellman

Friday, June 26, 2009

Christ in "The Soul of Man"

To make his argument for a shift in society, Wilde uses the teaching of Christ, which he characterizes by the expression "Be thyself." (p. 27) Ultimately, Christ wanted man to realize that true riches were what a man possessed not in material things but in the "treasure-home of your soul," riches that could never be stolen. (p. 28)

Though Christ does not villanize wealth, he conveys that "man is complete in himself" (p.28) and that "the spiritual needs of Man (are) greater" than his material needs. (p. 29) In other words, wealth and private property are needless burdens with which man need not trouble himself because "it hinders you from realizing your perfection," for which man should strive.
The above painting is based on the etching "Christ Preaching" (1652) by Rembrandt.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wilde and Slavery

In bringing up the issue of slavery, Wilde present what may have been the Victorian opinion on the US Civil War:

"Slavery was put down in America, not in consequence of any action on the part of the slaves, or even any express desire on their part that they should be free. It was put down entirely through the grossly illegal conduct of certain agitators in Boston and elsewhere, who were not slaves themselves, nor owners of slaves, nor had anything to do with the question really. It was, undoubtedly, the Abolitionists who set the torch alight, who began the whole thing. And it is curious to note that from the slaves themselves they received, not merely very little assistance, but hardly any sympathy even; and when at the close of the war the slaves found themselves free, found themselves indeed so absolutely free that they were free to starve, many of them bitterly regretted the new state of things." (p. 23)

This is an interesting perspective on the war, though not many today would agree. Wilde believers that northern abolitionists provoked the slaves to rebel against their masters, though the slaves had no real interest in doing so. Nevertheless, one should not interepret this to mean that Wilde was a supporter of slavery, as he clarifies later in the essay. The only slavery permitted should be the slavery of the machine: "Human slavery is wrong, insecure, and demoralising. On mechanical slavery, on the slavery of the machine, the future of the world depends." (p. 33) Instead, man should be free to choose work for which he is best fit, with no government intervention.

The role of the State is "to be a voluntary association that will organise labour, and be the manufacturer and distributor of necessary commodities. The State is to make what is useful. The individual is to make what is beautiful." (p. 32) The State is not to interfere with man but to assist man in his aims, especially since "the form of government that is most suitable to the artist is no government at all." The more liberated the artist, the more that artist will be able to develop the gift with which he has been blessed. Though Wilde labels his beliefs socialism, his ideas approach anarchism.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Property--the root of all evil

One concept that Wilde sees as most responsible for the evil in society is the ownership of private property. He explicitly states that "the possession of private property is very often extremely demoralising." (p. 21) The reason Wilde feels this is the case is that it forces the poor to rely on charity, which "creates a multitude of sins" because it results in the perpetuation of poverty. (p. 21)

Wilde makes the seemingly paradoxical statement that "private property has crushed true Individualism," by which he means that man has allowed possessions to define him instead of what is in him as well as what he expresses through himself. As proof, Wilde points out that "English law has always treated offences against a man’s property with far more severity than offences against his person, and property is still the test of complete citizenship." (p. 25) Unfortunately, property has become more valuable to many than mankind itself.

As a result of the emphasis place on property ownership, there has been a proliferation in the number of crimes being committed. Wilde describes the result of the elimination of private property:

"The less punishment, the less crime. When there is no punishment at all, crime will either cease to exist, or, if it occurs, will be treated by physicians as a very distressing form of dementia, to be cured by care and kindness. For what are called criminals nowadays are not criminals at all. Starvation, and not sin, is the parent of modern crime. That indeed is the reason why our criminals are, as a class, so absolutely uninteresting from any psychological point of view. They are not marvellous Macbeths and terrible Vautrins. They are merely what ordinary, respectable, commonplace people would be if they had not got enough to eat. When private property is abolished there will be no necessity for crime, no demand for it; it will cease to exist." (p. 31)

When the punishment for crime is reduced, the number of crimes will be reduced. The main reason for the existence of crime is poverty, and its elimination will rid the world of crime as well. Wilde further clarifies his statement, "but though a crime may not be against property, it may spring from the misery and rage and depression produced by our wrong system of property-holding, and so, when that system is abolished, will disappear." (p. 32) The ownership of private property crushes Individualism, which leads to poverty, which ultimately leads to the proliferation of crime.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Wilde's discontent with public opinion

The reason behind Wilde's dissatisfaction with the public's attempt to judge art is that the public judges art by what has been. Anything that is not familiar the public rejects. According to Wilde:

"They are always asking a writer why he does not write like somebody else, or a painter why he does not paint like somebody else, quite oblivious of the fact that if either of them did anything of the kind he would cease to be an artist. A fresh mode of Beauty is absolutely distasteful to them, and whenever it appears they get so angry, and bewildered that they always use two stupid expressions—one is that the work of art is grossly unintelligible; the other, that the work of art is grossly immoral. What they mean by these words seems to me to be this. When they say a work is grossly unintelligible, they mean that the artist has said or made a beautiful thing that is new; when they describe a work as grossly immoral, they mean that the artist has said or made a beautiful thing that is true." (p. 37)

The public has no trouble appreciating the classics because they have already been declared so, but they object to contemporary works that present anything unfamiliar. Wilde makes the case that Victorians who venture outside the norm would not be truly appreciated during their lifetime because the Victorian public could not be made to value art with any touches of originality. Wilde maintains the artist must be given freedom of expression, even if that freedom is used to expressed insensitive subjects. Wilde states "to call an artist morbid because he deals with morbidity as his subject-matter is as silly as if one called Shakespeare mad because he wrote King Lear." (p.38)

It is for this reason that Wilde advocates socialism, in order to avoid a society in which man "cannot freely develop what is wonderful, and fascinating, and delightful in him—in which, in fact, he misses the true pleasure and joy of living." (25) If an artist dwells under a system that hampers his creativity, it disturbs his joie de vivre.

Painting above is "Joie de Vivre" (1906) by Henri Matisse.

Friday, June 19, 2009

"The Soul of Man Under Socialism"

In this essay, Oscar Wilde makes a case for a socialism that will liberate man and cause him to be more productive and creative. Nevertheless, Wilde was not trying to issue a political treatise; instead, he was writing from the perspective of an artist wanting the utmost control over his work. He begins making his case by stating that the principal benefit that socialism bestows on mankind is that it would "relieve us from that sordid necessity of living for others." (p. 19)

One area in which he applies this statement is in the area of art (that being visual as well as literary arts). Wilde believes that the public has no right to dictate how an artist produces his work. He even goes so far as to say that "public opinion is of no value whatsoever." (p. 29) The reason Wilde gives is that art should not be adapted but people should adapt themselves to art. Art should come from the experience of the artist not from the popular sentiment. Wilde describes the relationship between art and the public thus:

"If a man approaches a work of art with any desire to exercise authority over it and the artist, he approaches it in such a spirit that he cannot receive any artistic impression from it at all. The work of art is to dominate the spectator: the spectator is not to dominate the work of art. The spectator is to be receptive." (p. 43)

Art is most productive by the artist and of the most value to the public when the latter allows the work of art to shape him instead of trying to shape the work or the artist's subject matter. Wilde believes that truly valuable art is that which is not popular because most of the public cannot detect the intrinsic value of the work in question. This sentiment is the basic philosophy of the Aesthetes, a group to which Wilde belonged, who adopted the doctrine "art for art's sake," believing that art existed for the perfection of the technique, not for outside criticism.

Wilde identifies those contemporaries that he believes have transcended public opinion as well as those who have been shaped by it. In Henry Esmond, William Thackeray produced "a beautiful work of art because he wrote it to please himself," though in other works Thackeray was "too conscious of the public, and spoil(ed) his work by appealing directly to the sympathies of the public, or by directly mocking at them." On the other hand, George Meredith "has never asked the public what they wanted, has never cared to know what they wanted, has never allowed the public to dictate to him or influence him in any way but has gone on intensifying his own personality, and producing his own individual work." (p. 44-45) Though not popular at first, Meredith receives Wilde's praise because he did not adapt his style to public opinion.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was an Irish playwright, novelist, poet, and essayist of the late Victorian era. He was a very successful writer during his lifetime, accumulating much wealth. Writing in a multiplicity of genres, he is best known for his humor; nevertheless, in the works I will analyze, he writes about serious subjects.

In the essay The Soul of Man Under Socialism (1891)Wilde advocates a type of socialism in which individualism is free to thrive, which one source terms libertarian socialism.

De Profundis is a letter Wilde wrote while in prison to his lover, Sir Arthur Douglas. It is a poignant reflection of the events of his life since the two first met.

Wilde paints the picture of an inmate he encountered during his imprisonment in The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1897). This poem paints the inmate as a man no different than those outside the prison's walls.

All quotes from the above works by Wilde come from De Profundis and Other Writings, edited by Hesketh Pearson.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Religion in The Moonstone

Collins was not an overly religious person himself, as he was turned off by his overpious father and the evangelical movement in Victorian England. However, he was not opposed to religion, as he once wrote that he "believe(s) Jesus Christ to be the Son of God." Nevertheless, he did not believe that religion as a topic belonged in a newspaper, as he once told an editor for whom he wrote, and it is not a topic on which he dwells in his novels (Keith Lawrence, "The Religion of Wilkie Collins: Three Unpublished Documents").

In The Moonstone, religion plays a role in the narrative as the reader sees Chrisitianity and Hinduism as ooposing forces. Christianity is represented in the character of Miss Clack while the three Indians as well as Murthwaite's travel to India allows us to obtain a view of Hinduism. Despite the feelings of superiority of Englishmen toward Indians, Hinduism is portrayed positively in the novel while Christianity is given a bad name.

Though certain characters diapprove of the Indians' presence near the Verinder estate, Collins uses Murthwaite's ability to communicate with the Hindus to show that their object is noble. Their goal is not to harm anyone, though that may be a result, but to recover the stolen diamond. It is a diamond that is ultimately stolen on two different occasions by two English Christians, who have only financial gain as their motive. As a result, they both flee threats of death, though Godfrey is eventually killed while in possession of the diamond. Despite this death of an Englishman, the reader sympathizes with the Indians who only sought to reclaim that which had first belonged to them.

Collins ends the novel with a cativating description of a Hindu ceremony in which Murthwaite witnesses the diamond placed back in the head of a statue of the Hindu moon goddess.

"Looking back down the hill, the view presented the grandest spectacle of Nature and Man, in combination, that I have ever seen. The lower slopes of the eminence melted imperceptibly into a grassy plain, the place of the meeting of three rivers. On one side, the graceful winding of the waters stretched away, now visible, now hidden by trees, as far as the eye could see. On the other, the waveless ocean slept in the calm of the night. People this lovely scene with tens of thousands of human creatures, all dressed in white, stretching down the sides of the hill, overflowing into the plain, and fringing the nearer banks of the winding rivers. Light this halt of the pilgrims by the wild red flames of cressets and torches, streaming up at intervals from every part of the innumerable throng. Imagine the moonlight of the East, pouring in unclouded glory over all—and you will form some idea of the view that met me when I looked forth from the summit of the hill.
A strain of plaintive music, played on stringed instruments, and flutes, recalled my attention to the hidden shrine.
I turned, and saw on the rocky platform the figures of three men. In the central figure of the three I recognised the man to whom I had spoken in England, when the Indians appeared on the terrace at Lady Verinder's house. The other two who had been his companions on that occasion were no doubt his companions also on this.
One of the spectators, near whom I was standing, saw me start. In a whisper, he explained to me the apparition of the three figures on the platform of rock.
They were Brahmins (he said) who had forfeited their caste in the service of the god. The god had commanded that their purification should be the purification by pilgrimage. On that night, the three men were to part. In three separate directions, they were to set forth as pilgrims to the shrines of India. Never more were they to look on each other's faces. Never more were they to rest on their wanderings, from the day which witnessed their separation, to the day which witnessed their death.
As those words were whispered to me, the plaintive music ceased. The three men prostrated themselves on the rock, before the curtain which hid the shrine. They rose—they looked on one another—they embraced. Then they descended separately among the people. The people made way for them in dead silence. In three different directions I saw the crowd part, at one and the same moment. Slowly the grand white mass of the people closed together again. The track of the doomed men through the ranks of their fellow mortals was obliterated. We saw them no more.
A new strain of music, loud and jubilant, rose from the hidden shrine. The crowd around me shuddered, and pressed together.
The curtain between the trees was drawn aside, and the shrine was disclosed to view.
There, raised high on a throne—seated on his typical antelope, with his four arms stretching towards the four corners of the earth—there, soared above us, dark and awful in the mystic light of heaven, the god of the Moon. And there, in the forehead of the deity, gleamed the yellow Diamond, whose splendour had last shone on me in England, from the bosom of a woman's dress!
Yes! after the lapse of eight centuries, the Moonstone looks forth once more, over the walls of the sacred city in which its story first began. How it has found its way back to its wild native land—by what accident, or by what crime, the Indians regained possession of their sacred gem, may be in your knowledge, but is not in mine. You have lost sight of it in England, and (if I know anything of this people) you have lost sight of it for ever."

Against the backdrop of this ethereal scene, the diamond is back where it belongs and peace has been restored. In no way does Collins mock the ceremony of the restoration of the diamond. Instead he paints a beautiful picture of the Hindus that is evocative of the respect that Collins has toward their religious beliefs.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Man's Dual Nature cont'd

Murthwaite is an intriguing character of duality. He is an Englishman with much Eastern traveling experience. In fact, he feels more comfortable in the East than he does among the English. His dual nature gives explanation to the actions and motives of the Indians and aids the investigation of the missing diamond. He alone is able to communicate with the Indians in their native tongue. Without his help, the mystery could not have been solved. Collins allows him to provide the final narrative of the novel in which the diamond is restored to its rightful place; no other character could provide that narrative. In the backdrop of the British-Indian conflict of 1857, Murthwaite suggests that the Indians are not savages and should be given greater sovereignty.

Ezra Jenning, Mr. Candy's assistant, bares out his duality physically. He is the son of an English father and a mother from one of England's colonies. He is dark skinned and Betteredge describes him as having "piebald hair," which is half black and half white. Franklin describes him as looking as young as forty or as old as Betteredge, who is in his mid-seventies. He has been rejected by thoses among whom he dwells due to his appearance, which has resulted in false rumors. Despite being a doctor's assistant, he has attacks which cause him to rely upon laudanum. Jennings decodes the message that Dr. Candy wants to give to Franklin and this message ultimately explains how the diamond left Rachel's possession. Despite his chaotic inwardness, Jennings is able to provide answers that otherwise would have been left unanswered.

Godfrey is another character of duality. He has a philanthropic side, as that is the side with which Miss Clack is most familiar. Betteredge describes this side of Godrey:

"If you ever subscribed to a Ladies' Charity in London, you know Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite as well as I do. He was a barrister by profession; a ladies' man by temperament; and a good Samaritan by choice. Female benevolence and female destitution could do nothing without him. Maternal societies for confining poor women; Magdalen societies for rescuing poor women; strong-minded societies for putting poor women into poor men's places, and leaving the men to shift for themselves;—he was vice-president, manager, referee to them all. Wherever there was a table with a committee of ladies sitting round it in council there was Mr. Godfrey at the bottom of the board, keeping the temper of the committee, and leading the dear creatures along the thorny ways of business, hat in hand. I do suppose this was the most accomplished philanthropist (on a small independence) that England ever produced. As a speaker at charitable meetings the like of him for drawing your tears and your money was not easy to find."

He is seemingly devoted to helping women through charity, but it becomes clear that he is just in it for the money. He sees marrying Rachel as an opportunity to clear his debts but a specific clause in Mrs. Verinder's will prevents his access to Rachel's money; therefore, the engagement is broken. Ultimately, he is discovered to have stolen the diamond but is killed by the Indians before he can pay his debts. The curse of the diamond has manifested itself by wreaking havoc everywhere it has gone until it is back in the possession of the Indians.

Collins shows human duality in other ways as well. He dresses the Indians up as jugglers visiting the neighborhood, though they are actually priests in search of the diamond. Franklin, in an opium-induced expedition, steals the diamond, which Godfrey takes uses as surety for a loan. Collins depicts man as a multi-sided personality.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The duality of the human nature

One notable facet from the novel is that several character display a dual nature. Betteredge gives us this view of Franklin when he talks of the latter as having French, German, and Italian sides developed from foreign education, in addition to his native English side. Betteredge explains the dichotomy in the following paragraph:

"What do you think, for instance, of his discussing the lengths to which a married woman might let her admiration go for a man who was not her husband, and putting it in his clear-headed witty French way to the maiden aunt of the Vicar of Frizinghall? What do you think, when he shifted to the German side, of his telling the lord of the manor, while that great authority on cattle was quoting his experience in the breeding of bulls, that experience, properly understood counted for nothing, and that the proper way to breed bulls was to look deep into your own mind, evolve out of it the idea of a perfect bull, and produce him? What do you say, when our county member, growing hot, at cheese and salad time, about the spread of democracy in England, burst out as follows: "If we once lose our ancient safeguards, Mr. Blake, I beg to ask you, what have we got left?"—what do you say to Mr. Franklin answering, from the Italian point of view: "We have got three things left, sir—Love, Music, and Salad"? He not only terrified the company with such outbreaks as these, but, when the English side of him turned up in due course, he lost his foreign smoothness; and, getting on the subject of the medical profession, said such downright things in ridicule of doctors, that he actually put good-humoured little Mr. Candy in a rage."

The above paragraph illustrates the awkwadness that Franklin's many-sided personality produces. His French side shows his levity in serious discussions while his German side is philoophical in nature. He loses all intellect with his Italian side while his English side is uncouth and insular. Franklin, in his narrative, completely rejects Betteredge's hypothesis.

Sergeant Cuff is another character that has a dual nature. Cuff is the famed detective that is hired to solve the mystery of the diamond. He is able to uncover numerous clues at the beginning of the novel and at the end and names Godfrey as the thief before such is discovered. However, he has a fascination for roses and repeatedly debates the Verinder's gardener about the estate's rose garden:

'I found Sergeant Cuff and the gardener, with a bottle of Scotch whisky between them, head over ears in an argument on the growing of roses. The Sergeant was so deeply interested that he held up his hand, and signed to me not to interrupt the discussion, when I came in. As far as I could understand it, the question between them was, whether the white moss rose did, or did not, require to be budded on the dog-rose to make it grow well. Mr. Begbie said, Yes; and Sergeant Cuff said, No. They appealed to me, as hotly as a couple of boys. Knowing nothing whatever about the growing of roses, I steered a middle course—just as her Majesty's judges do, when the scales of justice bother them by hanging even to a hair. "Gentlemen," I remarked, "there is much to be said on both sides." In the temporary lull produced by that impartial sentence, I laid my lady's written message on the table, under the eyes of Sergeant Cuff.'

Despite being in the middle of an investigation, Cuff feels sufficiently confident enough in his abilities to pause momentarily and debate the gardener on the subject of roses. A love of detective work and roses does not seem to be compatible but Cuff explains the apparent contradiction:

'"If you will look about you (which most people won't do)," says Sergeant Cuff, "you will see that the nature of a man's tastes is, most times, as opposite as possible to the nature of a man's business. Show me any two things more opposite one from the other than a rose and a thief; and I'll correct my tastes accordingly—if it isn't too late at my time of life."'

Cuff is convinced that having opposing interests is a part of human nature.

Even the devout Miss Clack displays a dual nature. She is persistent in passing out tracts, such as "A Word With You On Your Cap-Ribbons," and keeping everyone from the flames of Hell but Betteredge points out that she drank liberally of the wine during the birthday dinner. Also, despite her Christian wisdom, she proves to be a bad judge of character in her assessment of Godfrey, whom she paints as a true Christian devoted to poor women's causes but who turns out to be the villain in the novel. Collins uses Miss Clack to poke fun at organized religion.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Ezra Jennings

Ezra Jennings is the assistant to Mr. Candy, the Verinder family doctor. He is first mentioned as a guest at Rachel's birthday dinner; however his prominence in the novel is not developed until the narrative of Franklin Blake. At this point of the story, Jennings is taking care of the ill Mr. Candy, whose illness first sets in after the dinner and who requests Franklin to visit but has trouble remembering what it is that he wants to tell the latter. Jennings is able to decipher what it is that Mr. Candy wants Franklin to know, thus providing a significant piece to the mystery.

Franklin finds Jennings to be a very intriguing person, first by his outer appearance.

"His complexion was of a gipsy darkness; his fleshless cheeks had fallen into deep hollows, over which the bone projected like a pent-house. His nose presented the fine shape and modelling so often found among the ancient people of the East, so seldom visible among the newer races of the West. His forehead rose high and straight from the brow. His marks and wrinkles were innumerable. From this strange face, eyes, stranger still, of the softest brown—eyes dreamy and mournful, and deeply sunk in their orbits—looked out at you, and (in my case, at least) took your attention captive at their will. Add to this a quantity of thick closely-curling hair, which, by some freak of Nature, had lost its colour in the most startlingly partial and capricious manner. Over the top of his head it was still of the deep black which was its natural colour. Round the sides of his head—without the slightest gradation of grey to break the force of the extraordinary contrast—it had turned completely white. The line between the two colours preserved no sort of regularity. At one place, the white hair ran up into the black; at another, the black hair ran down into the white. I looked at the man with a curiosity which, I am ashamed to say, I found it quite impossible to control. His soft brown eyes looked back at me gently; and he met my involuntary rudeness in staring at him, with an apology which I was conscious that I had not deserved."

From this description one learns that he has a dark complexion and he resembles someone of Eastern origin. The use of the phrase "fleshless cheeks" almost assigns a lifeless look to him. His hair, which Betteredge describes as piebald, is a mixture of black and white. His sullen looks are a testament of the past he has endured, especially considering he is only 40 but could be mistaken as being older than Betteredge who is at least seventy. Jennings, whom Franklin describes as inscrutable, begins to tell the story of his family history before abruptly stopping:

"'No. I was born, and partly brought up, in one of our colonies. My father was an Englishman; but my mother—We are straying away from our subject, Mr. Blake; and it is my fault. The truth is, I have associations with these modest little hedgeside flowers—It doesn't matter; we were speaking of Mr. Candy. To Mr. Candy let us return.'"

Nevertheless, we get a clear picture that he is of mixed origin.

Despite Jennings' appearance and his history of being an outcast, Franklin describes him as a "gentleman." The outer appearance of Jennings has caused other to view him suspiciously, making it nearly impossible for him to maintain a position anywhere in England. Nevertheless, Collins portrays him as a man injustly ostracized from society but who proves to be not only educated and learned, but also valuable in solving the mystery of the diamond. It is through someone of mixed heritage, which along with his piebald hair suggests a coexistence of the races, that the mystery is solved. Jennings' addiction to opium may be an illustration of the struggle between England and its colonies.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Mr. Murthwaite

The presence of Mr. Murthwaite in the novel assists Collins in his portrayal of the Indians. When he is first introduced at Rachel's birthday dinner, he is described as

"a long, lean, wiry, brown, silent man. He had a weary look, and a very steady, attentive eye. It was rumoured that he was tired of the humdrum life among the people in our parts, and longing to go back and wander off on the tramp again in the wild places of the East. Except what he said to Miss Rachel about her jewel, I doubt if he spoke six words or drank so much as a single glass of wine, all through the dinner. The Moonstone was the only object that interested him in the smallest degree. The fame of it seemed to have reached him, in some of those perilous Indian places where his wanderings had lain."

He functions in the novel as a mediator, which is demonstrated when the Indians show up at the Verinder country estate performing tricks. He approaches them and begins to speak to them in their native tongue.

"If he had pricked them with a bayonet, I doubt if the Indians could have started and turned on him with a more tigerish quickness than they did, on hearing the first words that passed his lips. The next moment they were bowing and salaaming to him in their most polite and snaky way. After a few words in the unknown tongue had passed on either side, Mr. Murthwaite withdrew as quietly as he had approached. The chief Indian, who acted as interpreter, thereupon wheeled about again towards the gentlefolks. I noticed that the fellow's coffee-coloured face had turned grey since Mr. Murthwaite had spoken to him. He bowed to my lady, and informed her that the exhibition was over."

He is able to calm the fears of Betteredge and Franklin Blake, who are the only ones at the time who are familiar with the aims of the Indians. For the moment, the threat is not an immediate concern. Later, he explains to Betteredge that the Indian are not performers but Hindu priests in disguise. Through Murthwaite the reader is able to understand the Indians from a well-informed source. We understand that they are not bad people.

He also uses his knowledge of the Indian culture to further the narrative. He explains to Mr. Bruff the reason the chief Indian visited the Bruff residence and asked about the amount of time that elapses before a debt is to paid. He is also used to decipher a coded letter written in Hindustani, as Collins calls it. He explains the attack of Mr. Luker and Godfrey Ablewhite and is the first to suspect Godfrey of the theft of the diamond. In fact, without his help, the mystery would have had too many holes to solve.

At the end of the novel, Mr. Murthwaite returns to the East and becomes an eyewitness to the diamond being placed back in the moon god statue by the three Indians whom he correctly identifed as Hindu priests. He is the only character that fits in whether in India or England. Though an Englishman, he tires of English society and desires to travel to the East. In Murthwaite, Collins expresses his desire for the English to develop a better understanding and appreciation for Indian customs.


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