English Lamp Posts Top Victorian Blog Award Winner 2011

Brought to you by English Lamp Posts

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts with Thumbnails