- Dec 2020
blindfolding Maria and leading her up to the table
Maria is blindfolded and led up to the table to "see what she would get", suggesting that she is not in control of her own destiny, and instead a helpless recipient of whatever life decides to throw her way. The blind being led to the table also conjures imagery of animals led to the altar for sacrifice, presenting Maria as a sacrificial lamb of sorts.
Maria was a very, very small person indeed but she had a very long nose and a very long chin.
There's a lot of emphasis placed on Maria's appearance here through the repetition of "very", and the image is not exactly flattering, either. In fact, a "very long nose" and "very long chin" are trademark characteristics of a witch, usually of the up-to-no-good kind. I wonder if Joyce is trying to say something here about her character, or society's view on people's appearances and their character.
He longed to ascend through the roof and fly away to another country where he would never hear again of his trouble, and yet a force pushed him downstairs step by step.
Joyce's intent behind the juxtaposition of ascent and descent here is palpable. He likens "another country" to heaven, while "downstairs", i.e. Irish society, is hell. The "force" of societal pressures and Catholic guilt push him down the stairs, trapping him in a hell with no escape.
This oxymoron highlights Joyce's general attitude towards religion in Dubliners. Everyone puts up a facade of "innocence" to keep up appearances of religious piety, but there is an unspoken undercurrent of mutual understanding on hidden meanings and intentions. People are unable to communicate in frank terms, and this creates an awkward tension between them.
- Nov 2020
She gripped with both hands at the iron railing
The iron railing represents the self-imposed prison Eveline finds herself in. Although she can see and imagine a different future in a foreign land, it is inaccessible in reality as she realizes she cannot survive leaving Ireland. Joyce presents the Irish as people shackled by their own culture, presented with potential and opportunity but unable to take it due to their own inhibitions.
reviewing all its familiar objects which she had dusted once a week for so many years, wondering where on earth all the dust came from
Familiarity and repetition is a common theme among many of the stories in Dubliners. Nothing changes, and there is a certain level of comfort in that stagnant familiarity. Although she dusted her home regularly, it always came back, representing stagnation as a systemic issue that cannot be solved by routine remedies.
who collected used stamps for some pious purpose.
A stamp collecting is synonymous with dull character, and used stamps even more so. By tying the act of collecting used stamps to a "pious purpose", Joyce critiques the effect of religion on stagnating Irish culture. It can also be interpreted as a sardonic jab at those who claim to act in the service of Christianity while doing much of nothing.
I lay on the floor in the front parlour watching her door
This part stands out due to it's almost verse-like rhyme and meter structure.
I lay on the floor / in the front parlor / watching her door.
It emphasizes the narrator's obsession with the girl and highlights the absurdity of the daily routine, as well as the playful nature of childhood romance.
for in my heart I had always despised him a little
Mahony can be understood as a representation of the narrator's innocence. The narrator is overly eager to grow into adulthood and leave his immaturity behind, but is forced to face the reality that he is not ready upon meeting the strange man. Upon making this realization, he welcomes the return of innocence and regrets that he despised him so.
mimic warfare of the evening became at last as wearisome to me as the routine of school in the morning because I wanted real adventures to happen to myself
The loss of innocence and imagination of youth is symbolized here as playing "mimic warfare" becomes "as wearisome" as the "routine of school". Joyce suggests that we become desensitized to stimulation as we grow older by juxtaposing "warfare of the evening" to "school in the morning". The "morning" may be interpreted as early life, while the "evening" stands as a symbol for adulthood. Furthermore, Joyce argues that the reason for this disillusionment stems from the lack of satisfaction and the desire for "adventures to happen".
The duties of the priest towards the Eucharist and towards the secrecy of the confessional seemed so grave to me that I wondered how anybody had ever found in himself the courage to undertake them
The naivety of youth is apparent in this passage. The child assumes that every priest undertook the "duties" of priesthood with unadulterated integrity and commitment; he cannot yet entertain the complexities of life which necessitate compromise and disappointment. Oftentimes the pursuit of priesthood is not driven by "courage" or other such pure motives, nor do people undertake "grave" duties with complete seriousness at all times.
roused him from his stupefied doze.
Implying that the old man may as well have been dead already. What is the difference between death and a "stupefied doze"? From the perspective of a child, there is little discernible distinction. The permanence of death does not quite carry weight to those who have not been affected by it yet, and seems like a mere natural extension of this "stupefied" state.
- Oct 2020
The new Isabel
The "old" Isabel has been replaced by an entirely different being, rather than changing in character, much like how "the old donkeys and engines" were scrapped. This brings up an interesting question on identity - what makes a person, that person? It's a common theme in marriage that people do not resemble who they used to be when they married, but here the change in character is framed as a change in identity.
But she had already forgotten Hennie. I was forgotten, too. She was trying to remember something... She was miles away.
This drives home the surrealist tone of the entire story. Reality is warped in this space and Mansfield emphasizes the connection between physical distance and emotional distance here with "remember" and "miles away". It's reminiscent of Alice at Mad Hatter's tea party - the whole affair is chaotic, and it is difficult to ascertain whether the here and now is real.
pink-and-white marble with orange-trees outside the doors in gold-and-black tubs.
Interesting use of color here. Also note that the the orange here isn't referring to the color but the fruit - which came first anyway? Mansfield's vivid use of color is notable in both its frequency and contrast. The stark contrast of "pink-and-white" to "gold-and-black" for example does a good job of highlighting the eclectic aesthetic of the casino, making the entire scene seem one step removed from normal reality.
big bite of her bread-and-butter
This alliteration highlights the naivete and childishness of Laura's understand of class distinctions. She believes that taking a "big bite of her bread-and-butter" is a form of rebellion against "stupid conventions" and makes her feel "just like a work-girl." Yet contrary to her intentions, the fact that she is able to eat without concern for how the food came to be on her table shows her privileged status. The sheer ridiculousness of the situation clearly steers this depiction of Laura as satire.
Greatness beyond comprehension. The sublime was a concept heavily discussed in English art and philosophy in the century preceding the writing of The Moonstone. Much like the intoxication of opium, the mystery of the Moonstone cannot be explained through calculations or logical argumentation. It's not Law - I think Mr.Bruff's presence in the scene serves as a great foil here. The mystery can only be solved through experience, not deduction.
Only the protest of the world, Miss Verinder–on a very small scale–against anything that is new
This critique on English conservatism summarizes the tension between the native and the foreign present through the entire book. It's a critique on the narrow-mindedness of those who conform to social norms without question, and therefore fail to consider perspectives or possibilities which lie outside traditional thought. The missteps in deduction that occur in this book are largely due to arguments on false premises rather than logical fallacies.
At two this morning, he confesses that he opened the drawer in which his cigars are put away. He only succeeded in locking it up again by a violent effort. His next proceeding, in case of temptation, was to throw the key out of window.
The Moonstone was also put away in a drawer. This parallel highlights the use of the Moonstone as a symbol for addiction, and its effects on personal relationships. The insidious temptation of addiction can only be resisted by violent effort and self-denial. Addicts become pariahs of society, represented here by the 'foreignness' of Ezra and Franklin. No good Englishman would be an addict, no sir.
Time would show; and Mr. Bruff was willing to wait for time.
Given his physical condition, Ezra does not have the luxury of waiting for time. Same goes for Franklin, who is the accused. There is a certain distinction of privilege between those who are able to wait for time and those who aren't. It should be pointed out that those of English disposition are willing to wait patiently, while the 'foreign' characters are taking an active approach to the investigation. Is this a critique of passivity in Victorian English society - that people had become all too content to "wait for time" in times of urgency?
we found a surprising quantity of pins.
Good to know some things never change.
I roused my manhood
Shakespeare would've been proud.
“What right has she to suspect Me, on any evidence, of being a thief?”
How is Franklin so oblivious to the hypocrisy here? What "right" does he have to suspect anybody of being a thief in that case? I believe Collins is trying to push the point that we are quick to take our own knowledge for granted while disregarding this fact for others. Again, another reference to the subjectivity of "truth" and the difficulty in distinguishing it from "belief".
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.
A point of personal interest for me is the use of chiaroscuro in the book, and this passage is the most clear usage of it yet. The phrase "black and white" is used often in the context of truth and "grey" is a metaphor for ambiguity. The fact that the man's hair has no grey such that there was "no sort of regularity" between black and white suggests a lack of ambiguity and clarity of thought. It may be fruitful to investigate the contrast values throughout the text to see which narratives are "grey" and which are "black and white".
I may own the truth–with the quicksand waiting to hide me when the words are written.
Truth is obviously an important theme in a detective novel. Collins lays the metaphor thick here with the quicksand, conjuring imagery of truth lost in the muddy sands. Rosanna also mentions that she "may own" the truth - but is truth not objective fact? It emphasizes the question of perception versus reality and the epistemology of truth. For Rosanna, truth is what she believed to be true, her truth. She died due to the burden of this truth, fully believing in its validity.
The one interpretation that I could put on her conduct has, no doubt, been anticipated by everybody. I could only suppose that she was mad.
This passage highlights the subjectivity in these narratives as a whole. Franklin believes that everyone would interpret Lucy's actions as that of a madwoman, and it is certainly the case that those whom he surrounds himself with would agree. However, there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for Lucy's actions that only women of her and Rosanna's class would know - people who have no voice in these narratives.
- Sep 2020
I paid the cabman exactly his fare. He received it with an oath; upon which I instantly gave him a tract.
For someone who professes to be so devout, Clack's miserliness when it comes to money is downright hilarious. She frequently mentions the "pecuniary pressure" of Franklin's check, doesn't tip, and yet constantly paints herself as a generous soul. At this point it is evident that this character is a caricature of the hypocritical Christian whom Collins has built up to tear down. I expect her assessment of the sequence of events to be comically wrong.
the fallen nature which we all inherit from Adam
Miss Clack already seems to be far more religious than Betteredge. I wonder if she is going to cite the Bible similarly to Betteredge with Robinson Crusoe. It also suggests that Clack will be conservative in her views of societal norms and traditions, and may have a strict, judgmental perspective in line with her Christian values.
The reference to Original sin also brings up the classic dichotomy of good vs evil, innocence vs guilt. Does Clack view knowledge of good and evil as a deficiency in human nature? Does she believe in free will? These factors bring may provide a basis for how her narrative may be skewed or unreliable. Even if she does not ponder these questions herself, Collins certainly posits them to the reader by invoking original sin here. Furthermore, this sets up a tension between western Christianity and eastern Hinduism, reinforcing the previously introduced conflict between domestic and foreign values.
It was now the time of the turn of the tide: and even as I stood there waiting, the broad brown face of the quicksand began to dimple and quiver–the only moving thing in all the horrid place.
Something that was still begins to "turn", possibly hinting at events turning for the worse. This specific sentence is highlighted by the alliteration of the hard t sound in "time", "turn", and "tide". Furthermore, the peculiar repetitive form in "the of the of the _" emphasizes the intention behind this phrase.
Collins is clearly hinting to the reader of shifting forces behind the scenes. The "big brown face" could allude to the Indians and the curse of the Diamond.
white moss rose is all the better for not being budded on the dog-rose
This has been mentioned repeatedly by Cuff at this point. Roses have classically been used as a symbol of nobility in England. "Budding" may refer to the mingling or mixing between two different classes of people. If we understand Cuff's words through this interpretation, he is arguing for the "purity" of nobility, or strict adherence to class stratification.
Rosanna's name can also be construed as a reference to the roses in Cuff's argument. By "budding" with nobility, Rosanna has become entangled in an unfortunate event for which she would have been "all the better for not" being involved at all.
through the window, to take his portmanteau
How close were Wilkie Collins and Lewis Carroll? If I'm not mistaken, Carroll originally used this phrase in Through the Looking Glass which was published around the same time as The Moonstone.
As Humpty Dumpty says, the portmanteau could be interpreted as "two meanings packed up into one word" . With Godfrey giving Cuff the keys to the portmanteau, it may allude to clues hidden in words with double meanings.
Either way, Carroll and Collins must've been on a lot of the good stuff.
Why Superintendent Seegrave should have appeared to be several sizes smaller than life, on being presented to Sergeant Cuff, I can’t undertake to explain. I can only state the fact. They retired together; and remained a weary long time shut up from all mortal intrusion.
It's unclear why for the moment, but there are several references to death here. See"grave", "smaller than life", "undertake", "retire", "weary long time", "mortal". My initial guess is that Seegrave will be witness to a death given the pun on his name. As for Cuff, it remains to be seen what role he will have in the story, but this passage does hint at some entanglement with death at some point.
I don’t want to force my opinion on you
This is false. Betteredge himself confesses during this conversation that his thoughts were "muddled" until "Mr. Franklin took them in hand, and pointed out what they ought to see". Furthermore, wasn't it Franklin who pushed Betteredge to write his recollection in the first place? Franklin's influence on the Betteredge is apparent, putting into question the reliability of his narrative as well as Franklin's motives.
It again brings up the dichotomy of opinion versus fact, subjective versus objective. This reminds me of "In a Grove" by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, which was adapted into the film "Rashomon" by Akira Kurosawa. Very similar themes and narrative structure.
to put the Person before the Thing, which is but common politeness
The capitalization of "Person" along with "Thing" leads me to believe that Rosanna may be a key character, especially as Betteredge describes her in great detail compared to the other characters he has introduced thus far. It's interesting that he quips it is "common politeness" to "put the Person before the Thing", when looking at the narrative as a whole, it is the "Thing" which comes before all else. This juxtaposition sets up a dichotomy of the personal versus the objective, which given the format of multiple narrators makes sense.
Also establishes Betteredge as someone who values social etiquette while subtly hinting that those who are obsessed with the Diamond are somehow indecent. Could that be a jab at the audience as well?
The Colonel had been a notorious opium-eater for years past
It should be mentioned that Wilkie Collins was a "notorious opium-eater" himself. The Colonel may be an allusion to himself, and the negative way in which he is depicted could be interpreted as Collins' self-loathing.
The curse of the Diamond itself may be an allegory for the corrupting influence of opium addiction. The "wretched crystal" that he "picked up" in India can be construed as a metaphor for a bad drug habit.
Betteredge, your edge is better than ever
Hilarity aside, it's interesting that Franklin makes such an obvious pun at Betteredge's name. Is this simply a wink and a nudge from Collins, or is he trying to hint that the character names carry some meaning? Alternatively, could it be that Betteredge is actually a bumbling buffoon who has no clue of what's going on? This pun serves to remind the reader to keep an eye out for clues and double meanings that may be hidden within the lines.
- Lewis Carroll
- Shivering Sands
- The Colonel
- point of view