Book Review: The Moonstone by William Wilkie Collins

The Moonstone eBook by Wilkie Collins - 1230001902938 | Rakuten Kobo United  States

As a writer of the British Empire at the peak of the colonial era, Collins is immersed in the influence of colonialism and orientalism thinking mode. His image of the Eastern people inevitably shows the superiority of the subjects of the metropolitan country and the obvious racist attitude towards the colonial people. However, many factors in The Moonstone, such as the selection of time setting, plot arrangement, characterization and so on, can also be interpreted completely in the opposite way: Collins raises certain doubts and challenges to the colonial mentality. Collins’s choice of India as the setting is closely related to the Indian mercenary riots of 1857. The rioting started when the British authorities used butter and lard as lubricants for bullet clips that needed to be chewed through the mouth, and the mercenaries were mostly Hindus or Muslims. To them, touching the oil on these clips meant blasphemy against religion. Angry soldiers rioted, killing not only the British boss but also the innocent. Most of the reports in the British media distorted the facts of the case, and for a time, the name “bloodthirsty Indian” was constantly heard. Collins and Dickens collaborated on an article called “The Perils of Certain English Prisoners,” which exposed the insidious, cunning, and hypocrisy of colored people and praised the qualities of British soldiers. The Moonstone was written on the tenth anniversary of the riots, and newspapers and magazines are full of memories, memorials or reflections on the events. By this time, many British people had come to understand the truth and felt that the British authorities had been wrong to disregard the Indian soldiers’ religious beliefs, and Collins’s views had changed subtly. In the novel, his view of the relationship between Britain and India is no longer a simple tribute to the British empire, but an indirect expression of his deep reflection. The plot arrangement and characterization of the novel also reveal Collins’ questioning and criticism of the so-called noble morality of the colonists.

Several of the Englishmen involved in the jewel were from the upper middle class, but the cruelty and greed of Colonel Herncastle, who first grabbed the jewel, goes without saying, and the image of Abel White, the real black hand in the jewel theft, is ironic. The final collapse of the case exposed Abel White as a hypocritical English gentleman. He is the suitor of Rachel, the heroine. He is of noble birth, well-educated and has a noble career as a lawyer. He attends church regularly and is enthusiastic in organizing and participating in various charitable activities. He was a fine young man of uncommon appearance. He had a round, bright face, a ruddy complexion, and lovely blond hair. However, when the mystery is solved, his double identity is revealed: the bright surface conceals the dark inner heart, he not only leads a dissolved life, but also embezzles the client’s funds. After the financial crisis, in order to avoid ruin, he took the risk of stealing precious stones. It is intriguing that Collins has named such a sanctimonious figure Abel White. The image of an Indian was in stark contrast to Abel White’s imposing appearance. In the eyes of several narrators, the Indians are dark skinned, obtuse, and have a manner reminiscent of snakes. However, they had a clear goal and a firm belief. In order to retrieve the stolen holy moonstone, they broke the religious rules and sacrificed their lives to trace all the way to England, and finally returned the gem to its owner by tenacious perseverance, superhuman patience and shrewd calculation. The explorer concludes the novel by describing a grand Hindu religious ceremony celebrating the return of the jewel. His reverence rose to the page as he spoke of the three men going their separate ways, with the congregation around them making way for them in silence. The moonstone becomes a yardstick to measure the good and evil of human nature and a mirror to reflect the character’s morality.

Reflected in this mirror, the “barbarian” in the eyes of the Europeans became the guardian of virtue, while the English gentleman had forgotten what was virtuous. So when Abel White, the “capable white man”, is murdered by an Indian, the mood conveyed by the novel is not one of indignation, but of sympathy, admiration and relief that justice has been done. The moonstone is a sacred object of Hinduism. This gem is no longer just a physical indicator, but a spiritual and cultural sustenance. The twists and turns of its fate revealed that the economy of the English country estate was closely related to the colony. Events in the colony would eventually spread to the British mainland and cause social unrest in Britain. The moonstone exposes the brutality and greed of the colonists, reflecting their moral corruption and hypocrisy under the guise of religion and civilization. Moreover, through the influence of the gem on the family of the British gentry, the author implies that colonial affairs destroy the traditional social and family hierarchy order: only when the colonial gems leave the British mainland, the British family can restore normal order. Another theme of the novel is to celebrate Rachel’s pursuit of love, even though her pursuit is full of difficulties. She falls in love with Franklin before her birthday party, but on the night of the party, after witnessing him steal the moonstone, she begins to doubt their love. But no matter how sad she was, she chose to sacrifice her reputation for secrecy to protect Franklin. In the novel, there are three Indians who follow in the footsteps of the moonstone, and their task is to keep searching for the moonstone, without fear of sacrifice, even through generations of efforts, until the stone is returned to its original place. Rachel’s sacrifice was in the name of love, and the sacrifice of the three Indians was in the name of faith. The two kinds of sacrifice echoed and supported each other.

The horror and mystery reflected in The Moonstone is one of the important features of Gothic literature. Readers are always in the process of guessing the murderer, guessing wrong, continuing to guess and guessing wrong. Only by reading the ending did we discover who the real killer was. In The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins has a remarkably precise command of time and space, one of the basic abilities that most mystery novels have. In terms of narrative structure, the novel is just like drama and film shooting, which is divided into prologue, first part, second part and epilogue. In the second part, there are six stories to tell. The time of the narrative remains the same, and the gems are stolen one by one — the truth comes out, but after the jewel is stolen, the events in the second part are told separately by the six men, as if the police were looking for clues and inquiring about relevant personnel, and the parts of the six men’s separate stories seem to be independent. The overlap of time and the intersection of space weave an impenetrable web. Narration, flashbacks and interludes in space and time make the plot messy and complex, close and scattered, and the readers’ mood is controlled by the author. There are traps in Wilkie Collins’s narrative that draw the reader’s mind in mysterious and conspiring directions, yet he is so grounded in the goodness of human nature that, just when you want to believe in it, another well-reasoned accident pulls back a plot that has gone far. Finally, you seem to know how the gem came back to India, and you seem not to know. This kind of looming narrative is extraordinarily precise in its transformation of narrative vision. In the dialogue of the characters, the defects of the previous character are written back or made up, and the whole picture is reflected afterwards where random incident causes an uncontrollable scene.

-Coreen C.

Authors We Love: Edward Morgan Forster

E.M. Forster | Biography, Books, & Facts | Britannica

Forster’s eyes were sharp when he looked down to diagnose industrial-age Englishmen, and he saw signs of illness, but when he looked up to give directions to his fellow-patients, the prescriptions were never right. The direction he seeks is always out of history and reality, so the mismatch between diagnosis and prescription is inevitable. In fact, the other culture did not allow Forster, who had a dual cultural identity and consciousness, to truly wander between the different cultures and face the panic and emptiness in the heart of the British middle class as a man who lived safely on the edge of cultural transition. He could only view the world from the perspective of bourgeois freedom and humanism. The internal contradiction of cultural identity forced him to violate the logic of life and culture and turned the connection into a diagram of his subjective desire, so the internal rupture of his works was difficult to be dispelled. As the representative of the traveling class, Forster took the British culture as the reference point and starting point, and looked at the countries and people he visited with some kind of overlooking eye. The imprint of British-centralism spreads with the extension of his vision as a British, and also with his anxiety about the future and destiny of the British empire. Forster did not oppose the humanism spirit rooted in the core of European culture for thousands of years since ancient Greece and Rome. From the standpoint of the cultural elite of the middle class, he hoped to transform the cultural tradition and make it elegant and interesting, to express the spiritual needs and tastes of the cultural elite of the middle class and reflect their voices. Forster represented the life of the British middle class in his works of art with great expressiveness and insight.

He was not concerned with countries or politics or economics, but with the friendship between people, the value of people, the perfection of human nature and the communication between different cultures. In other words, he was interested in the relationship between people and the conflict, estrangement, divergence and difference that these relationships reflect. Forster called on people to abandon the blind adherence to British moral concepts and social traditional customs, to eliminate individual, gender, class and race prejudice and estrangement, and to find common ground among human beings. Forster advocates an infinite and inclusive love in a multicultural world, regardless of nationality, religion, class or belief. At the same time that he made the appeal for connection, he was always aware of the difficulty of connection. The awkwardness and failure of the east-west cultural connection in A Passage to India caused Forster to have doubts and confusion about the reality of integration. These doubts and perplexities are also reflected in the creation of novels. For example, the marriage between Margaret and Henry in Howard’s Divorce has no credibility. These doubts and perplexities are also reflected in the creation of novels. For example, the marriage between Margaret and Henry in Howards End has no credibility. Margaret chose Henry as her connection object out of the need of the plot of the novel. The focus of the novel’s narration originally lies in the expression of profound estrangement. Another example is the mental state of the characters under colonial rule in A Passage to India. Aziz’s attitude towards the Indians is mixed with several states of gallantry in humiliation, helplessness in hatred and awakening in anesthesia.

Fielding is the continuation of Forster’s desire to connect, the embodiment of the ideal. Therefore, in the novel texts, readers often feel the contradictions and entanglements between Forster’s idealism complex and his actions of knowing the connection is not feasible. As a famous English critic and theorist, Forster plays an important role in the history of Western literature, which is inevitably influenced by the special social and cultural conditions at that time. Forster’s unique life experience and implicit homosexuality, as well as his deep feelings towards the east-west antagonistic background after his three trips to India, made him construct the utopian dream of connecting different nationalities, countries and classes with the good wishes of the world. Forster’s novels are famous for their complex, obscure and confusing themes. A general survey of Forster’s novels reveals that their themes are not clear and single, and it can even be said that their features are mixed. Therefore, in the process of reading, they can constantly provide readers with the stimulation of new reading horizons, and at the same time bring them more confusion about the content and significance of the works. About Adela’s experience in the cave, the author is no longer omnipotent and omniscient, but just as in the dark as the reader. The mystery of prophecy is not to be solved, but to be marveled at. This narrative method leaves readers a great imagination space, and also effectively reflects the multi-level theme of the work. The theory of intertextuality coincides with his purpose of writing. By exploring the intertextuality in his novels, it opens up a new way for his research.

In this way, a thorough exploration of his novels reveals that the seemingly chaotic theme actually contains the same meaning, that is, the response to the intellectual’s mental dilemma in the Edwardian period of England, trying to find a new standard of ethics and morality and explore the way to the realm of perfection. When Forster was writing novels, he inherited the social moral theme of 19th century realistic writers such as Jane Austen and Dickens. His novels reflect the social reality at that time, with a strong sense of social responsibility. Through A Passage to India, Forster mercilessly exposed the colonial rule of Britain and strongly criticized the racism of white supremacy. In A Room with A View, it criticizes the marriage based on property and praises the love of choosing partners from the angle of humanity and compatibility. In Where Angels Fear to Tread, Forster criticizes the conservative, isolated and selfish British culture and praises the open and enthusiastic Italian culture by comparing the British and Italian cultures. Reading Forster’s novels, we can feel the author’s deep concern for people. An important theme running through all of Forster’s works is to expose the banal and false moral concepts and social norms of the British middle class, and to expose the traditional prejudices that restrict people’s minds and hearts. In Forster’s novels, we can see the contrast technique commonly used in the traditional English creation. Forster is good at expressing his views through the contrast between characters and scenes.

For example, in A Room with A View, Forster cleverly compared Italy and Britain through the arrangement of scenes to show the differences and conflicts between the two cultures. He also made full use of the contrast between George and Cecil to show the conflicts between the two cultures and concepts. Cecil is a person who refuses to admit and tries to hide his natural and sacred feelings. He is immature in his feelings. He is a disparaging character in Forster’s works. In stark contrast to him was the straightforward, bold, passionate George. Like his father, he never hides his opinions and feelings. In his works, Forster used symbolism a great deal, and reached the point of proficiency. Among Forster’s six novels, the titles of four novels have obvious symbolic significance. A Passage to India takes its title from the poem of the same name by Walt Whitman. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1902 greatly shortened the journey time from England to India. The poet praised the progress of human science and technology linking different countries together. Whitman’s poem is full of light romantic, optimistic and positive emotions. But Forster chose A Passage To India as the title of his novel, which has an ironic meaning. Forster borrowed the term “rhythm” from music and successfully applied it to his novels. Forster’s major novels all have different complex rhythms, just as different music has different rhythms. For example, Ansell painted circles within circles and streams in The Longest Journey, the image of water in A Room with A View, the archetype of fire and the image of wasps in A Passage to India. The recurring, repetition and changes of the key words “moon”, “flower”, “mending” and “ghost” in Howards End make the novel coherent, rhythmic and musical. Forster emphasized the relationship between people and the value and integrity of people. Some of his characters, such as Lucy in A Room with a View, the Schlegel sisters in Howards End and Fielding and Adela in A Passage To India, were spokesmen for Forster’s values. In A Room with a View, Lucy abandoned the bargaining chip of property and chose her lover from the emotional perspective of human nature and mutual affection between men and women. Her choice represents a middle-class yearning for freedom. Through these descriptions, Forster’s humanistic thought of eliminating prejudice has fully demonstrated that his novels have complete story plots and rich characters, and a large number of artistic creation techniques such as comparison and satire rooted in the tradition of English literature.

-Coreen C.

The Once and Future King by T.H. White

T.H. White’s 1958 novel is a must-read for all. The book follows the journey of a kingdom with dictators and soldiers that inspired your childhood bedtime stories about King Arthur and the wizard, Merlyn. The characters and plot were based on older novels and true events in history. The entire novel includes five shorter “books” filled with themes of knights, war, lost love, and unraveled secrets.

The first book called “The Sword in the Stone” also inspired the Disney adaption of the story. This book creates the setting for the entire journey and introduces the unknown future king, Arthur, as a young boy living as a peasant. Arthur learns, loves, hurts, and goes through multiple obstacles to find his inner truth.

Personally, the story stuck to me because of its well-thought plot and storyline that makes you feel like you are a part of its world. The story strikes you especially when you realize that the destiny of the characters was already written and known (by Merlyn) since the very first chapter of the book. For this reason, it feels overwhelming when you finally finish the novel and think of the different ways it could have ended.

White’s themes in The Once and Future King accurately apply in today’s world, despite the time between the book’s publication and now in the twenty-first century. This novel not only shows development in its characters but also within the reader.

Although this novel is recommended to be read by young adults, anyone eager enough to gain a higher understanding of the world can read it. Personally, The Once and Future King has stayed with me since I read it for my English class five years ago. Hopefully, the future readers of this novel come to love it and cherish it as much as the past readers have.

-Zohal N. 

The Once and Future King by T. H. White is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Authors We Love: James Joyce

James Joyce | Biography, Books, & Facts | Britannica

James Joyce (1882-1941) was an Irish writer and poet. He was one of the greatest writers of the 20th century and one of the founders of postmodern literature. His works and stream of consciousness had a great influence on the world of literature. He has lived in Paris since 1920. He moved from place to place throughout Europe, teaching English and writing for a living. In his later years, he suffered from eye diseases and nearly lost his sight. His works are complex in structure, peculiar in language and highly original. His main work is a collection of short stories called Dubliners (1914), which describes the daily life of lower citizens and shows the destruction of people’s ideals and hopes by social environment.The autobiographical novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) describes the psychology of the characters and the world around them with a large number of inner monologues. The masterpiece novel Ulysses (1922) shows the loneliness and pessimism of people in modern society. In his later work, the full-length novel Finnegan’s Wake (1939) borrows the dream to express the ultimate thinking on human existence and destiny, and the language is extremely difficult to understand.

James Joyce was born in Dublin, Ireland, on February 2, 1882. His father had a strong faith in nationalism and his mother was a devout Catholic. When Joyce was born, the beautiful island nation of Ireland was a British colony, plagued by war and poverty. He had a large family of younger brothers and sisters, but his father favored the talented eldest son and gave him money to buy foreign books, whether the family had enough to eat or not. He grew up at the Catholic church school. Joyce is the youngest of the students. His academic performance is outstanding, and he initially shows extraordinary literary talent. Since the 19th century, the Irish Renaissance movement formed in Dublin with Yeats, Lady Gregory and Singer as the center, and he received the influence directly. Through friends, he was also influenced by the Irish National Independence movement. But what influenced him even more strongly was the emergence of liberal ideas in European literature at the end of the 19th century. Before he graduated from high school, he became suspicious of religion.

In 1898 Joyce entered University College Dublin, where he specialised in philosophy and language. On January 20, 1900, delivered a speech at the Literary and Historical Society of the College on the topic of Drama and Life. On April 1, the Half Moon Review, an English literary magazine, published his review of Ibsen’s work When We Dead Awaken(1899). This article was praised by Ibsen, who was over seventy years old, which encouraged Joyce and strengthened his determination to embark on a literary career. In October 1901, he wrote a self-published essay, The Noisy Times, criticizing the narrow nationalism of Irish theatrical houses.Joyce graduated from University College Dublin in June 1902 with a Bachelor’s degree in Modern Languages. On October 2, he enrolled in classes at St. Cecilia’s Medical School. However, he only studied here until the beginning of November when he gave up his studies due to financial difficulties.

Joyce’s literary career began in 1904 with a collection of short stories called Dubliners. In a letter to Richards, the publisher, he made it clear that the principle of its creation was to write its own chapter in the moral and spiritual history of our country. This, in fact, became his lifelong literary pursuit. In Joyce’s eyes, Dublin was the centre of paralysis in Ireland, a hopeless country under the double oppression and stranglehold of the British Empire and the Catholic Church. In this city at all times there are numbness, depression, reduced act of living drama. Araby, a short story from Dubliners, reveals the charm of the author’s writing and the beauty of his stream-of-consciousness style novels. At the end of July 1906 he went to Rome as a bank correspondent. Since April 1906, the problem of rewriting a collection of short stories called Dubliners has gone back and forth with Richards. A refusal of publication was received on 30 September.

James Joyce began his novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in Dublin in 1908 and finished it in Trieste, Italy, in 1914, which lasted for 10 years. The novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man has a strong autobiographical color. Through the story of Stephen Dedalus, Joyce actually raises the issue of the relationship between artists and society and life. Stephen Dedalus himself was exactly what he was trying to escape from the world of Dublin, which had taken its revenge on rebellious young artists. Ulysses, a novel written in 1922, borrowed the framework of the Ancient Greek epic, The Odyssey and compared it to character Bloom wandering in Dublin for 18 hours a day as opposed to Odysseus’s 10 years of wandering on the sea, giving Ulysses a generality of modern epic. Through the life of these three people in one day, the novel shows their whole history, their whole spiritual life and their inner world incisively and vividly.

Finnegan’s Wake, a novel published in 1939, borrows the idea of the world circulating in four different social forms from the Italian ideologist Vico in the 18th century, and develops a complex content within this framework. The book is a metaphor for the Bible, Shakespeare, ancient religion, modern history, Dublin local chronicles and so on. It borrows a lot of foreign words and even makes up its own words. Through exaggerated association, it describes the history of Ireland and even the whole mankind and the movement of the whole universe. In addition to the above three works, Joyce also wrote the poetry anthology Chamber Music and the play Exiles.

Howards End by E. M. Forster

Howards End - (Illustrated) - Kindle edition by Forster, E. M.. Literature  & Fiction Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Howards End is a humanist work with female protagonists to explore the themes of connection and freedom. It explores the political, economic, class, gender and cultural issues of British society in the early 20th century. It has its specific character depiction, besides paying attention to the emotions of the Schlegel sisters, it pays more attention to the family and the view of money and interests, revealing the huge social inequality caused by the widening gap between the rich and the poor. This novel describes the relationships and entanglements between three families from different social levels, showing the status of class struggle in Britain at that time.

The Schlegel sisters, who represent the spirit and culture of the upper middle class in Britain, and the Wilcox family, who represent the same class in their practical, imaginative and arrogant ways, as well as the complex relationship between the upper middle class and the lower middle class in Britain. No matter the main characters’ detailed psychological narration or the few words of minor characters, Forster vividly depicts the mentality of all kinds of characters under the social conditions at that time. The Wilkes family from the upper classes was cold and hypocritical; the Bast family from the lower classes struggled to make ends meet and could not pursue their own ideals.

The middle class Schlegel sisters were privileged, but were deeply influenced by the democratic and liberal ideas of the time. Among them, the elder Margaret hoped that understanding and tolerance would bring people from all walks of life together. Her sister Helen, on the other hand, was full of sympathy for the lower classes and made no secret of her disdain for the upper classes. Howards End is the country home of Henry Wilcox, the hero of the novel. Henry’s ex-wife, Ruth, often talks about the home she loves to Margaret Schlegel, their accidental friend.

She even wrote a note to give it to Margaret before she died, and the Henry family, surprised and hurt by this, tore it up. Margaret then missed out on Howards End several times. Helen had an affair with Leonard Bast, and the children of a man and woman from different classes, equally despised by the upper classes, inherited Howards End and represented a new force in England. In Howards End, the protagonist Margaret reflects the social ideal of the author Forster. By means of symbolism, the author proposes that spiritual and material things should be connected.

Only by joining together, the symbol of The United Kingdom, “Howards End” can be saved. Howards End is a symbol of family, and Margaret’s visit to Howards end is also a cultural journey to find her roots. Howards End presents all kinds of social contradictions faced by the British society under the impact of industrialization and mechanical civilization in the early 20th century. The novel revolves around the complex relationship between the Howard manor and three characters of different classes, realizing the unity of material ecology and spiritual ecology.

In his novels, Forster praised nature, reflected on the relationship between man and nature, and expressed the survival thoughts of integrating into nature and returning to nature. This reflects the author’s creative and forward-looking green thinking, humanistic spirit and modernist spirit, and has some enlightening significance to the goal of building a harmonious society. The narrative modes and techniques used in the novel also influenced the modernist novels and inspired the writers of modernist novels to continue their pursuit and exploration of artistic truth. Through Howards End, Forster arouses the British people’s thinking about modern civilization and traditional culture, and urges them to re-examine the conflict and integration of different cultural identities and different classes.

Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi

Crispin: The Cross of Lead is about Crispin, a poor boy who grows up shunned. Crispin grows up in Stromford, a manor run by Lord Furnival and the steward John Ayecliffe. After Crispin’s mother dies and he is charged with robbery, Crispin leaves Stromford to go to a different town. On the way he comes across a town in ruins. Looking around, Crispin sees a man in a Church. The man asks Crispin what he’s doing there and where he came from. The man soon claims Crispin as his servant after learning that he escaped from Lord Furnival. The two set off with Crispin not entirely trusting the man named Bear. As the two get to know each other more, they become friends. Soon Crispin learns that he has also been charged with the murder of Father Quinel. Then, in Great Wexly, Bear and Crispin find out that Ayecliffe is also in Great Wexly. Soon after, Bear is captured. He is taken to the Lord’s house. Crispin then decides to rescue Bear and leave Great Wexly. At night, Crispin sneaks into the Lord’s house and tries to find Bear. While looking for Bear, Crispin runs into Ayecliffe. Ayecliffe turns to call the guards, but then Crispin tells Ayecliffe something that makes him pale. He tells him that he is Lord Furnival’s son. Ayecliffe knows it’s true, but tries to dismiss it as a lie. Finally, Ayecliffe gives in and admits to knowing. Crispin uses this as leverage to make Ayecliffe set him and Bear free. Ayecliffe agrees to set them free, but right before they leave Great Wexly, Ayecliffe tries to go back on his word. However his attempt is stopped by Bear killing Ayecliffe. All the guards then back away in fear as Bear and Crispin leave Great Wexly free of any kind of obligations.

-Emilio V.

Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available as a free download from Overdrive