The Moonstone

The Moonstone

The Moonstone The Discovery of the Truth 1: 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Godfrey declares that he has “no motive” for agreeing to lose “a beautiful girl, an excellent social position, and a handsome income” along with his engagement. He can explain neither why he proposed to Rachel in the first place nor  why he has stopped attending charity meetings; he feels like a child unable to explain its faults. Clack sees this as evidence of a “mental problem” and Godfrey asks for insight. He explains that Rachel was only planning to marry him in order to forget about the other man she really loves, and that he felt “a most overpowering sense of relief” when she broke off the engagement.
Godfrey speaks about his engagement in the practical terms of a series of prizes won: Rachel (only because of her beauty), the Verinder name, and of course money. As Clack accurately realizes, his explanation is clearly a cover for some other motive, but she is unable to imagine what this might be and simply assumes there is something wrong with Godfrey—as she does with all people who disagree with her. Even she can now recognize Godfrey’s apparently heartfelt and emotionally sensitive speech as being false.
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“As a spiritual physician,” Clack declares Godfrey’s tryst with Rachel a test from God, who has forced him to momentarily err from perfection as a way of “remind[ing] greatness that it is mortal.” Godfrey is elated and kisses Miss Clack’s hands, which makes her nearly “swoon away in his arms.” But all of the sudden, he has to return to London to meet his father and explain what has come of his engagement. In an aside, Miss Clack promises that rumors about Godfrey did not influence her opinion of him, which never declined again after this episode (especially because, about a month after her arrival in Brighton, “events in the money-market” forced Miss Clack to leave England).
Clack provides a convoluted explanation in the religious idiom that seems to be her only means of understanding the world around her. The notion that imperfection is a part of God’s perfect plan exemplifies the way she accommodates contradictions and illogic in her system of explanation, which prevents her from understanding how everyone else sees the world, and lets her continue to worship Godfrey despite everyone else’s suspicion about him.
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Rachel, unlike Godfrey, seems tortured and confused after breaking the engagement—likely because she is thinking about “that other man whom she loved.” Clack promises to get the truth out of her after “convert[ing] her”—but, alas, that evening, Rachel avoids Miss Clack’s attempt to read to her by again escaping to the piano.
Rachel’s reaction is more ambivalent, even though she proposed the breakup before Godfrey. While Miss Clack guesses about her real motivations, her desire to find out is about selfish curiosity, not helping Rachel. Indeed, Miss Clack yet again fails to see Rachel’s suffering, because she is only interested in her own evangelizing mission.
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Miss Clack predicts that the senior Mr. Ablewhite will visit the next day (to create the storm that will allow her to convert Rachel). He does appear, after all, and Mr. Bruff comes unexpectedly shortly thereafter, as he believes he might “be of some use” in the coming conversation. Mr. Ablewhite asks Rachel to bring him to the sitting-room to discuss her engagement to his son, but she insists on talking where they are, with everyone present. Mr. Ablewhite confirms that she intentionally accepted Godfrey’s proposal and then suggests that maybe “a lovers’ quarrel” and a misunderstanding have led to their engagement’s apparent end. She confirms that there was no quarrel and that they agreed quite soberly to reverse their engagement. Growing furious, Mr. Ablewhite gently coaxes Rachel to be nicer to Godfrey, and she explains that “it is a settled thing” that she and Godfrey will not marry.
Mr. Ablewhite’s involvement shows that marriage is, as Godfrey earlier suggested, more about property, money, and status for his family than about love; this may or may not have something to do with the engagement’s failure. (It helps to recall Betteredge’s description of the upwardly-mobile, nouveau riche Mr. Ablewhite from the first section.) But Mr. Ablewhite and Godfrey’s perspectives also do not appear to quite match up. And, as always, the nosy Miss Clack plays witness to important family conversations that have nothing to do with her (at least Betteredge, in contrast, had a reason to be present everywhere).
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Mr. Ablewhite asks a third time and Rachel confirms for a third time that the engagement is off, and that Godfrey was eager to end it. Mr. Ablewhite begins screaming, asking Rachel “what complaint” she has against Godfrey—Mr. Bruff tells Rachel she need not answer, and Ablewhite starts yelling at him instead. Clack is disgusted at Rachel’s composure in the face of Ablewhite’s anger. She declines to explain any further than to say it is in both “his [Godfrey’s] welfare and mine,” and Ablewhite knocks over his chair and yells that he is insulted by Rachel’s “cursed family pride,” the same pride that turned the Verinders against him when he married into the family, because he was self-made and not of noble birth. He declares that Rachel has “the Herncastle blood.” She and Bruff dismiss him as he grows more and more furious.
Mr. Ablewhite does not seem to process the possibility that his son would be fine with calling off the engagement. With his open disregard for Godfrey’s wishes and desire to push his own agenda, Mr. Ablewhite becomes parallel to Miss Clack, who is also single-minded in her own pursuits to the extent that she disregards others. Rachel’s refusal to explain her reasons for leaving the engagement forces the reader to keep guessing, and by alluding to the “Herncastle blood,” Mr. Ablewhite turns the tables on conventional social hierarchies, painting nobility (which he was always handicapped by lacking) as deceitful and sinful.
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Miss Clack decides to intervene—one of her books has a useful passage pertaining to this situation. She begins to read “the blessed, blessed, blessed words of Miss Jane Ann Stamper,” but then Mr. Ablewhite, “this monster in human form,” yells: “Miss Jane Ann Stamper be—!” (a word Miss Clack will not replicate). Miss Clack hands Ablewhite a book about the sin of “profane swearing,” which he tears in half. Clack returns to her corner. Ablewhite asks his wife if she “asked this impudent fanatic into the house,” but Rachel eagerly takes credit instead. Ablewhite declares that she has no right to bring “this Rampant Spinster” into his house, but Bruff explains that Ablewhite actually gave Rachel the house in his capacity as her legal guardian. Ablewhite declares that he declines to act as Rachel’s guardian, and asks Rachel to evict Miss Clack at once. With that, he leaves.
Miss Clack’s last stand against the equally righteous Mr. Ablewhite finally forces her to face the absurdity of her position and endless evangelism. Finally, however, the “Rampant Spinster” does serve one useful function: Rachel uses her as an excuse to alienate the Ablewhites who try to strongarm her out of her decision, even though Godfrey was perfectly alright with it. Through Clack’s hilarious defeat, Collins satirizes once and for all the vacuity of her kind of Christian moralism, which he implies has no weight and no role in meaningful decisions of any sort.
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After Mr. Ablewhite leaves, Mrs. Ablewhite insults Miss Clack and apologizes to Rachel, who breaks into tears. Mr. Bruff says that he and Rachel will leave at once, and Mrs. Ablewhite leaves, but Clack refuses to go because of her moral “interest in Rachel.” Mr. Bruff takes Rachel aside and comforts her, explaining that the will allows him to appoint a new guardian, and he wants to take on that role.
Although Mrs. Ablewhite tries to compensate for her husband’s anger, she also recognizes that Miss Clack has neither an invitation nor any compelling reason to stay in the room. Nevertheless, the perennially pigheaded Clack somehow fails to see that her access to Rachel’s soul is up.
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Miss Clack rises in an attempt to stop this dreadful behavior and protect Rachel, her “lost sheep”—but Rachel accepts Bruff’s offer at once. “Stop!” shouts Miss Clack, insisting that she is Rachel’s rightful guardian, for she and Rachel are actually related. Rachel rejects this offer diplomatically. Clack shouts that she “can’t part with” Rachel and tries to embrace her. Rachel and Bruff are deeply confused, and Miss Clack finally explains her intention “to make a Christian of” her, and save her—as she failed to do with her mother. Rachel asks for an explanation and Miss Clack explains her view about “the awful calamity of dying unprepared.” Rachel screams and takes Bruff “away, for God’s sake, before that woman can say any more!” She is horrified that Miss Clack would “make [her] doubt that [her] mother, who was an angel on earth, is an angel in heaven now!”
Clack’s attempt to become Rachel’s guardian again shows that she is incapable of distinguishing what is best for Rachel from what is best for herself. And Rachel and Bruff’s confusion at Clack’s melodrama again shows that Clack’s life-and-death struggle for salvation is playing out only in her own head, recognized by nobody else at all. Clack’s final inexcusable insult alienates Rachel forever by revealing that she never had Julia’s best interests at heart, either.
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Related Quotes
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Rachel calls Penelope to pack her things and leaves at once. Mr. Bruff tells Miss Clack it was a mistake to explain her motives, and even Penelope—whom Clack refuses to call by her name, but only refers to as “the person with the cap-ribbons”—also says she is “ashamed of” Clack’s behavior. “Reviled by them all, deserted by them all,” Miss Clack’s narrative concludes, “I was left alone in the room.” Clack sees herself as “a Christian persecuted by the world” and explains that she “never saw Rachel Verinder again.” Nevertheless, she forgives Rachel, prays for her, and is even leaving her a book—Life, Letters, and Labours of Miss Jane Ann Stamper—in her will.
Clack’s conclusion—“reviled by them all”—might be the single most accurate statement in her narrative. It is telling that she is left alone in the Ablewhites’ house because, beyond the house not being hers (and her having no reason to be there), she in fact ends up with nobody to advise, accompany, or convert precisely because of her persistence and refusal to let people live in peace. She closes with another proclamation of her dogged persistence, and surely the book’s other characters must be delighted that Clack has been forced out of the British Isles.
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