The Moonstone

The Moonstone

Themes and Colors
Detective Methods and Genre Standards Theme Icon
Intention, Identity, and Personality Theme Icon
Science and Religion Theme Icon
Gender and Victorian Morality Theme Icon
Class, Wealth, and Nobility Theme Icon
British Imperialism Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Moonstone, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone follows Lady Julia Verinder’s family and employees in their attempt to retrieve the priceless diamond of the book’s title—which was first plundered by her brother, “the wicked Colonel” John Herncastle, during a violent colonial conquest in India, then gifted to Julia’s daughter Rachel on her birthday, and finally stolen from the Verinder estate that same night. T.S. Eliot famously called the book “the first, the longest, and the best…

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The theft of the Moonstone from Julia and Rachel Verinder’s estate is far from an ordinary crime not only because of the Diamond’s immense value, but also because—unlike most stereotypes of precious gem heists—it was not executed by a master thief according to a master plan, but rather resulted from the confluence of various circumstances and actions that complicate the question of who is truly guilty, and to what extent. In fact, both the…

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The Moonstone was published during the mid-nineteenth century, a momentous time in the history of British science, Christianity, and the relationship between the two. With the English economy’s transition to industrial capitalism, the controversy surrounding Darwinian theory, and the simultaneous acceleration of medical, transportation, and communication technologies alongside religious concern for society’s disadvantaged, science and religion began to grow antagonistic. It was no longer clear to most educated people that complex biology and technology were…

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Numerous critics and observers have noted that the theft of the Moonstone (from Rachel’s bedroom, in the night, on her birthday as she comes of age) is a metaphor for the symbolic loss of Rachel’s innocence, or virginity; in fact, with Rachel’s broken engagements and the Verinder family’s female leadership, the novel comments extensively on Victorian England’s strict, codified gender hierarchy, whether by mocking those who enforce it or showing how women are capable…

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When they lose the Moonstone forever, Rachel and Julia Verinder are distraught not because they have lost something worth 20,000 pounds—they scarcely need the money—but rather because the Diamond’s loss signifies a violation of their family honor and dignity. The tension between these different modes of valuation—money and status—reveals the class differences that divide the wealthy, powerful Verinder family (who simply live off income from their land and do not work) from everyone else: their…

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Although The Moonstone focuses on the eponymous Diamond’s theft and attempted recovery once it has reached England, it is telling that the novel proper is bookended by the stories of the Moonstone’s initial theft from its ceremonial position in India and ultimate return to that place. Even though the novel’s characters never travel to India and view the three Indian Brahmins who come to retrieve the Moonstone as sinister thieves, the novel is suffused…

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