Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How did they make change 101

How did they make change 101
Willkie Collins and Charles Dickens both disagreed with the way Britain proceeded with colonizing the rest of the world; the two authors portray their opinions, relating to foreign affairs, from opposite sides of the conflict. Collins presents us with Seringapatam on the brink of the turning of the century; he identifies the instigator of the original theft of the moonstone as an able, white, British soldier. Dickens brings us into the untidy world of Caddy, exposing us to her trials with Mrs. Jellyby, the irresponsible mother lost in Brrioboola Gha, Africa. We are given Ezra Jennings by Collins as the ignoble bearer of truth, whose life is fulfilled by his respectably being acknowledged by the nobility he so desperately yearns to be a part of.  Acknowledging that there was conflict throughout the way the British Empire was spreading its ideals into eastern culture spotlighted the problems within colonialism and made them relevant for everyone to reflect upon.
            Collins begins his novel in seventeen ninety-nine with a letter written by an unknown and un identified author calling out to his loved ones during a treacherous time of war between the British army and the indigenous people of Seringapatam. The writer of the letter demands that his family take a second look at his cousin John Herncastle. A man, the narrator writes, who presumably murdered three monks to steal a rock.  The rock or Monnstone is supposedly cursed and beyond that the concerned family member ads “It is my conviction, or my delusion, no matter which, that crime brings its own fatality with it. I am not only persuaded of Herncastle’s guilt; I am even fanciful enough to believe that he will live to regret it, if he keeps the Diamond; and that others will live to regret taking it from him, if he gives the Diamond away.” (16) The letter is a warning; a document produced just in case the Moonstone finds itself settling into a jewelry box of a close relative.  Collins is warning us that the letter represents a reflection of the attitudes of western culture and they are unacceptable. He lets us see the Diamond as not just a relic or lost stone but an Indian treasure that maintains the ideals of the noble  and honest past.
            John Jarndyce introduces Esther into the “amanuensis” (39) world of Miss. Jellyby, the seriously depressed daughter of a woman so wrapped up in Africa she forgets she’s living in London. Mrs. Jellyby the mother of who knows how many children is a philanthropist with a vision. The house she lives in is a testament to her character. She sees herself fulfilling her duty to society by attempting to maintain and perpetuate the British class system by moving it along to Africa.  Mrs. Jellyby is so obsessed with upholding the appearance of her virtues that she overlooks her obligations to her family. Mrs. Jellyby even admits to devoting all of her energy to the project. She say’s,
The African project at present employs my whole time. It involves me in correspondence with public bodies, and with private individuals anxious for the welfare of their species all over the county… It involves the devotion of all my energies, such as they are, but that is nothing, so that it succeeds, and I am more confident of success every day.(38)
One thing she forgets to mentions through her talk with Miss. Summerson is that she also employs young Miss. Caddy Jellyby to labor over the bureaucracies of the her business. Miss. Jellyby is forced into working to help her mother succeed in her endeavor. Caddy is unhappy with her life helping her mother. She is aware of the degradation her mother’s endeavors are causing their family. Caddy say’s things like “I wish Africa was dead!...I hate it and detest it. It’s a beast!”(44).  She is sick and her mother is the cause. Mrs. Jellyby is toxic and Jaryndyce wants Esther to understand that. Dickens needs his readers to understand the irony presented in Mrs. Jellyby and the state of her affairs at home in comparison to her vision of Africa.
            In between Franklin Blake’s two contributions to The Moonstone we find the truth to what happened in the house the night of Rachel’s eighteenth birthday; a mystery “Extracted from the Journals of Ezra Jennings”, a lonely, half-breed, British-Indian, drug addict, who uses science to reveal the secret. Ezra Jennings presents Mr. Blake with a solution to his dilemma in assuming,
That the influence of the opium - after impelling [Franklin] to possess [himself] of the Diamond, with the purpose of securing its safety – might also impel [him], acting under the same influence and the same motive, to hide it somewhere in [his] own room.(394)
 The possible solution requires that several characters entrust a crazy looking, dark skinned, piebald, doctor and allow him to drug a gentlemen with a powerful and addictive sedative. Betteredge say’s “You have done a wonderful number of foolish things in the course of your life, Mr. Franklin; but this tops them all!”(398) The butler belongs to the old school. He can’t seem to move outside the realm of Robinson Crusoe, maintaining a certain kind of deportment that just doesn’t accept poor, old, dying, ethnic Jennings. No one outside of the two lovers encourages Ezra in his experiment. When Miss Verinder expresses how much he means to her Ezra finds great pleasure and remarks,
She looked at my ugly wrinkled face, with a bright gratitude so near to me in my experience of my fellow-creatures, that I was at a loss how to answer her. Nothing had prepared me for her kindness and her beauty. The misery of many years has not hardened my heart, thank God.(415)
She makes him feel like a teenager again. Jennings participation in the world of Franklin Blake and Rachel Verinder justifies his existence. Ezra finds solace in the fact that his experiment brings the couple together.  Motivated by Rachel’s letter, he writes,
Is it possible (I ask myself, in reading this delightful letter) that I, of all men in the world, am chosen to be the means of bringing these two young people together again? My own happiness has been trampled under foot; my own love has been torn from me. Shall I live to see a happiness of others, which is of my making – a love renewed, which is of my bringing back?(399)
Jennings brings forward a solution to the troubles of colonial nineteenth century England; he incorporates science, and introduces the exotic aspect in a way that the gentry can accept. Collins kills Ezra to leave the audience with his impression of the consequences of receiving the ideal solution to finding out what really happened to the Moonstone.     
            Conquering the world comes at a cost; Dickens and Collins understood the price of conquest and they felt it reflected upon their society negatively. Was the Moonstone worth murdering three monks and devastating a family for? Herncastle’s reasons for attaining it were wrong. So no, it wasn’t worth it. Mrs. Jellyby was an obnoxious old hypocrite that participated in the degradation of her own family. Yet Dickens attributes Caddy with a scenes entitlement that allows her to escape the grips of her mother. Collins allows Ezra to die, but he does it after the reuniting of the lovers.  Both authors believe there are solutions to the problems created by their nations growth. We can see that they felt incorporating progressive beliefs, like science, drugs, secret engagements and multicultural acceptance, into their narratives they could help instigate a change to move forward away from the corruption.    

Works Cited
                        Collins, Wilkie “The Moonstone“. London:Penguin, 1998, Print.
                        Dickens, Charles “Bleak House”. NewYork: Modern Library, 2002, Print.

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