Betteredge is Living a Lie! (according to Jameson)

When reading the first section of Wilkie Collins’ “The Moonstone” I was reminded of Jameson’s text, “Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism,” and his idea that individual experiences are “lies.” He says, essentially, that while people know what goes on in their day to day lives, they fail to recognize their role in society on a larger scale. This loss of one’s own significance, as well as the obsession with one’s own trivial daily events, is exemplified in the character of Gabriel Betteredge. He is asked to tell the story of “The Moonstone” from his own view, that is from his own contact with this famous stone. The stone has previously been described in monumental detail, its story spanning generations and including tales of gods, murder, and deception. When it becomes Betteredge’s turn to tell the story of the Moonstone, he takes an entirely different approach: no longer is this an epic tale that spans centuries, but instead the focus shifts to concern the reader with every detail of Betteredge’s life over the course of a single day. It takes him three attempts to actually tell his story, because he gets so caught up in the details of his own life, everything from his unfortunate marriage, to the stains on his coat, even where he took a nap one afternoon. When “relevant” information is made available (such as three mysterious figures using magic to locate this stone), Betteredge explains these details as trivial nonsense, and goes back to describing the sandy landscape. Even when it comes to his personal interactions with other characters, Betteredge shows this same focused, simplistic worldview that seemingly cuts him off from having any connection with the rest of society. When he encounters a crying woman who insists she will die in the very spot she is standing, Betteredge ignores her problems. Instead of looking at the bigger picture and trying to help this young woman, he tells her about the wonderful meal prepared if she were to return for dinner.

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