One of the most challenging aspects of reading The Moonstone is determining the reliability of the different narrators. During Betteredge’s narrative, we are treated to only his first person views; the same is true with the other narratives. Yet as The Moonstone progresses, the narrators appear as characters in the writings of other characters, allowing the reader to form a more complete opinion of them.
Betteredge, for example, is mentioned in Clack’s and Blake’s narratives. Miss Clack, a thoroughly unappealing narrator, describes Gabriel as “a heathen old man…long, too long, tolerated in my aunt’s family” (203). The fact that Clack does not like Betteredge seems to indicate that he is indeed a likable person, although this description is too short to develop any absolute opinion. Franklin Blake’s narration further develops the third-person character of Betteredge. He is still portrayed as loving Robinson Crusoe, having a “hospitable impulse,” and receiving Blake “with the sociable and courteous attention of the bygone time” (301). Blake, simply put, loves Gabriel Betteredge; in fact, as he arrives at the Yorkshire home of the Verinders, he has to stop to compose himself as tears well up in his eyes before he can bring himself to speak to the old servant (300). Indeed, much of Blake’s narrative seems to confirm what Betteredge had already written, with the exception of the servant’s analysis of Blake’s “foreign sides,” which he admits is “a little over-drawn” (296). Yet the combination of Clack’s distaste for Betteredge and Blake’s admiration of him allows the reader to more fully understand what he or she may take as fact and what he or she may take as exaggeration and embellishment during Gabriel’s narration.
Betteredge is not the only narrator subsequently examined in the third person. Clack and Blake speak of Bruff, while Bruff speaks of Clack leaving for France. Because each of the narrators influences the telling of his or her story, and therefore the reader’s interpretation of those stories, it is important to actually understand each of the writers. The third-person descriptions of the narrators give readers of The Moonstone the ability to understand important characters not only as they see themselves, but as others see them.