A Focus on Setting
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (1868)
Part 1 – Lines 1 to 16
From the very first description of the story’s setting, the audience is already presented with a comparison of mood to atmosphere. “Our house is high up in the Yorkshire coast” (line 1) is the very opposite of the “low cliffs of the loneliest and ugliest little bay” (line 3-4). This contrast in landscape cleverly demonstrates the characters’ contrast in mood, behaviors and mindsets. Although the word high may literally refer to the height of the house on top of the hill, readers can actually associate the house to be full of happiness, care-free spirits and positivity. However, the mentioning of low cliffs connotes the opposite. The horrid walk’s association with cliffs shows the instability and insecurity of the character Rosanna who chooses to take that path. This can be linked to the idea of being led to a dead-end and having nowhere to go, which very well suits Rosanna’s personal outlook during this scene. Through lines 1 to 2, the author also differentiates the desired from the abandoned as he mentions “the beautiful walks” versus the horrid walk “through a melancholy plantation of firs.” The use of melancholy as an adjective is very descriptive in emphasizing a naturally gloomy atmosphere in relation to the character’s pensive mood. The field of fir trees is a very interesting choice of negative diction since firs have needle-like leaves and never change colour during the seasons, they are always a dull green and they have no insect or decay resistance qualities. These simple details describing a tree can actually stimulate the reader’s emotions, allowing us to feel the short-lived but painful emotions that Rosanna endures every time she reflects on her memories of the past. The author goes on to paint the landscape of the setting by describing “the sand-hills here run down to the sea, and end in two spits of rock jutting out opposite each other, till you lose sight of...
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