w. end ave. e-journal - Literary Criticism - Foreign Affairs

w. end ave.: an e-journal of culture and politics  

"The Moonstone" as an Aesopian Novel- Part I

“The Moonstone” as an Aesopian Novel

Wilkie Collins, in The Moonstone, traces the sojourn in England of a precious gem stolen by an English soldier from a religious shrine in India. The gemstone can be regarded as a MacGuffin, to borrow Hitchcock’s term for the item at the center of a mystery, that allows the reader to explore what surrounds its disappearance from an English country house in Yorkshire, a remote place in the home country of those who had conquered India. That makes the novel a gothic detective story worthy of Poe, even if more garrulous and comic than his are. The Moonstone also allows, as mystery stories often do, a window onto the life of a particular family which is caught up in its appearance and disappearance. In this case, the family is notably ostentatious and underhanded, as is the case in Dickens, who does not need a mystery to bear the burden of his story moving forward. This is what you see when a stone is turned over or a family is looked at by a gimlet eyed outsider because a crime has been committed.

The idea that The Moonstone is primarily to be understood as a mystery story has led to very interesting scholarship, including the idea that the novel portrays Foucault’s movement of modern society from punishment to discipline as the way to deal with untoward social behavior. First, there were prisons, and then there were lawyers and detectives and other professions each pursuing their own techniques of investigation and analysis. Much can also be drawn from the novel about what goes into the nature of a mystery: strands of investigation explored and eliminated, clues strewn along the way to be pondered and put in context, a resolution which leaves everyone satisfied that either justice or injustice has been done.

If the novel is treated, on the other hand, not as a mystery but as a state of England novel, then the moonstone is not a MacGuffin, which means of no significance in itself, but is what it is: an object of value brought from a land where it is surrounded by religion, violence and superstition into what was at the time the national home of world capitalism but is also a land of religion, violence and superstition though in the case of England these three appear in guises so familiar that it takes the work of a novelist to make England seem dark and dangerous. This approach has also led to interesting scholarship. The moonstone can be seen as a symbol of the heroine’s virginity, which means, as one critic has it, there is a connection between “the rape of India and the symbolic violation of Rachel Verinder” because, presumably, she is trading her virtue for marriage to one or another undeserving suitor.

To look at the novel as being of so weighty a character moves Wilkie Collins from being the author of melodramas that are entertaining but only that into being an author who deserves to be in the company of his more well known contemporaries, such as Dickens and Eliot, for his perspicacity, at the least, though perhaps not into the first rank of stylists, even if his highly rhetorical style deserves some recognition as pleasing and individual. But neither of the two readings, whether as a mystery story or as a state of England novel, is more than partial. Collins is out to unravel both gothic like characters as well as the state of England that gives rise to them. The deep corruption on all levels of the society is his true subject and the reader is bound to apperceive that disaster whether it is named as such or not either by the author or the reader and whatever the lightness of tone or the spectacular narrative inventions that also characterize this and Collins’ other novels.

Establishing the extent of Collins’ aesthetic accomplishment requires a bit of theoretical intervention. Collins, more than his peers, engages in what might be called the aesopian mode. He speaks of things that the audience may or not pick up and it is left to the sophistication of the reader to determine how much is to be read into allusions, whether they are to sexual matters or to the deficiencies of the protagonists as people, or of English society as a whole.

All of Victorian literature is said to engage in the first kind of aesopianism, that about sexuality, as well as the second kind, which is about how people are always covering up the ways they are using one another. That can be seen as pandering to the ever lower educational level and social level of the readership, and so is an excuse for thinking that Collins is hopelessly compromised in that he is entertaining those easily shocked, and so sacrifices art to that purpose. But neither Dickens or Twain had to do that. They were immensely popular authors in their time and both of them were candid about family and social relations. Collins’ strategy to let the reader catch on to the stifled life of the country manor house only if the reader cares to do so can be regarded instead as an artistic preference. He deliberately filters stories so they can be read in multiple ways and not just as a way to pander to an easily shocked public. He makes his plots complicated enough and tells them in complicated enough ways so that his novels are an art form that is neither elite or popular, which makes his novels a halfway house between the overt popular novel of the nineteenth century and the esoteric novels of the twentieth. Collins did not know how candid novels would become and so thought he was shaping a form that would endure. He was therefore an experimentalist in form, something he continued to be throughout his career to the point that some of his later innovations, such as the dramatic novel he produced in A Lady’s Money, is still unappreciated, that novel regarded as a near total failure. It is enough to say of his experimentalism in The Moonstone that he wishes to render a novel that is complex only if one cares to read it that way; that, rather than his not too poetic prose or his uncertain feel for the poignant and the tragic, is his art.

Constructing the Story

Wilkie presents his narrative in the form of a set of memoirs. Many of the participants tell what they know of the story because of the part they played in it and from their own point of view. This is a clever narrative device because it  builds up the suspense of what each further testimony will reveal about the mystery and also allows the reader the pleasure of seeing through the point of view of each memoirist. The reader notices each of their foibles and the irony of the fact that they each reveal much about the story without knowing it or meaning to. The reader can, at leisure, put together the clues and construct his own account of the “real” story that underlies all these partial and biased renditions of the story, though that cannot be done successfully until the novel is over or nearly so because Wilkie has so cleverly hidden his clues out in the open that the reader will be left wondering who really stole the gem until then, and even then will still have to surmise what really, really happened. Here is the way this reader constructs the story.

A ne’er do well aristocrat, Franklin Blake, who is deeply in debt, takes on the dashing role of delivering a gem purloined from an Indian temple to a young woman soon to be eligible to wed. It is part of her inheritance, though she is prohibited from selling it while her mother remains alive. The aristocrat does so because he wants to court the young woman, Rachel Verander, who is also courted, on the date she reaches her majority, by a religious fundraiser, Godfrey Ablewhite, who is the darling of the female philanthropic community. The young lady turns down what we would nowadays call a motivational speaker but is crushed when she sees the young aristocrat steal the gemstone from where it has been stored in her sitting room, someplace he should not have been in in the first place as it is a violation of a maiden’s inner sanctum. Rachel sends him away, also aware that he had been a deadbeat to his French creditors. Stricken, she reconsiders the other suitor and agrees to marry him out of some combination of sexual attraction, romance on the rebound, and because he is such a flatterer. That arrangement ends when he learns that she only held title to her fortune for her lifetime and when, perhaps, news of his well kept mistress and deep debts reached Rachel, who was perhaps not aware that he was also the confederate of the aristocrat in the theft, taking the stolen gem to a bank in London so that it could serve as security on a loan.

Both young men are courting Rachel for her money but she is the more taken with Franklin, the aristocrat thief who, now spurned by the person he loves and who still loves him, goes to the continent, perhaps to escape his debts. His father dies during his travels there and this leaves him a rich man and he wants a way to win back the favor of the young lady who is looking for an excuse to forgive him now that he doesn’t need her money or the gem. The two of them would like to be rid of the past. How can that happen?

A part Indian doctor, the true fruit of Empire wide miscegenation, provides a solution. He proposes a bizarre experiment whereby an opium induced stupor similar to the supposed one under which Franklin now admits he may have taken the gem will allow Franklin to retrace his steps and so prove an innocuous theory of the crime as well as reveal what had happened to the gem. The experiment does reenact the crime but in this repetition, Franklin simply drops the gem rather than pass it on to Ablewhite, a fact that becomes known only when the accomplice has been murdered by the three Indians who had been stalking the path of the gem and recover it in Ablewhite’s room and go off with it to India to return it to the place where it had been. They get away with the murder in spite of being followed by people employed by Franklin and the lawyer, who had not wanted anything to do with the experiment, but thought that the gem could be traced to where it would be when it was released from serving as security on a loan, and that is what happens.

Ablewhite is allowed to go to his inn where he will be set upon by the Indians because Franklin has not been available to hear the news that the gem had been redeemed. His pretext is that he had spent the evening at the home of Rachel, his now betrothed. Franklin will allow the Indians to do what they want to do because he does not want the arrangements he has made with his accomplice to be revealed. Franklin’s story of having been a victim of opium is allowed to stand, as well as the explanation, now offered, that he had passed the gem onto Ablewhite so that it would be put in safekeeping, thereby tying up the last loose end, which puzzled the various people who are bystanders to the unfolding story, which is what happened to the stone after it was stolen, someone else thereby necessarily tied to the crime rather than just the thief. Ablewhite takes the blame for the robbery because he used the loan on the gem to pay off debts. The only justice is meted out in India, where those who retrieved the stone are not praised but sent off to shame and exile, presumably for having been required to commit murder to fulfill their noble and religious task.

This sad and less than ennobling story, full of deceit on the part of those party to the courtship and of incompetence on the part of the professionals, the doctor, the lawyer and Betteredge, the butler, the last of which never wavers in his belief in Franklin, who has befriended someone of his humble station, and also never wavers in his belief in Rachel although he is willing to admit that she is a bit headstrong and changeable, is not the story that critics have, in general, drawn from the narratives. To the contrary, they have swallowed the surface story, the one in which the crime is solved by the doctor’s experiment, and are willing to excuse the bitchiness of the heroine, the insouciance of the hero, the stiffness and stuffiness of the accompanying players, as just part of the entertainment to be taken from the presentation of colorful characters, as they might be drawn by Dickens, even if not as well as Dickens would do them, and in a prose style more rhetorical and theatrical than the freshness of dialogue to be found in Dickens. Never mind, allowances can be made, things tied together nicely. And this is in spite of the information that has been provided to them, which includes the self-serving explanations made by all the parties and also including the fact that Ablewhite shoots his mouth off at a dinner party in London in a way that suggests he knows more about the case than a bystander to the events might know. Even the esteemed Sgt. Cuff is willing to place the blame for the crime on the accomplice because the actions of the accomplice can be traced, while the levels of duplicity of Franklin are susceptible only to a literary or psychological imagination.

So how is it that the novel avoids revealing itself and why does it do so? The answer lies in understanding it as Aesopian literature.

Aesopian Literature

Aesopian literature is a title that was awarded to literature that pulled its punches and so required its readers to draw their own lessons, moral and otherwise, about what the literature was about. That title was properly associated with soviet literature because writers could not get published and sometimes would perish if the authorities thought they were too critical of the regime. A good example of such literature is Mikhail Sholokhov’s Quiet Flows the Don, or Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky, or even Vasily Grossman’s much more recent Life and Fate, where all the soldiers are patriotic and brave, whether they are of high or low rank, and that what has to be done is clear, even if the conditions under which the characters operate are appalling. George Orwell famously parodies Soviet literature in Animal Farm, literally aesopian in that animals talk, and additionally aesopian in that the story is to be read as one that tells of how the farm deteriorated under its non-human masters, even if the characters do not come to that conclusion but persist in their own sense of courage and persistence.

Victorian literature can also be considered aesopian. That is not because of state censorship or legal action; it is because of customary reticence and the taste of the middlebrow market for life affirming stories, one with attractive protagonists and happy endings. That would change with the rise of the Modern, which had an audience more educated and prepared for shocks to its sentiments, such becoming the standard whereby greatness came to be measured. People are now bedbugs , the prose is unbelievably dense and allusive even as it is also blatantly descriptive, as when Ulysses describes a variety of bodily functions. The novel had become self-consciously a work of art, and therefore an insult to the bourgeois, even as the Victorian novel can be recognized as including great works of art that had also satisfied popular taste. It takes Umberto Eco to recognize The Count of Monte Cristo as the great work of art it is, while Ulysses is introduced to us as a great work of art. If it isn’t that, what is it?

One sense in which the Victorian was aesopian is the well known fact that it pulled its punches about sexual matters. Dickens has little sex out of an unwillingness to discuss the business at all rather than to engage in sly allusions to it. George Eliot, in Adam Bede, pawns off this aspect of life as a tribute to natural feelings, these feelings unalloyed with deceit or selfish lust. Victorian novels retreat behind a curtain drawn early on in any scene depicting private behavior. French artists of the same time are much more candid in their portrayal of the naked body. Indeed, it is not until the Fifties that the curtain is drawn back by Nabokov and Kinsey, the experience of the previous generation, Henry Miller and James Joyce, having prepared the way.

The sexual is certainly one sense in which The Moonstone is aesopian. The heroine is described by Betteredge, the servant who is her chief defender, as petulant, stubborn and rash. She is what today would be described “high maintenance”.  But the reader poised to read between the lines, which means to take hints as speaking the truth, will think of her as a bit sexually loose. She is in love with one man, on rather short notice, and then is engaged to be married to another. Nothing is said of it, but one assumes that there was some commerce between them, and then she breaks with him, supposedly because she doesn’t love him, leaving aside her ulterior motives, but that would mean she had realized she did not love him after some unstipulated period of intimate acquaintance, which is a phrase that might mean different things, some of them more spelled out in modern fiction or in contemporary teenage fiction. And then she is back with her first love, clearly having pined for him, willing to forgive him anything, even when she still thought him a crook, which to many a present day reader suggests a consummated love affair, though one may think of the relation only as one motivated by an unruly passion, which is perhaps a daring enough suggestion for the novel’s original audience.

If the last, mildest case, is an accurate depiction of what has gone on, then the best Wilkie can do for us is to put it on a par with its parallel comic rendition, which is the case of Miss Clack’s infatuation with Ablewhite. Miss Clack is all a tingle when he is in the room and he is sorely missed by her when he is away from her and she is jealous of Rachel for taking him away from the charities he lets on, at that time when he is engaged to Rachel, to have been a nuisance and a bore. How graphic does one have to be to convey the sordid character of these people? Franklin says that he was sitting with Rachel at one end of a long couch occupied at the other end by her guardian. This protestation of an excusable dallying provides Franklin with his alibi for not having attended to the information the young messenger brought to his home about the whereabouts of the accomplice. His long term reputation provides his deviousness with a cover. And so he is the polite gentleman in that he does not go on about his indiscretion with Rachel, to whom he is betrothed but not married. He may be engaged in a euphemism or he may be lying. In either case, there is more than meets the eye, but it is difficult to say what is the actual case, and that is to the heart of aesopianism: there are no details only hints of what might be the case, the reader left to infer.

Not that it is easy to know how to get behind the curtain and how to describe what is going on there, either with respect to actual behavior or in the interplay of characters talking in private. Jane Austen has the very insightful Elizabeth take time to sort out how Darcey is different from the horseriding gentry who are presumably womanizing when in London, just as Mr. Wickham does with Elizabeth’s  sister, whom he never would have married were it not for Darcey. So Jane Austen is candid about relationships but draws the curtain at describing what a lady would not know about and that helps set the scene for a novelistic style not theafter given over to candor but to allusions about what might be going on if one allows one’s thoughts to proceed in that direction, so long as one does not put it into words even as a description of what is going on in a novel. The novel is a secret thing by which we can communicate to ourselves only to the extent that we care to, which is different from the modern novel, whereby virginal young women can read no end of description of matters as yet foreign to their lives.

Notable about the sexual aesopianism of The Moonstone is that Wilkie is more candid about sex in Woman in White. The husband in that novel marries the heroine for her money and admits to his best friend that he has no sexual relations with her, and her best friend notices no change in her when she returns from her honeymoon trip, something that would be expected in a woman newly experienced with sex, whether that would mean she shows more confidence, or has a glow, or an enhanced sense of sophistication, or even in her bitterness--but something. Much later on this friend, whose unfeminine look and gait make the reader think she has an “unnatural” crush on the heroine, especially when she declares that she is satisfied never to marry but always play the “aunt” to the heroine who has by this time been married to her first love, is the one who suggests, when the three of them are living incognito in London, that the couple in love should marry, which may mean that they had already had sexual relations or that it is about time they did. No aesopianism there, just no use of untoward language. Another example of relative sexual candor in Woman in White is that Count Fusco’s wife spends her evenings rolling his cigarettes. Sometimes a cigarette is not just a cigarette, and so, for Victorian literature, that is a pretty clear indication of sexual thralldom.

We may suppose that aesopianism was approriate to The Moonstone because so much of it concerns how people hide their motives and give off false clues about who they are and so life requires the reader in his or her own real life to be discerning of the ways in which life in its social and political aspects, is also aesopian and so to be carefully read if to be understood at all. We may think of the Victorian is particularly aesopian because people find ways not to speak their minds while Jane Austen’s characters could always find a way to speak theirs, a trait that would again become part of the novel with Foster.

The Aesopianism of Character

The Moonstone is aesopian in another sense: its view of character. Naturally enough, a reader will take a protagonist seriously and from that character’s point of view especially if cued that the person is handsome or wealthy or otherwise honorable, and so as heroic, worthy of our attention, unless the opposite is demonstrated. It is a conceit of modern literature, on the other hand, that the unattractive or inarticulate are worthy of attention. Dickens plays with this convention by having Esmerelda attractive while Magwitch seems ogre-like to the young Pip. Jane Austen made her young women somehow accomplished--except for Emma who was not good at anything but reimagining people as being better than they were. She had no head for literature or music or witticism, but merely a good soul capable of being wise if carefully nurtured to become so by Mr. Knightly.

The characters in The Moonstone, for their part, are people of bad intentions rather than people who merely fall once in a while into imprudent or impulsive action. It is the object of the author to allow the medicine to go down with enough sweetness so that it can do its good work of fortifying the soul to be wary of people’s intentions at leisure and so not at the expense of providing a pleasurable and recognizable reading experience. Wilkie accomplishes this by allowing the characters to cover up their motives with lofty rhetoric and that allows the reader to take the time to discover that the rhetoric is self serving rather than merely in the service of the self, as is the case in Dickins where many a character pontificates and that serves as a soliloquy whereby the character unburdens himself of what he is and so becomes another star in the author’s firmament of distinctive characters you might or might not care to meet in real life. That goes for Fagin and Mr. Pickwick and , all of whom unburden themselves of who they are. Wilkie’s characters unburden themselves of who they are not.

Franklin is thoughtful and Rachel is a bit tart, which is the way a Victorian woman shows her independence. The servant is obedient; the professional people are schooled in their crafts. This is all misleading, as is clued in by the fact that they all whine a lot, something that might be thought conventional in Victorian novels but is most certainly not the case. Eliot’s characters tend to be stoic and if they are not, as is the case in Middlemarch, it is a flaw of character. Dickens’ characters are so full of themselves that they do not have time to whine for exuding themselves onto the world. Yet the characters in The Moonstone are bewailing their circumstances and what made them do what they do in piteous detail and to great effect.

Nor are the characters to be held accountable to an easy cynicism about motives, people being the opposite of what they seem. The Victorians are too familiar with Shakespeare for that. His villains are exactly what they seem to be, Richard II, Richard III and Hamlet and Othello true to type, it just taking the length of the play to reveal their depravity or ineptitude. So Franklin in his own particular way sees himself as virtuous, just obliged to take advantage of circumstances so that he can get by. That he is able to depict his characters as people who are swallowed by their illusions about themselves, that they believe the illusions they put out about themselves, is a major accomplishment of Wilkie’s.

Rosa Spearman, for one, is a character that interests us from her first appearance because she might be thought to be on her way to becoming a central character. That is a possibility also posed by Betteredge’s daughter who is, after all, just a servant in the same house he works in and who is feisty enough to seem destined for better circumstances. Why has she settled for being a domestic servant, given the education her father might have bestowed on her? We are not let on to that secret because she disappears as a character soon after the gem is stolen and Sgt. Cuff has examined each member of the staff and turned up nothing about any of them even though Penelope Betteredge has been so outspoken about the insult of being interviewed that a reader might have suspected her of having something to hide. The spotlight leaves her when she is no longer a suspect, although the reader has had time to speculate on a different trajectory the story might have taken: there would have been irony if the dutiful daughter of the chief servant who is much given to the proprieties had been the one who had overturned the applecart. But that is a red herring.

Spearman might be poised to be the center of a different story than the conflict of generations portended by the story of Penelope and her father. Her’s would be more Jane Eyre like. She is also an orphan, but one who had become a thief and has been placed in this house after having spent time in a reformatory, and so is under the constant observation of the rest of the staff to make sure that she does not fall into her old ways. Given her past, it is easy enough to suspect her of having been the thief. Moreover, she had in her possession a nightgown that had been worn by the thief because the name of the owner was sewn into it. This she sought to conceal because the nightgown belonged to Franklin. She admits how much pleasure she took in wearing his nightgown so as to conceal it. She buries it behind a rock near the quicksand before taking her own life so as to protect the person she loved even though she thought him the thief. She claimed was going to kill herself because she could no longer bear her unrequited love. Franklin had denied any interest in her, and she had overheard that. Why had a lack of interest, even if a true one, engendered such a response? One answer is that she was simply mad; another is the aesopian reading: Franklin in his remark was betraying someone with whom he had indeed been intimate. All he needed to say was that it was sweet of her to fawn on him, but that not much could come of that. He had had no need to be cruel. She took what he said to heart and so he is responsible for her death. Indeed, she may have been his accomplice and not just the person who unasked comes to his rescue. Either way, she is the first casualty of Franklin’s deceit and so we might suspect more foul play involved, given that Franklin’s other accomplice will also turn up dead.

Franklin had won over the confidence of the reader in the early parts of the novel because he set the search for the moonstone in motion. From a later point of view, his behavior can be seen as merely a diversion. He knew what had happened to the gem and he could have simply have informed everybody on the morning it was found missing that he had preempted the Indians by removing it for safekeeping, time too short to permit his asking for permission to do so, the Indians, as he utters in his “re-enactment” of his self performed sleepwalk, that the Indians were perhaps already in the house. But that would not be a very plausible story, and becomes so only when it is dressed up as a confession made when again supposedly under the influence of opium.

The reader is also led to have confidence in Franklin because he confides to Betteredge at an early point in the story that it would be just as well if the stone were thrown into the quicksand, which is a symbol of both family relations in which the stone does indeed get thrown, and also of the slippery and shifting nature of the human psyche. In the light of later revelations, that too can be reinterpreted. Franklin had been debating with himself and expressed in a non candid way that he would well be rid of the temptation to steal that a moonstone not thrown in quicksand would present. At the time of the conversation, he was not yet fully committed to the project.

Franklin, and perhaps any person, or any other Englishman, is just what Betteredge describes him to be: a mixture of the French and the German and the Italian. He is French is that he is fiercely logical and therefore looks at the world objectively, from the outside, so as to draw inferences from evidence. That way, he is a bit of a detective himself. Franklin is also German in that he is ever reflecting on and exhibiting and lost within his own consciousness, and so is isolated from understanding others. That is a fair description of his character. He is friendly and engaging but also aloof, which Spearman does not understand is not primarily aimed at her, and isolated within the world, as if he were a character from Kierkegaard or Goethe or, closer to home, Lord Byron, preoccupied with his own concerns, the dynamics of his own soul, while he wandered in this world among others. He is Italian in that like Count Fusco, in Woman in White, he is always calculating what might be to his advantage. And these three national traits, put together, make him an Englishman, at least as that is understood by Defoe. The joke of Betteredge making Robinson Crusoe into a Bible is that he does not realize how dark a portrait it is of how men get along in everyday life as if they were on a desert island: all they have with them are their own thoughts as they ponder how to take advantage of naturally provided opportunities by applying the coldest of logic.

It is not surprising that the story seems to favor Franklin even though he is introduced by Betteredge as an uncertain figure. Franklin, after all, is in control of the overall narrative because he has solicited the various memoirs that comprise it, even paying a generous fee for one of them, and because he himself is the author of the memoir that covers the most important events, such as the theft, while leaving the doctor to recount the experiment of a repeated sleepwalking event, which allows Franklin, without telling any lies, to avoid describing what he felt or thought while that event was going on,. Franklin is the one telling the story when he discovers that Rachel thought that he had stolen the gem. She provides no memoir, and so does not have her subjectivity recorded, only what she objectively says, as if that is just a bit of evidence rather than the truth of the matter, and so we are left with Franklin hearing of the accusation and responding with, so he says, a heartfelt incredulity. The reader might still find that incredulity incredible but there is still sufficient doubt about his guilt at that point, that the moment provides a very satisfying aesthetic moment comparable to Spearman’s plaintive declaration about domestic service. Franklin can be taken as suddenly lost to himself and isolated, everything pulled out from under him, even his knowledge of his own consciousness. How is he going to get out of this?

Franklin has only his own confidence and persistence to rely on, to push him forward, and so he is heroic and we root for him, whatever his motives. The reader wants him to rescue himself from the abyss of truth and dishonor by turning the apparent truth on its head and his dishonorable character into that of a person who is, deep down, steady, an upholder of the more important Victorian proprieties, and so not a thief even if someone who plays too easily upon the emotions of the ladies. That is why the reader is willing to accept the mumbojumbo of the forensic approach. Franklin did it but he didn’t do it. He didn’t mean to steal, only to safeguard. It is a difference of words, not of facts. Who would believe that if it had been baldly stated as a defense? Meanwhile it is a scene worthy of Elizabeth Bowen in that a person is so isolated from their position in the world, what their interchanges with it would make of them, that it becomes difficult to communicate with the actual world at all, and so one no longer has a clear bearing on who one is--except that Franklin knows he is a liar and is comfortable with being that and it takes the rest of us a good long time to catch up with that, so unwilling are we to admit that people can be of such bad character.

< Back to Home Page Contact Us


Issue No. 77
December 22, 2013

"The Moonstone" as an Aesopian Novel- Part I
"The Moonstone" as an Aesopian Novel-Part II
Earlier Issues

List Articles by Topic

The Political Ticker
The Hillary Coalition
  - November 19, 2014
Obama's Win in the Ukraine
  - April 5, 2014
"House of Cards" Politics
  - February 14, 2014
Birenbaum: The Day the President Struck Out
  - January 29, 2014
The Debate Over Inequality
  - January 27, 2014
Temporary Issues: "Stop and Frisk", Climate Change, Inequality
  - January 21, 2014

Previous Political Tickers

The Administrative President
  -January 12, 2014
Three Chronic Problems
  -December 19, 2013
Obama the Transformational President
  -December 13, 2013
"Homeland", "Alpha House" and the Tea Party
  -November 27, 2013
Off Year Election Post-mortem
  -November 7, 2013
Kathleen Sibelius and the Iliad
  -October 31, 2013
Political Impasses: 2013 and 1936
  -October 7, 2013
Birenbaum on The Tea Party
  -October 6, 2013
Fifty Years Later: The Anniversary of the March on Washington
  -September 18, 2013
The Principled Obama
  -September 10, 2013
Obama Thinks About Syria Freshly
  -September 5, 2013
Syria and the Falklands
  -August 30, 2013
Public Opinion on Syria
  -August 24, 2013
Upward Mobility Through Educational Innovation
  -August 12, 2013
The Anthony Wiener Bubble
  -July 30, 2013
Racial Issues in 2013
  -June 29, 2013
The David Brinkley Era of Journalism
  -June 5, 2013
Republican Scandal Mongering
  -May 23, 2013
Benghazi and Two Other "Scandals"
  -May 14, 2013
Lackluster Politics
  -May 7, 2013

The Cultural Ticker
A Dour Cultural Week
  - February 4, 2014
Colonial Virginia
  - January 15, 2014
Birenbaum: The Joy of Middle European Posters
  - January 6, 2014
A Jewish Nipple
  - November 28, 2013
Birenbaum: My Oral Comprehensive Examination and the JFK Assassination
  - November 27, 2013
"12 Years a Slave"
  - November 12, 2013

Previous Cultural Tickers

Pinter and Shakespeare
  -November 8, 2013
Birenbaum on "I Am Divine"
  -November 3, 2013
The Hearing Impaired Student
  -August 17, 2013
Ideas and People
  -August 10, 2013
The Weekly Roundup of Morning Joe and Chris Matthews
  -August 8, 2013
The Zen of Dishwashers
  -August 5, 2013
The Profundity of the Second World War
  -August 2, 2013
The Trayvon Martin Bubble
  -July 20, 2013
Eliot Spitzer
  -July 9, 2013
The Study of Everyday Life
  -July 5, 2013
The Zimmerman Trial
  -July 3, 2013
Le Carre's "A Delicate Truth"
  -July 1, 2013
Zucker: A Madeleine (A Memoir)
  -June 23, 2013
Von Trotta's "Hannah Arendt"
  -June 7, 2013
The Armchair View of War and Disability
  -May 30, 2013
Birenbaum's Summers
  -May 24, 2013
Old Neighborhoods
  -May 21, 2013
Jackie Robinson
  -May 20, 2013
Barbara Spun's Catskill Vacations
  -May 16, 2013
An Old Friend in Her Eighties
  -May 11, 2013


A new issue of “w. end ave.: an e-journal of culture and politics” is published once every three weeks or so. It is edited, owned, and where not indicated as otherwise, written by Martin Wenglinsky. The rights to all materials published here are copyright © 2008 by Martin Wenglinsky