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OUR MUTUAL FRIEND BOOK

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A satiric masterpiece about the allure and peril of money, Our Mutual Friend revolves earn your way to a free book! Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens . Charles Dickens's last complete novel, Our Mutual Friend is a glorious satire His most famous books, including Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, A Tale of Two . Free kindle book and epub digitized and proofread by Project Gutenberg. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. No cover available.


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Our Mutual Friend, written in the years –65, is the last novel completed by Charles Dickens and is one of his most sophisticated works, combining savage satire with social analysis. It centres on, in the words of critic J. Hillis Miller, quoting from the character Bella Wilfer in the book, "money, money, money. Our Mutual Friend book. Read reviews from the world's largest community for readers. A satiric masterpiece about the allure and peril of money, Our. Our Mutual Friend (Penguin Classics) [Charles Dickens, Adrian Poole] on Story time just got better with Prime Book Box, a subscription that delivers editorially.

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Though she embodies the materialistic ideals of her husband and daughter, Mrs Podsnap is the least prominent of the family. She is described as a "fine woman" [10] in her embodiment of the typical upper-class wife.

Mrs Wilfer — Bella's mother, a woman who is never satisfied with what she has. Her haughtiness is apparent in the way she acts at the Boffins's home and when Bella and Rokesmith return after their wedding. Her animosity towards her husband, her greed and discontent contrast with her husband's good nature and provide an image of what Bella could become, should she not change. Vocal and opinionated, she is the only character who will stand up to Mrs Wilfer by matching her derisiveness and audacity.

In some ways, she acts as a foil to Bella, and while Bella overcomes her desire for money and appreciates other aspects of life, Lavinia remains resentful in her poverty.

George Sampson — Lavinia Wilfer's suitor, who was originally in love with Bella. Mr Melvin Twemlow — the well-connected friend of the Veneerings, who is often cultivated for his supposed influence with powerful people, such as Lord Snigsworth.

Mrs Lammle tells him about their plot to marry Georgiana Podsnap and Fledgeby, to whom Twemlow owes money. Though Twemlow is introduced as being as insensible as a table at the Veneerings' dinner party, he comes to reflect a wise way of thinking.

His wearing of a collar and cravat creates "picturesque and archaic" impression, [11] and he proves himself a "true gentleman in his response to Wrayburn's marriage". She is old and poor, and portrayed sympathetically as pitiable. She is so terrified of dying in the workhouse that, when she begins to grow sick, she runs away to the country and ends up dying in Lizzie Hexam's arms. Mrs Higden draws readers' attention to the miserable lives led by the poor, and the need for social reform.

Johnny — the orphan great-grandson of Betty Higden. The Boffins plan on adopting Johnny, but he dies in the Children's Hospital before they are able to do so. Sloppy — a foundling who assists Betty Higden in taking care of children. Raised in the workhouse, he has a learning disability, but is nevertheless adept at reading the newspaper for Mrs. He is portrayed as inherently innocent because of his disability, and carts away Wegg at the end of the novel. Jesse "Gaffer" Hexam — a waterman and the father of Lizzie and Charley, who makes a living by robbing corpses found in the river Thames.

His former partner, Rogue Riderhood, turns him in for the murder of John Harmon after Harmon's body is supposedly dragged from the river. A search is mounted to find and arrest Gaffer, but he is discovered dead in his boat.

Our Mutual Friend

Gaffer's opposition to education prompts Lizzie to sneak Charley away to school, though she stays with her father. As a result, Gaffer disowns Charley as a son. In a sense, Gaffer predicted the alienating effect education would have on Charley. Pleasant Riderhood — the daughter of Rogue Riderhood, who works in a pawn shop, and, like Jenny Wren and Lizzie Hexam, is another daughter caring for her abusive father as though he were her child, and who, in vain, tries to steer him along the path of right.

Mr and Mrs Veneering — a nouveaux-riches husband and wife whose main preoccupation is to advance in the social world. They invite influential people to their dinner parties where their furniture gleams with a sheen that they also put on to make themselves seem more impressive.

They "wear" their acquaintances, their possessions, and their wealth like jewellery, in an attempt to impress those around them. Veneering eventually goes bankrupt and they retire to France to live on the jewels he bought for his wife. Miss Abbey Potterson — mistress of the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters, she keeps the inn respectable, and only allows patrons to drink as much as she sees fit. She is likened, humorously, to a schoolmistress, linking her to the novel's concern with education.

She is a "good and harmless" character, though she displays an "addiction to rules and forms". Mr Dolls — Jenny Wren's alcoholic father. Jenny calls him her "bad child", and treats him accordingly. As his daughter is really named Fanny Cleaver, his name might be Mr. Cleaver, but he is never called by a name other than "my bad child", or "Mr Dolls" in the novel. George Radfoot - third mate on the ship bringing John Harmon back to England, whose dead body, found in the river by Gaffer Hexam, is identified as being Harmon, because of the papers found in his pockets.

He had been involved in crimes and schemes with Riderhood, who most likely was responsible for trying to kill Harmon and killing Radfoot. Plot summary[ edit ] Having made his fortune from London's rubbish, a rich misanthropic miser dies, estranged from all except his faithful employees Mr and Mrs Boffin. By his will, his fortune goes to his estranged son John Harmon, who is to return from where he has settled abroad possibly in South Africa to claim it, on condition that he marries a woman he has never met, Miss Bella Wilfer.

The implementation of the will is in the charge of the solicitor, Mortimer Lightwood, who has no other practice. The son and heir does not appear, though some knew him aboard the ship to London. A body is found in the Thames by Gaffer Hexam, rowed by his daughter Lizzie.

He is a waterman who makes his living by retrieving corpses and taking the cash in their pockets, before handing them over to the authorities. Papers in the pockets of the drowned man identify him as the heir, John Harmon.

Present at the identification of the water-soaked corpse is a mysterious young man, who gives his name as Julius Handford and then disappears. They take the disappointed bride of the drowned heir, Miss Wilfer, into their household, and treat her as their pampered child and heiress. They also accept an offer from Julius Handford, now going under the name of John Rokesmith, to serve as their confidential secretary and man of business, at no salary.

Rokesmith uses this position to watch and learn everything about the Boffins, Miss Wilfer, and the aftershock of the drowning of the heir John Harmon. Mr Boffin engages a one-legged ballad-seller, Silas Wegg, to read aloud to him in the evenings, and Wegg tries to take advantage of his position and of Mr Boffin's good heart to obtain other advantages from the wealthy dustman.

When the Boffins purchase a large home, Wegg is invited to live in the old Harmon home. Wegg hopes to find hidden treasure in the house or in the mounds of trash on the property. Gaffer Hexam, who found the body, is accused of murdering John Harmon by a fellow-waterman, Roger "Rogue" Riderhood, who is bitter at having been cast off as Hexam's partner on the river, and who covets the large reward offered in relation to the murder.

As a result of the accusation, Hexam is shunned by his fellows on the river, and excluded from The Six Jolly Fellowship-Porters, the public house they frequent.

Hexam's young son, the clever but priggish Charley Hexam, leaves his father's house to better himself at school, and to train to be a schoolmaster, encouraged by his sister, the beautiful Lizzie Hexam. Lizzie stays with her father, to whom she is devoted.

Before Riderhood can claim the reward for his false allegation against Hexam, Hexam is found drowned himself. Lizzie Hexam becomes the lodger of a doll's dressmaker, a disabled teenager nicknamed "Jenny Wren".

Jenny's alcoholic father lives with them, and is treated by Jenny as a child. Lizzie has caught the eye of the work-shy barrister, Eugene Wrayburn, who first noticed her when accompanying his friend Mortimer Lightwood to the home of Gaffer Hexam.

Wrayburn falls in love with her. However, he soon gains a violent rival in Bradley Headstone, the schoolmaster of Charley Hexam. Charley wants his sister to be under obligation to no one but him, and tries to arrange lessons for her with Headstone, only to find that Wrayburn has already engaged a teacher for both Lizzie and Jenny. Headstone quickly becomes attracted to Lizzie, with unreasonable passion, and makes an unsuccessful proposal. Angered by being refused and by Wrayburn's dismissive attitude towards him, Headstone comes to see him as the source of all his misfortunes, and takes to following him around the streets of London at night.

Wrayburn admits to Lightwood that he does not know his own intentions yet, either. She flees both men, getting work up-river from London. Mr and Mrs Boffin attempt to adopt a young orphan, in the care of his great-grandmother, Betty Higden, but the boy dies before the adoption can proceed. Mrs Higden minds children for a living, assisted by a foundling known as Sloppy. She has a terror of the workhouse.

In the meantime Eugene Wrayburn has obtained information about Lizzie's whereabouts from Jenny's father and finds the object of his affections. Bradley Headstone engages with Riderhood, now working as a lock-keeper, as Headstone is consumed with making good his threats about Wrayburn. After following Wrayburn up river and seeing him with Lizzie, Headstone attacks Wrayburn and leaves him for dead. Lizzie finds him in the river and rescues him. Wrayburn, thinking he will die anyway, marries Lizzie, and suppresses any hint that Headstone was his attacker to save her reputation.

When he survives, he is glad that this has brought him into a loving marriage, albeit with a social inferior. He had not cared about the social gulf between them but Lizzie had and would not otherwise have married him. Rokesmith is in love with Bella Wilfer but she cannot bear to accept him, having insisted that she will marry only for money.

Book our mutual friend

Mr Boffin appears to be corrupted by his wealth and becomes a miser. He also begins to treat his secretary Rokesmith with contempt and cruelty. This arouses the sympathy of Bella Wilfer, and she stands up for Rokesmith when Mr Boffin dismisses him for aspiring to marry her. They marry and live happily, in relatively poor circumstances. Bella soon conceives. Meanwhile, Bradley Headstone tries to put the blame for his assault on Wrayburn onto Rogue Riderhood, by dressing in similar clothes when doing the deed and then putting his own clothes in the river.

Riderhood fetches the bundle of clothing and attempts to blackmail Headstone. Headstone is overcome with the hopelessness of his situation, as Wrayburn is alive, recovering from the brutal beating, and is married to Lizzie.

Confronted by Riderhood in his classroom, Headstone is seized with a self-destructive urge, proceeding to the lock, where he flings himself into the lock, pulling Riderhood with him so that both are drowned. The one-legged parasite Silas Wegg has, with help from Mr Venus, an "articulator of bones", searched the mounds of dust and discovered a will subsequent to the one which has given the Boffins the whole of the Harmon estate.

By the later will, the estate goes to the Crown. Wegg decides to blackmail Boffin with this will, but Venus has second thoughts and reveals all to Boffin. It has gradually become clear to the reader that John Rokesmith is the missing heir, John Harmon.

Harmon survived the attempted murder, done to rob him of the money he had from the sale of his business. Now that she has married him, believing him to be poor, he can throw off his disguise. Stuck together however, they unite and scheme not very successfully to advance their financial position.

Then there is also the greedy and corrupt Christian money lender who hides in the coat of a gentle Jew and who he represents to the world as being the principal while in reality he is his employee. Love is equally a strong theme here. Not being satisfied creating one love story to expound on the theme, Dickens weaves two different beautiful love stories. I said they are different, for while in one the male influence works miracles to rescue and bring up his love morally upright, in the other, female influence works a similar miracle to save and uplift morally her love from aimless wondering.

If I'm to be quiet honest, this theme was what really attached me downright to the book. The stories themselves coupled with passionate, emotional and sentimental writing bring out two delightful classical love stories and undoubtedly best by Dickens I have read so far. And to add to the allure, Dickens uses a jealous and maniacal villain who would have almost turned one love story in to a tragedy. Class difference is yet another major theme. Dickens expounded on this theme through one of the love stories.

A barrister's love and admiration for a working class girl is checked by the difference of their social status. And when irrespective of this obstacle their union is finally made, Dickens expresses the "voice of the society" and their eagerness in casting their votes in condemnation.

Dickens also touches on mistaken identity, a little on mystery and on discrimination Feldgeby treatment of Riah making the novel thematically rich. Social commentary is a fixed feature of all Dickens's work, and there is no exception here. Using a wider range of characters, Dickens works on the upper class hypocrisy, the lower class deception and middle class salvation.

Dickens saw and believed that the future of England lay in the hands of the rising middle class. Eugene's marriage to Lizzie despite her low class and John Harmon's decision to use his new wealth for the benefit of those unfortunate but deserving fellow men places faith in the middle class to uplift England socially and economically.

And all these themes are expounded and engaging plots are created with the use of a set of extremely interesting characters. Here too, Dickens is at novelty in introducing more than one hero and heroine. And interestingly, there is more than one villain too. Almost all are interesting in their own way. But my interest was very much captivated by one heroine Lizzie Hexam and one villain Bradley Headstone.

Writing is absolutely beautiful. It is rich, fascinating, dramatic and complete. I was utterly amazed at Dickens's skill at writing, for in this work most of his satire he has achieved figuratively.

It is totally awesome. Our Mutual Friend is doubtless the best of the Dickens that I have read so far. And all though I have read only about half of his work, I doubt whether the place this work has taken in my heart can be replaced by any other. David Copperfield was my most loved until now but no longer.

I'm really glad that Dickens produced such a great work even though his literary journey was cut before his elevated mind and writing could produce another completed work. However, for producing this beautiful work which I would cherish for the rest of my life, I'm eternally grateful to him.

View all 13 comments. For, Evil often stops short at itself and dies with the doer of it; but Good, never. I liked it. Mr Riah is a better character than was typically included in 19th-ce "And this is the eternal law. Mr Riah is a better character than was typically included in 19th-century novels and better than Fagin in 'Oliver Twist'. Like most of Charles Dicken's romances it is a social and an economic critique and satire. He also dances on themes of education, status and society, poor laws, inheritence, love, virtue, etc.

Like many Dickens novels, it is a bit baroque with all the characters and those characters often bend toward caricature Boffin, the Golden Dustman; the peg-legged Silas Wegg; Jenny Wren, etc. I loved them all, but while their sentiments are often VERY human, they still seem like dolls dressed-up, not fully-formed people.

I loved Bella Wilfer. While she is nowhere near bad, and quite obviously the primary heroine of the story, she is an imperfect heroine at first. She is more interesting and dynamic for it. I also adored Sophronia and Alfred Lammle a scheming match made in Dante's inferno for sure. A Russian bride whose daugther went to the same school as my kids, when I was teasing her about Putin, God, and something about the Russian Orthodox church once called me a "pofogist" I'm still trying to figure out what the exact word.

My best guess was she was trying to say I was both absurd and apathetic. This unknown word describes Euguen Wrayburn for most the novel and I love him for being like me my wife would argue with that, but my friend the Russian bride certainly thinks it is true. Finally, I did enjoy the imagry of this novel. The water plays a huge role, so does money obviously , boats, and dust heaps. Dust heaps and money. Water, boats, and baptism. And throughout the measure of it, people getting by, and people being exceptional.

It was C. Dicken's last finished novel, and certainly not his best I could easily name four or five I liked significantly better , but I don't regret a day or a dollar I spent on it. Feb 27, B0nnie rated it it was amazing Shelves: He do the Police in different voices I will show you fear in a handful of dust Trash Inc: On his own small estate the growling old vagabond threw up his own mountain range, like an old volcano, and its geological formation was Dust. Coal-dust, vegetable-dust, bone-dust, crockery dust, rough dust and sifted dust, all manner of Dust.

Not exactly. There will be humour, but also corpses. And corruption, child abuse and alcoholism, blackmail, grifters and fraud, misers, deception, missing limbs, bones and hair, litter and waste, uncontrollable anger, black and murky water. Sprinkled throughout is some delightful satire of upper middle class snobbery. The story opens very gloomily, with an old man and his daughter pulling a body "in an advanced state of decay, and much injured" from the river. This is how they earn their living, scavenging the waterfront, looking for anything of value.

What world does a dead man belong to? What world does money belong to? This world. How can money be a corpse's? Can a corpse own it, want it, spend it, claim it, miss it?

And so, the two themes are neatly hinted at: Dickens wrote Our Mutual Friend in a mood of darkness. His mother had recently died, and his son Walter dies just as he begins. He is in the Staplehurst Railway Accident, where many are killed and injured.

He was trapped in a swaying carriage, just above the wreckage, but gets out uninjured, helps with the rescue and, then he did a remarkable thing.

So in the calmest possible way he clambered back into the compartment and rescued it. But he was not calm for very long. He felt the effects of nausea for days afterwards; his pulse was unsteady, and he experienced all the physical tremors of nervous anxiety. He declared that he felt 'quite shattered and broken up'. Indeed the accident haunted him for the rest of his life.

Peter Ackroyd, Dickens View all 28 comments. Aug 18, Sara rated it it was amazing Shelves: If you have ever read Charles Dickens, you will know that his plot lines, characters, and literary devices are myriad, and for my thinking, Our Mutual Friend might employ more of those than any other of his novels that I have read.

In the beginning, this made the thread a little harder to keep untangled, but in the end, it served his purposes beautifully. There are, for your entertainment, two major love stories, a mysterious imposter, a murderer or two, a few men of nefarious occupation, a coupl If you have ever read Charles Dickens, you will know that his plot lines, characters, and literary devices are myriad, and for my thinking, Our Mutual Friend might employ more of those than any other of his novels that I have read.

There are, for your entertainment, two major love stories, a mysterious imposter, a murderer or two, a few men of nefarious occupation, a couple of red herrings and several mistreated, but eternally good, individuals. Jenny Wren is a marvelous character, along with the Jew, Riah, who helps to atone for the evil character of Fagin in Oliver Twist. Betty Higden is a superb example of the worthy poor, and the Boffins are an unforgettable couple. I was particularly interested in Lizzie Hexam and Eugene Wrayburn, a part of the plot that was less easy to predict than some of the others.

Both the love stories are captivating, and the ins and outs, and coincidental crossings, of each of the characters with the others is masterful. This is a later work, and the maturity of the writing and plot control are obvious. Then there is just the irrefutable wisdom of Mr. And this is another spell against which the shedder of blood for ever strives in vain.

There are fifty doors by which discovery may enter. With infinite pains and cunning, he double locks and bars forty-nine of them, and cannot see the fiftieth standing wide open.

Ah, Mr. Dickens, may it ever be so! Not an unusual subject for Dickens, he deals with the plight of the poor and the inadequate methods of alleviating it, and he does it with deftness and just the right touch of sentiment. For when we have got things to the pass that with an enormous treasure at disposal to relieve the poor, the best of the poor detest our mercies, hide their heads from us, and shame us by starving to death in the midst of us, it is a pass impossible of prosperity, impossible of continuance.

It may not be so written in the Gospel according to Podsnappery, you may not find these words for the text of a sermon, in the Returns of the Board of Trade; but they have been the truth since the foundations of the universe were laid, and they will be the truth until the foundations of the universe are shaken by the Builder. Does our modern society not still wrestle with how to help people pull themselves up without damaging their worth in their own eyes?

There are almost as many themes as there are characters. There is the major theme of class division and the insensibility of choices made for no other reason than that a person is part of one class or the other. There is the significance of friendship and loyalty, the importance of truth and ethics, and the value of trust in relationships, including but not limited to marriage.

There is betrayal, but there is also steadfastness and a desire on the part of so many of these characters to overcome the baseness of their worlds and rise above their conditions morally.

There were a few sections that plodded, but for the most part I was feeling sorry for the original audience who were forced to wait for the next installment to find out what was to happen and could not just plow ahead, as I found myself inclined to do. The novel is quite long at over pages, but I read over a three month span and enjoyed it immensely. Next up is Nicholas Nickleby, and if it is as pleasing for me as this one, I will be quite happy indeed.

View all 6 comments. Filthy lucre. The love of money may be the root of all evil, but money, whether you like it or not Dickens tells us, is also Our Mutual Friend. In this final completed novel he is at his most astute, most bitter, and most brilliantly sardonic. We no longer have the posturing and hectoring tone of the earlier novels, but a much more nuanced writing style. Dickens has honed his skills to perfection, using his sarcasm and wit to entertain in the Money.

Dickens has honed his skills to perfection, using his sarcasm and wit to entertain in the blackest situations, and weaving together a complex narrative of interlocking stories in which the denouement is well nigh perfect. Greed and avarice. Cunning and contrivance. Duplicity and deception. All these, and many other ways of acquiring this desirable commodity are here. Dickens weaves his words to tell us this truth, and as ever, we learn it through his portrayal of irresistible characters.

Gaffer Hexam is looking out for dead and decaying bodies; for those poor drowned unfortunates from whom he can now strip anything of any value, before handing in the body to the proper authorities.

A hair-raising profession by any account, and one which terrifies his daughter Lizzie, who rows the boat for him. Thus the novel opens, setting the tone with an image which is hard to forget. From the lowest of the low we then flash to a very different picture: These shallow parvenus are out to impress everyone: Here is the self-satisfied Mr John Podsnap: Lady Tippins heads this distinguished group.

Mr and Mrs Veneering consciously flaunt their good taste, their wealth and their position. They are indeed well-named; their very way of life is a facade. The genius of Dickens is such that he encompasses examples from all aspects of society. These two examples demonstrate his keen observations of the basest, to the most respected in the land. He also shows us many stops in between. There is Silas Wegg, indulging in little frauds, but also fantasising about the outrageous schemes he is to perpetrate, although when we meet him he only owns one tiny street stall, and its meagre contents.

We are gripped by the machinations and workings out of their plot-lines, and follow them with increasing horror. The most hilarious fraudsters of all his writing, surely, are two social climbers: Each of this most charming couple view spoiler [married the other in the mistaken belief that they were wealthy hide spoiler ].

Such a treacherous couple; well deserving of each other! There is much games-playing throughout, and many attempts at crawling up the social ladder, and acquiring money and status, no matter who might be stamped on and suffer as a result. Sometimes the filth becomes quite literal and no longer a mere metaphor. They are the source of much of the much-sought after wealth. Acquisitiveness and miserliness then, and the lust for money, is here in all its forms, and is a constant theme through this complex novel.

But John Harmon has been identified as drowned in the river. To complicate matters, it had been a condition of the inheritance that John Harmon marry Bella Wilfer, whom he had never met. The story revolves around the many money-grubbing people who each believe the inheritance should be theirs. Not only is Our Mutual Friend concerned with the various nefarious ways of acquiring this dirty money, but also with dirt, filth, decay and dust.

All comes to dust, in the end. One character searches endlessly through one of the dustheaps at night with a lamp, in the secret hope of finding paperwork to do with the inheritance. The river Thames constantly spews up its gory decaying treasures - and receives the same. Bodies, and death. Another abiding image is of the social parasite Silas Wegg, with his one wooden leg, befriending a taxidermist, Mr Venus, who has heaps of body parts and stuffed creatures in his dimly-lit store.

Silas Wegg is trying to track down the leg he had had amputated in order to gaze on it, while he deviously plots and plans his diabolical schemes. Charles Dickens had always had an interest in the morbid and the macabre.

Quite a lot of his darkest humour is set in graveyards, and his fiction abounds with chilling scenes of ghosts and spirits.

Most of the characters in Our Mutual Friend make their livings in the world from human leftovers and cast-offs; even to the very bodies themselves. Dickens was a good friend of Edgar Allan Poe, and in Our Mutual Friend one can see how the two could sustain this friendship. Yet there is a decided change in emphasis.

In this 14th novel there is little trace of the youthful frivolity which characterised his early work. Gone is the exuberance and zest for life. What could have prompted this change? Dickens was full of doubts, which he confided to his friend John Forster. His writing pace was slowing down, and he was beginning to feel ill. He reverted to just 19 monthly installments, between May and November , with the final one being double-length. And he remained extremely concerned with money.

He continued to have financial problems over the years, having to sell of all his household goods to pay debt collectors, and spending other periods of time in the Marshalsea prison. As a consequence, Charles Dickens was forced to become aware of the importance of money from a very early age.

He called his father: Throughout his adult life, Charles Dickens had to support his parents in their extravagant habits, in addition to his own family home, his wife and his many children. He also supported his mistress, Nelly Ternan, and her mother for several years.

He had continuing difficulties over copyright issues of his novels, as there were many pirated copies of his books. He had to finance his own publications, his own theatrical productions, his own world tours of his reading performances, and his own charitable works. His novels are often concerned with money, but perhaps it is not surprising that in this final one, money is even more uppermost in his mind. Was he even more aware that the clock was ticking?

Did he perhaps have a vague inking that this was to be his last chance to create the perfect novel? The characters in Our Mutual Friend are multi-facteted and complex. We still have the extremes we love: We have detailed studies of guilt, horror, obsession and miserliness. We can even recognise characters from early novels who are expanded and developed into far more realistic individuals.

You will not find the perfectly good child Oliver, with his impossibly well-spoken manners here, but you will find goodness, kindness and much self-sacrifice.

One delightful couple are the the Boffinses. Forget too, the docile or one-dimensional females of the early stories. Even Dora Copperfield remains pretty and clueless, but mostly in these middle novels Dickens begins to explore further. She does not remain the disdainful spoiled character, tossing her head and announcing: Lizzie is a heroine for this century; strong, decided and intelligent. From her timidity at the beginning, she develops in initiative and determination.

One set piece near the end cleverly mirrors the opening episode, and in this she demonstrates great courage, and shows her true colours.

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens

There are a myriad of others. And unlike many Victorian novels, with a clear main character and just a few supporting ones, the characters in Our Mutual Friend jostle and clamour for our attention: Only a handful of them have been mentioned here.

With her dexterous fingers, lively imagination and dedicated industry, she carves a living for herself, despite her deformed spine and physical difficulties. She is intelligent, and with her sharp eyes is frequently the only one who sees things as they really are. The creation of such a character enabled Dickens to include many spiritual parallels and fairy tale allusions in these passages.

But there are many other important characters: Other little stories pop in and out; that of Miss Peecher, so tragically in love with another who does not share her romantic thoughts.

Book our mutual friend

Or that of the mysterious John Rokesmith. We read passage of great absurdity, ones which can make the reader laugh aloud in delight, but they are now presented to us by a master of his craft. Or Sloppy, of limited intelligence but very willing to help Betty Higden. Each comic interlude is carefully placed, so that after we have been fully charged by mystery or horror, or by an intriguing episode of passion and drama, we are then rewarded by a jokey cameo scene. The structure is almost perfect.

In that one too, it is difficult to say which one is the main story, as the subplots threaten to overwhelm what appears to be its central theme. In Our Mutual Friend , Dickens has pushed this even further. It is possible to read almost half the book and feel that there are several novels here, such is the tapestry presented. I personally feel that this way of writing a multi-focus novel is ground-breaking. Which is the main theme, or the main plot? Will there in fact be a main one?

Perhaps not. Is there even a main character? In a not dissimilar way, the main character of this novel is obscured, a double, double bluff. There are so many disguises in this novel. Some characters literally hide behind their veils, like Lady Tippins. Others hide behind an assumed personality, or an assumed role. Others behind an assumed name or profession. However, in the 20th century reviewers have found much to approve in the later novels of Dickens, including Our Mutual Friend.

Having made his fortune from London's rubbish, a rich misanthropic miser dies, estranged from all except his faithful employees Mr and Mrs Boffin. By his will, his fortune goes to his estranged son John Harmon, who is to return from where he has settled abroad possibly in South Africa to claim it, on condition that he marries a woman he has never met, Miss Bella Wilfer. The implementation of the will is in the charge of the solicitor, Mortimer Lightwood, who has no other practice.

The son and heir does not appear, though some knew him aboard the ship to London. A body is found in the Thames by Gaffer Hexam, rowed by his daughter Lizzie. He is a waterman who makes his living by retrieving corpses and taking the cash in their pockets, before handing them over to the authorities.

Papers in the pockets of the drowned man identify him as the heir, John Harmon. Present at the identification of the water-soaked corpse is a mysterious young man, who gives his name as Julius Handford and then disappears.

They take the disappointed bride of the drowned heir, Miss Wilfer, into their household, and treat her as their pampered child and heiress. They also accept an offer from Julius Handford, now going under the name of John Rokesmith, to serve as their confidential secretary and man of business, at no salary.

Rokesmith uses this position to watch and learn everything about the Boffins, Miss Wilfer, and the aftershock of the drowning of the heir John Harmon. Mr Boffin engages a one-legged ballad-seller, Silas Wegg, to read aloud to him in the evenings, and Wegg tries to take advantage of his position and of Mr Boffin's good heart to obtain other advantages from the wealthy dustman.

When the Boffins download a large home, Wegg is invited to live in the old Harmon home. Wegg hopes to find hidden treasure in the house or in the mounds of trash on the property. Gaffer Hexam, who found the body, is accused of murdering John Harmon by a fellow-waterman, Roger "Rogue" Riderhood, who is bitter at having been cast off as Hexam's partner on the river, and who covets the large reward offered in relation to the murder.

As a result of the accusation, Hexam is shunned by his fellows on the river, and excluded from The Six Jolly Fellowship-Porters, the public house they frequent.

Hexam's young son, the clever but priggish Charley Hexam, leaves his father's house to better himself at school, and to train to be a schoolmaster, encouraged by his sister, the beautiful Lizzie Hexam. Lizzie stays with her father, to whom she is devoted. Before Riderhood can claim the reward for his false allegation against Hexam, Hexam is found drowned himself.

Lizzie Hexam becomes the lodger of a doll's dressmaker, a disabled teenager nicknamed "Jenny Wren". Jenny's alcoholic father lives with them, and is treated by Jenny as a child. Lizzie has caught the eye of the work-shy barrister, Eugene Wrayburn, who first noticed her when accompanying his friend Mortimer Lightwood to the home of Gaffer Hexam.

Wrayburn falls in love with her. However, he soon gains a violent rival in Bradley Headstone, the schoolmaster of Charley Hexam. Charley wants his sister to be under obligation to no one but him, and tries to arrange lessons for her with Headstone, only to find that Wrayburn has already engaged a teacher for both Lizzie and Jenny.

Headstone quickly becomes attracted to Lizzie, with unreasonable passion, and makes an unsuccessful proposal. Angered by being refused and by Wrayburn's dismissive attitude towards him, Headstone comes to see him as the source of all his misfortunes, and takes to following him around the streets of London at night.

My favourite Dickens: Our Mutual Friend | Books | The Guardian

Wrayburn admits to Lightwood that he does not know his own intentions yet, either. She flees both men, getting work up-river from London. Mr and Mrs Boffin attempt to adopt a young orphan, in the care of his great-grandmother, Betty Higden, but the boy dies before the adoption can proceed. Mrs Higden minds children for a living, assisted by a foundling known as Sloppy. She has a terror of the workhouse. In the meantime Eugene Wrayburn has obtained information about Lizzie's whereabouts from Jenny's father and finds the object of his affections.

Bradley Headstone engages with Riderhood, now working as a lock-keeper, as Headstone is consumed with making good his threats about Wrayburn.

After following Wrayburn up river and seeing him with Lizzie, Headstone attacks Wrayburn and leaves him for dead. Lizzie finds him in the river and rescues him. Wrayburn, thinking he will die anyway, marries Lizzie, and suppresses any hint that Headstone was his attacker to save her reputation. When he survives, he is glad that this has brought him into a loving marriage, albeit with a social inferior. He had not cared about the social gulf between them but Lizzie had and would not otherwise have married him.

Rokesmith is in love with Bella Wilfer but she cannot bear to accept him, having insisted that she will marry only for money. Mr Boffin appears to be corrupted by his wealth and becomes a miser.

He also begins to treat his secretary Rokesmith with contempt and cruelty. This arouses the sympathy of Bella Wilfer, and she stands up for Rokesmith when Mr Boffin dismisses him for aspiring to marry her. They marry and live happily, in relatively poor circumstances. Bella soon conceives.

Meanwhile, Bradley Headstone tries to put the blame for his assault on Wrayburn onto Rogue Riderhood, by dressing in similar clothes when doing the deed and then putting his own clothes in the river. Riderhood fetches the bundle of clothing and attempts to blackmail Headstone.

Headstone is overcome with the hopelessness of his situation, as Wrayburn is alive, recovering from the brutal beating, and is married to Lizzie. Confronted by Riderhood in his classroom, Headstone is seized with a self-destructive urge, proceeding to the lock, where he flings himself into the lock, pulling Riderhood with him so that both are drowned. The one-legged parasite Silas Wegg has, with help from Mr Venus, an "articulator of bones", searched the mounds of dust and discovered a will subsequent to the one which has given the Boffins the whole of the Harmon estate.

By the later will, the estate goes to the Crown. Wegg decides to blackmail Boffin with this will, but Venus has second thoughts and reveals all to Boffin. It has gradually become clear to the reader that John Rokesmith is the missing heir, John Harmon. Harmon survived the attempted murder, done to rob him of the money he had from the sale of his business. Now that she has married him, believing him to be poor, he can throw off his disguise.

He does so and it is revealed that Mr Boffin's apparent miserliness and ill-treatment of his secretary were part of a scheme to test Bella's motives about money. When Wegg attempts to clinch his blackmail on the basis of the later will disinheriting Boffin, Boffin turns the tables by revealing a still later will by which the fortune is granted to Boffin even at young John Harmon's expense. The Boffins are determined to make John Harmon and his bride Bella Wilfer their heirs anyway so all ends well, except for the villain Wegg, who is carted away by Sloppy.

Sloppy himself becomes friendly with Jenny Wren, whose father has died.

A sub-plot involves the activities of the devious Mr and Mrs Lammle, a couple who have married one another for money to live in society, only to discover that neither has any money. They attempt to obtain financial advantage by pairing off their acquaintance, Fledgeby, first with the heiress Georgiana Podsnap and later with Bella Wilfer. Eventually, all attempts at improving their financial situation having failed, the Lammles leave England, Mr Lammle having first administered a sound beating to Fledgeby.

Our Mutual Friend , like most Dickens novels, was published in 19 monthly instalments, each costing one shilling with the exception of the nineteenth, which was double-length and cost two. Each issue featured 32 pages of text and two illustrations by Marcus Stone. Inspiration for Our Mutual Friend , possibly came from Richard Henry Horne 's essay "Dust; or Ugliness Redeemed", published in Household Words in , which contains a number of situations and characters that are found in the novel.

These include a dust heap, in which a legacy lies buried, [23] a man with a wooden leg, who has an acute interest in the dust heap, Silas Wegg, and another character, Jenny Wren, with "poor withered legs".

A man—young and eccentric? Our Mutual Friend was published in nineteen monthly numbers, in the fashion of many earlier Dickens novels, for the first time since Little Dorrit — Dickens remarked to Wilkie Collins that he was "quite dazed" at the prospect of putting out twenty monthly parts after more recent weekly serials.

Dickens chose instead the younger Marcus Stone and, uncharacteristically, left much of the illustrating process to Stone's discretion. Alterations quite satisfactory. Everything very pretty". Dickens, who was aware that it was now taking him longer than before to write, made sure he had built up a safety net of five serial numbers before the first went to publication for May He was at work on number sixteen when he was involved in the traumatic Staplehurst rail crash.

Following the crash, and while tending to the injured among the "dead and dying," Dickens went back to the carriage to rescue the manuscript from his overcoat. When I had done what I could to help others, I climbed back into my carriage—nearly turned over a viaduct, and caught aslant upon the turn—to extricate the worthy couple.

They were much soiled, but otherwise unhurt. Dickens was travelling with his mistress Ellen Ternan and her mother. Sales of Our Mutual Friend were 35, for the first monthly number, but then dropped, with 5, for the second number and 19, for the concluding double number.

In Our Mutual Friend Dickens explores the conflict between doing what society expects and the idea of being true to oneself. With regard to this the influence of the family is important. In many of Dickens's novels, including Our Mutual Friend and Little Dorrit , parents try to force their children into arranged marriages. However, he later married her for love.

Harmon goes against his father's wishes in another way by taking the alias of John Rokesmith he refuses his inheritance. Her mother wishes her to marry for money to better the fortunes of the entire family, although her father is happy with her marrying John Rokesmith for love.

Bella's marriage to Rokesmith goes against what is expected of her by her mother, but eventually her mother accepts the fact that Bella has at least married someone who will make her happy. However, later on in the novel, Bella accepts the everyday duties of a wife, and seemingly gives up her independence. Furthermore, Bella reads up on the current events so that she can discuss them with her husband, and is actively involved in all of the couple's important decisions. Lizzie Hexam also objects to the expectation of marriage to Eugene Wrayburn, because she sees the difference in their social class status.

Without marriage, their connection risks her reputation. She does not aspire to marrying Wrayburn even though she loves him and would be elevated in society simply by marrying him, which almost any woman would have done at the time.

Wrayburn, however, feels that he is unworthy of such a good woman. He also knows that his father would disapprove of her low social status.

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