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  • Our Mutual Friend
  • Written by Charles Dickens
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  • Written by Charles Dickens
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  • Our Mutual Friend
  • Written by Charles Dickens
    Read by David Case
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On Sale: November 01, 2000
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Published by : Modern Library Random House Group

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Read by David Case
On Sale: January 01, 1998
ISBN: 978-1-4159-1044-3
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ABOUT THE BOOK ABOUT THE BOOK
ABOUT THE AUTHOR ABOUT THE AUTHOR
PRAISE PRAISE
READER'S GUIDE READER'S GUIDE
Synopsis

Synopsis

Our Mutual Friend is a satiric masterpiece about money. The last novel Dickens completed, and perhaps his most angry, it sounds all the great themes of his later work: the innocence and venality of the aspiring poor, the hollow pretensions of the nouveau riche, the unfailing power of wealth to corrupt everyone it touches. Among those caught up in the ruthless forces of change in Dickens's London are the archetypal innocent Noddy Boffin, who 'inherits' a dustheap where the trash of the rich is thrown; Silas Wegg, a grotesque, one-legged man with unlimited fantasies of grandeur and power; Mr. Veneering, Member of Parliament, whose house, furnishings, servants, carriage, and baby are all 'bran-new'; and Alfred and Sophronia Lammle, who marry one another because each wrongly believes the other is rich. The social themes of Our Mutual Friend--having to do with the treatment of the poor, education, representative government, even the inheritance laws--are informed and brought into coherence by the underlying presence of the Thames, signifying the perpetual flow of life into death, and acting as agent of retribution and regeneration too, as a kind of river god in fact, in a novel in which no other god is very present.
Charles Dickens

About Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens - Our Mutual Friend
Charles Dickens was born in a little house in Landport, Portsea, England, on February 7, 1812. The second of eight children, he grew up in a family frequently beset by financial insecurity. At age eleven, Dickens was taken out of school and sent to work in London backing warehouse, where his job was to paste labels on bottles for six shillings a week. His father John Dickens, was a warmhearted but improvident man. When he was condemned the Marshela Prison for unpaid debts, he unwisely agreed that Charles should stay in lodgings and continue working while the rest of the family joined him in jail. This three-month separation caused Charles much pain; his experiences as a child alone in a huge city–cold, isolated with barely enough to eat–haunted him for the rest of his life.

When the family fortunes improved, Charles went back to school, after which he became an office boy, a freelance reporter and finally an author. With Pickwick Papers (1836-7) he achieved immediate fame; in a few years he was easily the post popular and respected writer of his time. It has been estimated that one out of every ten persons in Victorian England was a Dickens reader. Oliver Twist (1837), Nicholas Nickleby (1838-9) and The Old Curiosity Shop (1840-41) were huge successes. Martin Chuzzlewit (1843-4) was less so, but Dickens followed it with his unforgettable, A Christmas Carol (1843), Bleak House (1852-3), Hard Times (1854) and Little Dorrit (1855-7) reveal his deepening concern for the injustices of British Society. A Tale of Two Cities (1859), Great Expectations (1860-1) and Our Mutual Friend (1864-5) complete his major works.

Dickens's marriage to Catherine Hoggarth produced ten children but ended in separation in 1858. In that year he began a series of exhausting public readings; his health gradually declined. After putting in a full day's work at his home at Gads Hill, Kent on June 8, 1870, Dickens suffered a stroke, and he died the following day.
Praise

Praise

“The fact that Dickens is always thought of as a caricaturist, although he was constantly trying to be something else, is perhaps the surest mark of his genius.” —George Orwell
Discussion Questions

Discussion Guides

1. Many of Dickens’s contemporaries thought the world of eccentrics depicted in Our Mutual Friend went too far. Do you think this conceit got away from Dickens, or did he have a purpose?

2. Henry James, in his review of Our Mutual Friend in The Nation, says “In all Mr. Dickens's stories, the reader has been called upon . . . to accept a certain number of figures or creatures of pure fancy. . . . He was, moreover, always repaid for his concession by a peculiar beauty or power in these exceptional characters. But he is now expected to make the same concession with a very inadequate reward.” Does Dickens offer little reward?

3. Do you think Dickens originally meant to have Boffin have a change of heart?

4. Some scholars characterize Dickens’s work as giving a voice to the masses that, in his society, were never heard. Is this true of his Jewish characters? Consider the character of Riah and the role he plays in Our Mutual Friend. Do you think Dickens was anti-Semitic?

5. Consider Bella Wilfer and John Harmon/John Rokesmith’s relationship. Was Dickens making the novel neat when the betrothed couple truly falls in love, or was he creating a plot twist? Is this a comment about marriage?

6. Could it be said that Jenny Wren and the life she leads is the true heart of this novel?


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