Synopses & Reviews
A satiric masterpiece about the allure and peril of money, Our Mutual Friend revolves around the inheritance of a dust-heap where the rich throw their trash. When the body of John Harmon, the dust-heaps expected heir, is found in the Thames, fortunes change hands surprisingly, raising to new heights “Noddy” Boffin, a low-born but kindly clerk who becomes “the Golden Dustman.” Charles Dickenss last complete novel, Our Mutual Friend encompasses the great themes of his earlier works: the pretensions of the nouveaux riches, the ingenuousness of the aspiring poor, and the unfailing power of wealth to corrupt all who crave it. With its flavorful cast of characters and numerous subplots, Our Mutual Friend is one of Dickenss most complex—and satisfying—novels.
Includes bibliographical references (p. ).
About the Author
Richard T. Gaughan received his bachelors degree from the University of Notre Dame and his Ph.D. from Brown University. He is currently an associate professor of English at the University of Central Arkansas.
Reading Group Guide
1. Many of Dickenss 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 Dickenss 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 Rokesmiths 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?