Charles Dickenss 1865 novel, his last completed novel, Our Mutual
Friend is an extraordinarily dark and convoluted work. Featuring
such unforgettable figures as Mr. Boffin, Mr. Podsnap, Bradley
Headstone, Jenny Wren, and Silas Wegg, Dickens continues, or rather
concludes his artistic legacy with a work rich in well written and
compelling characters. Exploring, as do many of Dickenss works, the
intricacies of inheritance, Our Mutual Friend is also deeply
concerned with families and the things that hold them together or
rip them apart. Interesting and fraught emphases on education,
upholding particularly English interests in the face of the still
rising British Empire, and concerns about the absolute
uncertainties about life and death, this is quite a way to come at
a last complete novel.
Our Mutual Friend begins with Lizzie and her father Gaffer Hexam
patrolling the river in the dark of night. Pulling a body out of
the river for the potential reward money, the novel jumps right
into the action with a bang. The body is presumed to be that of
young John Harmon, just returned from South Africa to claim a huge
inheritance from his recently deceased, hateful and miserly father.
The only heir dead, the elder Harmons loyal employees, Mr. and Mrs.
Boffin stand next in the will to inherit everything. This causes a
stir in Society, where Mortimer Lightwood, the legal executor of
the will, and his friend Eugene Wrayburn are called in to view the
body and question Gaffer Hexam. This causes two others to be drawn
into the plot - Lizzie Hexam, an uneducated, but prescient young
woman, who immediately catches Wrayburns eye, and Miss Bella
Wilfer, a sprightly young woman whose marriage to young John Harmon
was the sole condition for that gentleman to come into his
inheritance prevented by his untimely death. The novel tries over
the next pages to work out the personal ramifications of the
murder, the will, and the fates of these two young women.
Just to kind of continue this theme, one may be particularly
interested in the kinds of literary funds that Dickens draws on in
Our Mutual Friend: His debt to 18th century literature is heavy
indeed, with the works of the poet James Thomson and the historian
Edward Gibbon coursing through the novel like the very Thames
itself, laying the groundwork for literary and historical
commentary on the nature of Empire and particularly British
Imperial interests, and how those interests reach from the
international into the lives of individuals. Another important
predecessor in this line is the infamous Mr. Podsnap, a very dark
descendant of Laurence Sternes Corporal Trim from Tristram Shandy.
Trims famous flourish, in Podsnaps hands acquires the power to
annihilate entire nations. Dickens also reveals heavy debts to
fairy tales and nursery rhymes that continue and complicate the
novels emphasis on childrens educations, how they are managed, and
the impact that they can have on the world as it will become.
If you arent interested in reading Our Mutual Friend yet, you
should be You will be hard pressed anywhere in Dickens, (or
anywhere else for that matter), to find a more frenetic villain
than Mr. Bradley Headstone - to see him in action alone makes this
novel worth reading. He ranks right up there with David
Copperfields Uriah Heep in terms of Dickenss most insistently
horrifying creations. Ok. Enough from me, go, read Our Mutual
Friend. What are you waiting for Go, now
|Country of origin:
||246 x 189 x 24mm (L x W x T)
||Paperback - Trade
General & literary fiction >
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