Our Mutual Friend: Part Five

Serial Reading Guide for Our Mutual Friend: Part Five (chs. 2.14 – 3.7)

Chapter numbers  are preceded by the novel’s “book” number. For example, “1.4” indicates Book 1, Chapter 4. Page numbers refer to the Penguin Classics edition (1997).

1. For a “recap” of some of the key Rokesmith events, see the beginning of 2.14.

2. “The Secretary saw there was a strong feeling here on some sore point.” Another opportunity for readers to eavesdrop on characters’ opinions about one another other: the conversation between Rokesmith and Bradley Headstone (2.14).

3. A chapter called “The Whole Case So Far”! — But which case(s)?

4. Note the atmospheric scene-setting for Bradley and Lizzie (386, 2.15), as well as their subsequent, highly emotional conversation. Note the suggestion of yet another kind of “haunting” in the novel. And, just to complicate things, how does the end of 2.15 affect your opinion of Eugene?

5. Just as the first half of the novel is concluding, we veer toward the “sequel to the story of the man from somewhere” (!), complete with Twemlow’s involvement and indirect, stylized narration (2.16), almost as if the novel were starting over. Note also how we readers have to “see through” Mrs. Lammle’s spy-like behavior.

6. Social critics often point out that the “mystification of production,” or preventing consumers from recognizing the labor that creates commodities, is central to capitalism. How might this claim relate to Jenny and the toy store windows behind which her doll dresses appear? (3.1)

7. A body is brought to Abbey Potterson’s pub—and a very unusual narrative style ensues (3.3). Note how the style resonates with Harmon’s story, Gaffer’s death, and other key events. The chapter also dramatizes human compassion’s beautiful inconsistencies.

8. Bella thinks money may be ruining Mr. Boffin (3.4). Well, is it? (3.5). Note the attention to faces in this chapter, and recall how important faces are to the Boffins.

9. Bella spending time with Mrs. Lammle? Oh no! (And note: more faces and masks as the chapter progresses.)

10. Wegg and Venus stir things up (3.6-3.7). And we find out who Venus’s unrequited love is . . .

Next – Our Mutual Friend: Part Six (chs. 3.8 – 3.17) >

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© Steven J. Venturino 2018