Our Mutual Friend: Part Eight

Serial Reading Guide for Our Mutual Friend: Part Eight (chs. 4.8 – End)

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. Do any passages from the earlier chapters seem, in retrospect, particularly noteworthy once you have finished the novel?

2. Note how Jenny’s remark about clergymen (716) emerges in the plot of the novel (in 4.11).

3. The return of the “drowned man” image: Eugene in 4.10 (721). How might Eugene’s physical and psychological experiences (here and at 734-34, 4.11) compare to any other character’s in the book—both in terms of narrative technique and in terms of theme.

4. Mrs. Sprodgkin?! This is no time to bring in a new character! Mrs. Milvey refers to her as a marplot (728, 4.11). A marplot, it won’t surprise you to hear, is “one who frustrates or ruins a plan or undertaking by meddling.” It seems Mrs. Sprodgkin may be Dickens’s little joke, in that we—and the characters—want the story to keep moving, and Mrs. Sprodgkin forces a brief pause.

5. Striking description of train travel (and the nature of time) at 731, 4.11.

6. Bella’s “trial” or test: Was it worth it, and what are the moral consequences?

7. Book 4, chapter 13: Lots of faces and a story about a “pious fraud” (751). Then a very good question from Bella: “Are you sure you have left nothing out of it?”

8. How does Wegg’s “work” or “labor” at the mounds (4.14) compare with other examples of work mentioned in the novel?

9. The return to the Bradley Headstone storyline at the beginning of 4.15 is quite well done. Also impressive is the lead-in to Bradley and Rogue’s confrontation (775-76).

10. Things get tied up rather swiftly in 4.16! And will Eugene “go to one of the colonies” or stay and face the disapproval of “Society”?

11. Lady Tippins and her cohort have quite a lot to say (“chapter the last”), but who gets the novel’s final word as the true voice of Society?

The concludes the Our Mutual Friend serial reading guide.

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© Steven J. Venturino 2018