Serial Reading Guide for Our Mutual Friend: Part Four (chs. 2.4 – 2.13)
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. In chapter 2.4, note the theatrical and manipulative nature of the Lammles’ utterances. First, they are like a play (to flatter Georgiana), then they actually serve to ventriloquize Georgiana and Fledgeby, as if the two young people were puppets (which, to the Lammles, they are). In the next chapter (at page 268), Fledgeby even tells Alfred not to treat him like a “doll and puppet.”
2. For Fledgeby, every bargain for himself must represent “somebody else’s ruin or somebody’s loss” (269, ch. 2.5). How does this attitude link him to some characters, and how does it distinguish him from others? (Also, note that the letters “L.S.D.” (p. 269) stand for pounds, shillings, and pence.)
3. Notice how blunt the narrator is in chapter 2.5 and 2.6 with its descriptions and opinions of Lammle, Fledgeby, and Riah. Regarding Riah, I recommend taking a look at note 5 on page 820 as well.
4. Jenny describes “death” as the cessation of daily life—a desirable state of living “above” when compared to living life “down below.” How might this metaphoric inversion be related to the novel’s key themes? In general, and as you read, how do you think Jenny Wren functions in the novel? What does she help readers understand or feel? (See, for example, the scene in 2.11.)
5. Prepare yourself for the psychological battles between Bradley, Eugene, and Charley in 2.6.
6. What do you make of the development of both Bella’s and Boffin’s character in 2.8?
7. Notice how the narrator wants us to see things from Pleasant Riderhood’s perspective in 2.12.
8. Consider the smooth yet mysterious transition from 2.12 to 2.13, the narrator’s manipulation of our ability to gather evidence, and the curious way chapter 2.13 concludes the original installment with both a revelation and a cliffhanger. It’s as if the subject of ongoing, lived personal identity is at the heart of a detective story.