Serial Reading Guide for Our Mutual Friend: Part Six (chs. 3.8 – 3.17)
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. Key chapter: 3.8. The narrative voices shift, familiar motifs are developed (reading, what to do with garbage, the illusory smoothness of water, and the metaphoric qualities of life, death, up, and down), and direct appeals to the reader. Notice how Dickens lets us know that Riderhood is speaking to Betty (500-501) without directly naming the character. Finally, note how the chapter comes to a close, what exactly happens to Betty, and who is with her at the time.
2. Do you think Rokesmith retains our interest as the second half of the novel proceeds? Does his character develop? Does his character have a thematic function; that is, does he seem to stand for something?
3. Note the reflections and mirrors in 3.9 (514, for example) and how this imagery might relate to themes of identity. Also: “Do you know yourself?” (512) and the question of who know the self best—you or someone else? (520 and 526, for example).
4. Who’s worse, Headstone or Riderhood?
5. More psychological cat-and-mouse between Eugene and Bradley (3.10).
6. Who turns out to be an “odd bill,” and what does Fledgeby do to him (3.13)?
7. As 3.15 opens, how does the narrator avoid taking direct responsibility for describing Boffin’s appearance?
8. Who is looking at whom—and why—in the middle of page 575 (3.15)? And check out all the readings of faces (for example, 560, 599 (3.13, 3.16), etc.
9. Consider how complicated is the judgment that “people live beyond their means.” How might means be related to social issues beyond (or intermingled with) an individual’s control?