Serial Reading Guide for Our Mutual Friend: Part Three (chs. 1.12-2.3)
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. Note the “stage-setting” of the initial description (saw-dust, paper flying about). What does it suggest about the chapter’s tone, attitude, and foreshadowing of events? Also, note the cliffhanger ending of the original installment (at page 171, end of chapter 1.13).
2. Notice the interesting narrative style at 175, and again at 177 as the Inspector “reads” the evidence and creates a unified story.
3. Furniture again at 180 (beginning of ch. 1.15)! Also in chapter 1.15: What do you think Rokesmith is up to? For that matter, what do you think Wegg is up to?
4. Consider the “house = life” metaphor at page 184, and think about how it may shape the entire novel.
5. Notice how Betty Higden says that Sloppy reads the paper “in different voices” (198), and subsequently the narrative itself transforms into “different voices” at 199 and 200.
6. Check out the brief but striking cinematic images that conclude Book 1 (211).
7. What specific clues are readers given in order to fix the narrative time when Book 2 opens?
8. Who is Bradley Headstone, and what repeated terms are associated with him?
9. Jenny Wren is a maker of dolls’ dresses. How is she also a maker of stories, like Mr. Venus? Can you think of any other characters who craft stories? Does the novel also point to the story-making power of objects and places?
10. How does Jenny’s story extend the theme of parental responsibility? Put another way, how does her story help us think about what the past owes the future? What forms might the “past” take in this novel—parents, wealth, wills, success, education, love?