Study Guide

Our Mutual Friend Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

Advertisement - Guide continues below

Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

Shadow of Confusion

Like most comedies, Our Mutual Friend begins with a big ol' conflict. Comedies are supposed to have happy endings, so if they begin happily, there's really nowhere to go from there, right?

Anyway, the problem that opens Our Mutual Friend is the murder of John Harmon, a guy who was supposed to return home to London to claim his inheritance. As part of his father's will, John was also supposed to marry a girl he'd never met named Bella Wilfer. But now that John's dead, Bella won't get any of his money and all the inheritance goes to a pair of servants named Mr. and Mrs. Boffin. They're nice enough, but it's fair to say that John Harmon's death has drastically changed the lives of a few people.

Nightmarish Tangle

Now that Mr. Boffin has all kinds of money, things start to go wrong. For starters, Boffin becomes increasingly paranoid toward the people he should trust (like his secretary, Mr. Rokesmith), and more trusting of the people he should avoid (like a no-good blackmailer, Silas Wegg).

Meanwhile, Bella Wilfer starts to feel bad about the fact that she just wants to be rich. She rejects a declaration of love from Mr. Rokesmith because she feels he'll never be wealthy enough to make her happy. Meanwhile, a young lawyer named Eugene Wrayburn gets beaten within an inch of his life by his romantic rival and it looks like he won't make it.

Revelation and Transformation

And here's the part where you know you're reading a comedy, because life starts to be sunny, cheerful, and full of rainbows and unicorns for the good guys.

Mr. Rokesmith lets down his disguise to reveal that he was John Harmon all along. That means he can inherit all his father's money from the Boffins. In the process, he has also gotten Bella to prove her worth by rejecting the Boffin's money in favor of love. This kind of revealed-identity-followed-by-marriage bit is one of the oldest tricks in the comedy book. Basically, John Harmon has spent this entire book acting like the Duke from Shakespeare's comedy, Measure for Measure.

Meanwhile, Eugene Wrayburn's near-death experience brings him closer to his lover, Lizzie, and the two of them get married. All the bad guys either die or get tossed into garbage carts (the 19th-century equivalent of getting a pie in your face, maybe?) and it looks like our favorite characters will live happily ever after.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...