Study Guide

Our Mutual Friend Tone

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Sometimes Sarcastic, Sometimes Sentimental

Lovers of Charles Dickens might be surprised when they start reading Our Mutual Friend because the book is filled with unlikeable characters and Dickens speaks mostly in a dark, sarcastic tone. When he's not talking about the "slime and ooze" (1.1.3) of London, he's presenting us with shallow characters in a mocking, bitter tone:

Mr. and Mrs. Veneering were brand-new people in a brand-new house in a brand-new quarter of London. Everything about the Veneerings was spick and span new. All the furniture was new, all their friends were new, all their servants were new, their plate was new, their carriage was new […] (1.2.1)

As the novel unfolds, though, good ol' Chucky D's negativity starts to break down. Certain characters become more and more likeable, and by the end of the book, we're back in the tender, sentimental tone that many come to expect from Dickens. We see this tone especially in Dickens' descriptions of love, like when Eugene marries Lizzie Hexam from his sickbed:

When the ceremony was done, and all the rest departed from the room, she drew her arm under his head, and laid her own head down upon the pillow by his side. (18.11.96)

D'awww. Yes. This is the kind of feel-good redemption we've come to know and love from Dickens. The kind of warm, fuzzy feeling we get from Eugene's turn to goodness is reminiscent of A Christmas Carol.

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