Study Guide

Eugene Wrayburn in Our Mutual Friend

Eugene Wrayburn

By the end of the book, Eugene Wrayburn is one of our heroes. But, like Bella, this guy doesn't come across as very likeable in early chapters. For starters, Eugene doesn't like working as a lawyer, even though, by the sounds of things, he hasn't done a single minute of work in his entire career:

"I hate," said Eugene, putting his legs up on the opposite seat, "I hate my profession." (1.3.29)

Eugene doesn't see his problem as one of laziness—he sees it as a problem of motivation. He believes that if he ever found something worth working for, he'd go ahead and work for it. 

Eugene's laziness eventually gets on the nerves of people around him, especially Bradley Headstone, who competes with Eugene for the love of Lizzie Hexam. The first time Headstone sees Eugene, he thinks,

Something in the careless manner of this person, and in a certain lazily arrogant air with which he approached, holding possession of twice as much pavement as another would have claimed, instantly caught the boy's attention. (6.1.178)

And he's totally right—Eugene is a lazybones who thinks he's better than everyone around him. He's also smarmy and pretty dang handsome. Headstone hates Eugene all the more once he finds out Lizzie like-likes him. Eugene is also totally devastating in his power to insult people. His insults eventually get so bad that Headstone tries to murder him.

Once Headstone's attempted murder has failed, Eugene becomes a changed man. He realizes that there truly is something in life he's willing to fight for, and that's Lizzie Hexam. As the narrator tells us,

He referred to the circumstance that there were tears upon his hand, as he stood covering his eyes. (17.6.83)

Earlier in this book, it would have been unthinkable for Eugene to cry, because there was nothing in his life he thought was worth crying for. But that has all changed now that Lizzie's in his life. We can only assume that he'll be a better, more hardworking man once he's married to Lizzie.