Study Guide

Our Mutual Friend Family

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"Venerable parent promptly resorts to anathematization, and turns him out." (1.2.60)

Eugene Wrayburn is a sarcastic dude, which is why he uses a million-dollar word here when he could have simply said, "Old Man Harmon told his kid to get lost." This line is one of the first accounts we hear of John Harmon's split with his dad.

"That it is a great work to have cut your way from father's life, and to have made a new and good beginning. So there am I, Charley, left alone with father, keeping him as straight as I can." (1.3.165)

Lizzie knows that the only way her brother Charley will ever rise in the world is if he gets away from his father, Gaffer. Lizzie, however, is too loyal to her father to leave him completely alone.

"And above all things, mind this Charley! Be sure you always speak well of father. Be sure you always give father his full due." (2.6.128)

Even though Lizzie wants Charley to get away from Gaffer, she wants to make sure that Charley always speaks well of the man. Family reputation means a lot to her, and she doesn't want her father getting a worse name than he already has.

"My respected father has found, down in the parental neighbourhood, a wife for his not-generally-respected son." (4.12.18)

Eugene Wrayburn has learned that his father has found a young lady for him (Eugene) to marry. But Eugene is a rebellious son. He has no plans to marry anyone, let alone some girl he's never met. Take that, Daddy-o.

"How to your father? Can you ask! By perpetuating the consequences of his ignorant and blind obstinacy." (6.2.42)

Eugene thinks that Lizzie is ruining her life by refusing to get an education. He considers this a betrayal not only of herself, but also of her father. After all, it's her father's prejudices that made him forbid her from getting an education. And by giving into these prejudices, Lizzie is ruining Gaffer's legacy: herself.

"Upon my soul […] you are a nice picture of a sister! Upon my soul, you are a pretty piece of disinterestedness! And so all my endeavours to cancel the past and to raise myself in the world, and to raise you with me, are to be beaten down by your low whims; are they?" (10.15.113)

Charley is furious that his sister Lizzie has turned down a marriage proposal from his schoolmaster, Bradley Headstone. Charley has worked hard to raise himself up in the world, and he wants to raise Lizzie with him. But he can't do that if Lizzie throws away her best chance at advancing, which is marriage. Then again, Lizzie can't stand Headstone.

"I'll not unsay them. I'll say them again. You are an inveterately bad girl, and a false sister, and I have done with you. For ever, I have done with you!" (10.15.138)

Way harsh, Tai. Charley can't accept Lizzie's rejection of Mr. Headstone, so he decides to break with her once and for all. He doesn't want to see her or speak with her anymore, which strikes us as a trip to Crazytown.

As for the children of the union, their experience of these festivities had been sufficiently uncomfortable to lead them annually to wish, when out of their tenderest years, either that Ma had married somebody else instead of much-teased Pa, or that Pa had married somebody else instead of Ma. (11.4.3)

The wedding anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Wilfer is always an awkward occasion. It's so awkward that their two daughters wish they hadn't married one another in the first place. Which is surprising, considering that these daughters wouldn't exist if their parents hadn't gotten together.

"I wish I had never brought him up. He'd be sharper than a serpent's tooth, if he wasn't as dull as ditch water. Look at him. There's a pretty object for a parent's eyes!" (13.10.12)

Jenny Wren has a weird relationship with her father, to say the least. She speaks of her father as though he's her son, and the longer the book goes, the weirder this family dynamic is. The father is basically such a drunk that his mental age is somewhere around eight for most of the book. So Jenny, being a teenager, takes it upon herself to treat him like a child.

"If I had any breath to cry with, I should have cried again. Now poor dear darling little Pa, you are going to see your lovely woman unexpectedly." (15.15.166)

Bella eventually breaks with Mr. and Mrs. Boffin because she can't stand the horrible way Mr. Boffin has treated his secretary, Mr. Rokesmith. When she leaves, she knows that she's given up a lifetime of easy money. But the first thing she thinks of when she's gone is going to see her father, a poor clerk who has always given Bella his love.

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