Study Guide

Our Mutual Friend Manipulation

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"Before my eyes he grows suspicious, capricious, hard, tyrannical, unjust." (11.4.125)

Bella Wilfer is devastated to see that money has turned the once-kind Mr. Boffin into a paranoid and cruel jerk. Little does she know that Boffin is faking it in order to test her character.

For Silas Wegg felt it to be quite out of the question that he could lay his head upon his pillow in peace, without first hovering over Mr. Boffin's house in the superior character of its Evil Genius. (12.7.95)

Wegg is the kind of guy who is always looking to turn any situation to his advantage. Rather than be grateful for the money and housing Mr. Boffin has given him, he thinks about how he can get more and more money out of Boffin.

"Though that wouldn't quite do […] That's what would happen to him if he didn't buy us up. We should get nothing by that." (12.7.106)

Wegg likes to play out all of the different ways he could blackmail Boffin. He knows he can't ask for all of Boffin's money because Boffin would then have nothing to lose. Thus begins Wegg's long process of trying to nickel-and-dime Mr. Boffin out of as much money as possible.

"It's as much for that as anything else. It's something to be agreed with, on a subject that occupies so much of one's thoughts." (14.11.66)

Bradley Headstone gives Mr. Riderhood some money the moment he realizes he can manipulate him. Riderhood doesn't know it yet, but Bradley Headstone plans on murdering Eugene Wrayburn and framing Riderhood for the murder.

"Coax him to use his influence with the Jew. His name is Riah, of the house of Pubsey and Co." (14.12.85)

Mr. Fledgeby is probably the most manipulative jerk in this whole book. He's a moneylender who constantly puts people into misery. But he won't take responsibility for any of it, because he pretends that one of his lackeys (Mr. Riah) is actually the one running the show when it's the other way around.

"I'll put him in harness, and I'll bear him up tight, and I'll break him and drive him." (14.14.76)

Silas Wegg would be a bad dude if he just wanted to blackmail kind old Mr. Boffin out of his money. But he's an even worse dude because he revels in the idea of forcing Boffin to do whatever he wants. Wegg isn't just greedy… he's totally sadistic.

"I reflected—clearly reflected for the first time, that in bending my neck to the yoke I was willing to wear, I bent the unwilling necks of the whole Jewish people." (18.9.15)

Mr. Riah feels awful about working for Mr. Fledgeby. In agreeing to Fledgeby's deal, Mr. Riah has given a bad name to Jewish people everywhere because he has allowed people to believe that he (a Jewish man) is a cruel and greedy moneylender… playing right into the anti-Semitic stereotype of Jews as greedy.

"He held me to certain months of servitude, which were his lawful term of notice." (18.9.21)

Mr. Riah finally explains to Jenny how Mr. Fledgeby has used him as a smokescreen to make people think that an old Jewish man has been cheating them when it's been Mr. Fledgeby all along. Jenny is quick to forgive him; since she now knows Riah had no choice.

"[If] you could have seen him of a night, at that time of it! The way he'd sit and chuckle over himself!" (19.13.41)

Bad guys aren't the only ones who can be manipulative in this book. Mr. Boffin also gets in on the fun by pretending to turn into a big meanie once he inherits Old Man Harmon's money. All he's actually doing though is checking whether Bella Wilfer has the strength of character to stand up for what's right instead of standing by and quietly taking his money.

Mr. Boffin, with his face bent over his heavy hand, made no sound, but rolled his shoulders when thus referred to, as if he were vastly enjoying himself. (19.13.43)

Mr. Boffin gets a real kick out of playing the villain, which is something he's done for most of this book. It's a good thing the whole villain thing is just a show.

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