Study Guide

Our Mutual Friend Marriage

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[Their] horses were new, their pictures were new, they themselves were new, they were as newly married as was lawfully compatible with their having a brand-new baby. (1.2.1)

Dickens likes to make fun of the Veneerings as a husband and wife who are new to British high society. Everything about them is super new, from their house to their baby to their marriage itself. It's like they decided to check everything off life's to-do list in a single stroke.

—Except that the son's inheritance is made conditional on his marrying a girl, who at the date of the will, was a child of four or five years old, and who is now a marriageable young woman. (1.2.72)

It looks like John Harmon can only claim his inheritance if Harmon marries a young woman named Bella Wilfer. This is a weird thing to have in a will, since John has never met this girl and Old Man Harmon saw her for only a second before he died.

"Our friends, Alfred and Sophronia […] you will be glad to hear, my dear fellows, are going to be married. As my wife and I make it a family affair, the entire direction of which we take upon ourselves, of course our first step is to communicate the fact to our family friends." (3.7.10)

It looks like Alfred and Sophronia are getting married. The funny thing is that it seems as though Mr. Veneering has decided this fact more than either Alfred or Sophronia. But then again, people are pretty meddling in British high society.

"Then you married me on false pretenses." (3.7.67)

Alfred and Sophronia Lammle are pretty angry to find out that they've been lying to each other throughout their engagement. Each one of them thought the other had plenty of money, but now it looks like neither of them does.

"So the happy pair, with this hopeful marriage contract thus signed, sealed, and delivered, repair homeward." (3.7.119)

Well, there's nothing left to do now but for Alfred and Sophronia to go home and live with the mess they've made. That's what they get for marrying each other purely for money's sake. Now they're both poor and they have no clue where their money is going to come from.

"Why the last news is, that I don't mean to marry your brother." (6.2.4)

Jenny Wren likes to fantasize about the day she gets married. She likes to picture herself as a tyrant wife, bossing her future husband around and making him worship her. The problem is that Jenny's a bit deluded about how many men find her attractive.

The reversion falling in soon after they were married. (7.5.4)

The property laws of 19th-century England were pretty tough on women. For starters, women tended to lose all of their property once they got married, because this property would belong to their husbands. As you can imagine, this fact led to more than a few fights between husbands and wives.

"You were obliged to tell him! Do you know he is worth fifty of you?" (10.15.109)

Charley Hexam can't believe that his sister Lizzie would turn down a marriage proposal from someone as great as Bradley Headstone. He can't imagine why a lower-class woman like Lizzie wouldn't marry Bradley, especially since a marriage to Bradley would raise her status in society.

"I feel persuaded that I shall live long enough to be married, dear fellow." (18.10.88)

Eugene knows that he's dying. But before he goes, he wants Lizzie Hexam to marry him. His buddy Mortimer is skeptical about whether he has enough time, but Eugene is confident he can hold out until the wedding.

"He is conscious, Jenny […] He knows his wife." (18.10.91)

Sure enough, Eugene reaches deep inside himself and finds the strength to live long enough to marry Jenny. This is a big turn of character for him, since he's spent this entire book being as lazy and lethargic as he can possibly be.

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