Study Guide

Our Mutual Friend Religion

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So, on their return, they met brisk Mrs. Milvey coming to seek them, with the agreeable intelligence that there was no fear for the village children, there being a Christian school in the village, and no worse Judaical interference with it than to plant its garden. (13.9.98)

Mrs. Milvey is pretty paranoid when it comes to Jewish people. She suspects nearly every Jewish person of trying to convert Christians to Judaism.

"I have had an interview to-day, Eugene, with a Jew, who seems determined to press us hard. Quite a Shylock, a quite a Patriarch." (13.10.39)

Mortimer Lightwood—like everyone else in London—suspects that Mr. Riah is cruel and greedy because he's Jewish. She even calls him Shylock, after The Merchant of Venice's villain. But little does he know that Mr. Riah is just a smokescreen for Mr. Fledgeby, the book's true moneylending villain.

"So I had a mind […] to come and have a talk with you about our dodging friend, the child of Israel." (18.8.14)

Mr. Fledgeby is more than happy to let people think that Mr. Riah is the cause of their problems. He'll lie right to people's faces, telling them he's trying to help them when he's actually the one calling in their debts and making them bankrupt.

"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 eventually realizes that in making himself Mr. Fledgeby's errand-boy, he's also giving a bad name to Jewish people everywhere. Mr. Fledgeby orders him to act like a Jewish stereotype, and in doing so, Riah is letting down his entire religion and not just himself.

"But doing it as a Jew, I could not choose but compromise the Jews of all conditions and all countries." (18.9.15)

Again, Mr. Riah sadly admits that he has sold out his entire religion by allowing Mr. Fledgeby to use him as a moneylending puppet.

"He has got a bad name as an old Jew, and he is paid for the use of it, and I'll have my money's worth of him." (14.13.18)

Mr. Fledgeby doesn't end up using Mr. Riah by accident. He knows exactly what he's doing when he chooses an old Jewish man as the face of his moneylending operation. He knows that people will be willing to believe that a Jewish man is greedy, so he uses this prejudice to his own financial advantage.

"You cultivate society and society cultivates you, but Mr. Riah's not society. In society, Mr. Riah is kept dark; eh, Mr. Twemlow?" (14.13.56)

Mr. Fledgeby is very clear on the idea that Mr. Riah (as a Jew) is a social outsider. This is what makes Riah such a perfect scapegoat for Fledgeby's dishonest business practices.

"Sir […] I do as I am directed. I am not the principal here. I am but the agent of a superior, and I have no choice, no power." (14.13.77)

Mr. Riah does his best to explain how he can't act any differently than the way he does. If he's going to be Fledgeby's scapegoat, he'll at least be honest about it.

The old man looked into Fledgeby's little eyes for any sign of leave to be easy with Mr. Twemlow; but there was no sign in them. (14.13.83)

Mr. Riah is constantly hoping that Mr. Fledgeby will take pity on the people who've borrowed money from him. But again and again, he is disappointed in this hope.

This very exacting member of the fold appeared to be endowed with a sixth sense, in regard of knowing when the Reverend Frank Milvey least desired her company, and with promptitude appearing in his little hall. (18.11.50)

Whenever Reverend Milvey needs to be somewhere, there is one particular member of his parish who is bound to get in his way with all sorts of annoying questions and small talk.

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