Study Guide

Our Mutual Friend Book 1, Part 1, Chapter 4

By Charles Dickens

Book 1, Part 1, Chapter 4

The R. Wilfer Family

  • Now it's time to meet another family—the Wilfers. Their name suggests that they come from money, but the sad truth is that Mr. Wilfer is just a poor clerk and the family has nothing. To make things worse, Mr. Wilfer is a bit of a doormat for his wife and daughters. All they ever do is walk all over him.
  • Mr. Wilfer's daughter Bella is the young woman who was supposed to marry John Harmon and become rich. But now that Harmon is dead, Bella is doomed to a life of poverty. She has also ditched her old boyfriend, George Sampson, because she thought she'd be married to Harmon. Now she's single and poor and feeling pretty sorry for herself.
  • A man enters the Wilfer house and offers to rent out the first floor. The guy seems kind of shifty and he can't offer any references, but beggars can't be choosers. The Wilfers need the money, so they accept him as a renter. The guy's name is John Rokesmith.
  • The family sits down for dinner and Bella asks her father why he thinks Old Man Harmon ever made her marriage to John Harmon part of his will. Mr. Wilfer admits he has no clue, since he barely knew Harmon.
  • The chapter closes with Bella talking about how terrible it is to rent out part of their house to a stranger. The narrator informs us at this point that Mr. John Rokesmith is none other than Julius Handford, the man who went with Mortimer Lightwood to check out John Harmon's drowned body earlier in the book.