Study Guide

Our Mutual Friend Family

By Charles Dickens

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Aww, the fam. Making our lives miserable and awesomesauce since time began. The bonds of family shape nearly all the action in Our Mutual Friend—after all, the only reason John Harmon has returned to England is because he needs to claim his inheritance from his estranged father.

He also needs to start his own family by marrying Bella Wilfer, which is one of the stipulations in his father's will. In the meantime, the childless couple Mr. and Mrs. Boffin want to find themselves an orphan so they'll have someone to leave their money to once they're dead. Yup: money is a family matter to our man Dickens.

Questions About Family

  1. Are there any characters in this book who are good fathers? What about good mothers? Why or why not?
  2. Why does Charley Hexam get so mad at his sister Lizzie for turning down Bradley Headstone's proposal?
  3. Why did John Harmon first split with his father? Was it a reasonable split? Why or why not?
  4. Describe the family dynamic in the Wilfer house. Is it a healthy dynamic? Why or why not?

Chew on This

In Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens shows us that being in someone's family is no guarantee of being close to them.

Our Mutual Friend reminds us that "family" means the people you love, not just the people you're biologically connected to.

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