Study Guide

Our Mutual Friend Manipulation

By Charles Dickens

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Schemers and liars and blackmailers, oh my! Machiavelli would be super-proud of a bunch of these machinating characters.

Most of the plot in Our Mutual Friend revolves around the question of leverage. Whoever has the most information about other people tends to hold the upper-hand. Just look at Silas Wegg's blackmail of Mr. Boffin, or Mr. Riderhood's blackmail of Bradley Headstone. When it comes to getting ahead, the cast of this novel doesn't dream—they scheme.

Questions About Manipulation

  1. How does Silas Wegg plan on blackmailing Mr. Boffin?
  2. What ends up happening with Wegg's plot to blackmail Boffin? Is it a convincing end?
  3. What comes from Riderhood's attempt to blackmail Headstone? What does it tell us about blackmail in general?
  4. What kind of father forces his son to marry a girl he's never met in order to get his inheritance? Does Old Man Harmon have a good reason for this, or is he just power-tripping?

Chew on This

In Our Mutual Friend, we find that people's attempts to manipulate others always tend to backfire.

In Our Mutual Friend, John Harmon's testing of Bella shows that this book's entire message is based on being skeptical of women.

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