Study Guide

Our Mutual Friend Religion

By Charles Dickens

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Most 19th-century British novels would involve a lot of references to Christianity, but in a bold move, Dickens makes Judaism the main concern of Our Mutual Friend. During Dickens' time, a lot of people would have been anti-Semitic and believed that all Jewish people were greedy and cruel.

But Dickens criticizes this belief when he shows how the character Fledgeby exploits this bigotry in order to pin all of his shady dealing on a kind old Jewish man named Mr. Riah. People's readiness to give into their prejudice is exactly what makes them so vulnerable to Mr. Fledgeby's manipulations. In the end, prejudice is a type of blindness that hurts way more people than it protects.

Questions About Religion

  1. Why does Mr. Riah go along with Fledgeby's exploitation of him? What does he realize about anti-Semitism by the time it's all over?
  2. Does Dickens do a good job of undercutting the religious prejudices of his time? How so (or how not so)?
  3. How does the Reverend Milvey stack up as a representative of Christianity? Is he good, bad, or just kind of blah?

Chew on This

In Our Mutual Friend, Dickens exposes the anti-Jewish prejudice of his time as being founded on ridiculous myths.

Our Mutual Friend shows us that religion—like anything in life—is either good or bad depending on whose hands you put it in.

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