Study Guide

Our Mutual Friend Society and Class

By Charles Dickens

Society and Class

Ugh. If we lived in the stifling world of Our Mutual friend, we'd be tempted to fake our own deaths—like John Harmon—rather than deal with all the perpetual status-seeking and social-climbing.

There are few things that 19th-century British novels preoccupy themselves with more than questions of class. And for good reason: class determined everything back then, from the person you married to the kind of job you had. There was pretty much no part of your daily life that wasn't affected by class, and Charles Dickens' books show us this (gross) reality on every page.

Questions About Society and Class

  1. Do you approve of Eugene Wrayburn's marriage to Lizzie Hexam? Why don't many of the characters in the book approve of this union?
  2. How does social class affect Bella Wilfer's decision to live with the Boffins? Why does she eventually leave them, and what are the consequences?
  3. Does Dickens tend to idealize poverty in this book? Please support your answer with evidence from the book.
  4. Why would John Harmon pretend to be dead and give up his ticket into the upper class?

Chew on This

In Our Mutual Friend, Dickens suggests that worrying about social status and class is the root of all immorality.

Our Mutual Friend shows us that social class doesn't matter when it comes to determining which people are good and which people are bad.

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