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Our Mutual Friend: I Come to the End

Posted on the 18 July 2011 by Erictheblue

I've just finished Our Mutual Friend, the last novel Dickens completed.  The current critical consensus, one gleans from reading here and there, is that the early novels of "the jolly Dickens" were loved by his contemporaries, but that as he aged, and his vision darkened, he produced the works--Bleak House, Little Dorrit, and Our Mutual Friend--on which his reputation as the greatest of the English novelists now rests.  My own eccentric impression is that his vision did not darken to the point that his fiction attained the  crepuscular quality of reality.  I have in mind, for example, the rather too obviously contrasting couples, the Lammles, who marry for money only to discover that he does not have as much as she thought and that she does not have as much as he thought, and the Harmons, who marry only after John proves to himself that Bella knows nothing of his incipient wealth.  She marries him anyway, of course, and gets her reward, while the cold, manipulative Lammles suffer unhappiness before being dismissed from the plot.  It would be pleasant if life were like that.

The scene in which Bella discovers that she has picked, not only a good man but also a rich one, is as we say "over the top" somewhat in the manner of an episode of "Extreme Makeover."  I am not one of those who love Dickens unreservedly. 

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