I would like to know how is race gender social class treated in Our Mutual Friend and Vanity Fair?

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pearlepratt eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This question must be answered in portions, since there are several prongs involved in the response for each novel. Therefore, this response begins with Our Mutual Friend. In Our Mutual Friend, Dickens illustrates the senselessness of racism through the relationship between Fledgeby and his humble servant and employee, Mr. Riah. Mr. Riah is Jewish and Fledgeby continually and unjustly torments him without apology. Often, his cruel remarks include references to Mr. Riah’s race. His ridiculous and unreasonable treatment of an elderly and honest man makes him appear detestable.

The issue of gender is addressed in a manner that suggests the folly of subordinating women to second class citizenship. John Harmon can only inherit his father’s riches if he marries Bella Wilfer, a woman he has never seen. Moreover, if he fails to marry her, he will be completely disinherited. Both John Harmon and Bella Wilfer are aware of these conditions. Bella resents the fact that she is treated like mere chattel. Likewise, the chaste and guileless Georgiana Podsnap is the target of a conspiracy. Her dearest friend, Sophronia Lammle conspires with Fledgeby and Alfred Lammle to trap her in a loveless marriage so that her fortune will be at her husband’s disposal.

Finally, The demarcation between social classes was rigid, as illustrated in the relationship between Lizzie Hexam and Eugene Wrayburn, the unprincipled attorney. Wrayburn is immediately drawn to Lizzie because she is beautiful. However, as his friend, Mortimer Lightwood, often remarks, his interest in her is fleeting. His intentions are dishonorable and he will, if given the chance, ruin her. He would never marry her because she is beneath him and he would be shunned by others in his social class. It is only because Lizzie is poor that she can be victimized by a man such as Wrayburn. Even her own brother, Charley, forgets her acts of loving—kindness and unfairly berates her for sullying the family’s reputation.

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Our Mutual Friend

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