Our Mutual Friend

by Charles Dickens

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Characters Discussed

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John Harmon

John Harmon, also known as Julius Handford and John Rokesmith. After his father’s death, he returns to England from South Africa, where he has lived for some years. On his arrival, George Radfoot, a fellow passenger on the homeward voyage, lures him into a waterfront inn, drugs him, robs him, and throws him into the Thames. Revived by the cold water, Harmon swims to shore. He takes the name of Julius Handford. Meanwhile, Radfoot has quarreled with a confederate, who murders him and throws his body into the river. When the body, wearing Harmon’s clothes, is found, the dead man is identified as John Harmon. Discovering in the meantime that Bella Wilfer, whom he is supposed to marry according to the terms of his father’s will, is a mercenary woman, Harmon decides to keep his identity a secret. As John Rokesmith, he becomes the secretary to the man who has inherited his father’s fortune and takes lodgings in the Wilfer home. When Bella finally realizes that love is more important than money, he marries her. After a year of happiness, he reveals his true identity and accepts his inheritance.

Nicodemus Boffin

Nicodemus Boffin, also called Noddy and The Golden Dustman, the illiterate, good-hearted confidential clerk who inherits the Harmon fortune after John Harmon’s supposed death. When Mrs. Boffin learns John Rokesmith’s true identity, her husband, at Harmon’s request, agrees to keep the secret. Also at Harmon’s suggestion, Boffin behaves with increasing evidence of greed until Bella Wilfer sees what avarice can lead to. Pestered by a blackmailer over the will, he finally shows that the fortune is really his and then generously hands it over to Harmon.

Henrietta Boffin

Henrietta Boffin, his cheerful, simple, affectionate wife, a childless woman who lavishes love on everyone around her.

Bella Wilfer

Bella Wilfer, the young woman John Harmon is directed to marry. A beautiful girl from a poor home, she is taken in by the Boffins, who try to give her the advantages she would have enjoyed as Harmon’s wife. In time, her selfishness is overcome by her natural affections. She makes Harmon a fine wife and bears him a child.

Silas Wegg

Silas Wegg, a mean-spirited ballad-monger and fruit seller, an ugly person whom illiterate Boffin hires to read to him. A prying rascal, he discovers a will in which the elder Harmon bequeathed his fortune to the Crown. He tries to blackmail Boffin, but he is foiled and tossed out into a garbage cart.

Mr. Venus

Mr. Venus, a dusty, good-willed taxidermist. He becomes Wegg’s accomplice in the scheme to blackmail Boffin, but he later repents, reveals the whole plot, and wins the heart of Pleasant Riderhood.

Mortimer Lightwood

Mortimer Lightwood, a bright, cautious solicitor who handles Boffin’s affairs and reports on the developments of the Harmon case.

Eugene Wrayburn

Eugene Wrayburn, his reckless, intelligent, and sprightly partner, who falls in love with Lizzie Hexam, the daughter of a Thames riverman. When she rejects him, he follows her to the country and is nearly murdered by a rival. Lizzie marries him finally and nurses him back to health.

Lizzie Hexam

Lizzie Hexam, a lovely, courageous, illiterate young woman. Oppressed by her father’s death, her brother’s rejection of her and the unwelcome courtship of a half-demented, jealous suitor, she moves out of London and finds work in a paper mill. In the end, she marries Eugene Wrayburn, whom she nurses back to health after the young barrister has been injured in a murderous attack made by his rival.

Charlie Hexam

Charlie Hexam, her selfish brother, a young man who rejects...

(This entire section contains 1231 words.)

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his father, his sister, and his schoolmaster in his cold-hearted effort to gain “respectability.”

Gaffer Hexam

Gaffer Hexam, Lizzie’s crude father, the riverman who pulls John Harmon’s supposed body out of the Thames. After he dies in an accident, he is slandered by his ex-partner, who accuses him of Harmon’s murder.

Bradley Headstone

Bradley Headstone, a schoolmaster, a pompous man who falls insanely in love with Lizzie, tries to murder Eugene Wrayburn, and takes Rogue Riderhood to his watery death.

Roger Riderhood

Roger Riderhood, nicknamed Rogue, a brutal man who for the sake of the reward accuses Gaffer Hexam of John Harmon’s murder. Later, he becomes Bradley Headstone’s accomplice in the attempted murder of Eugene Wrayburn. He and Headstone drown during a scuffle.

Pleasant Riderhood

Pleasant Riderhood, Rogue Riderhood’s daughter, an unlicensed pawnbroker and Mr. Venus’ sweetheart, whom she marries after rejecting him a number of times.

Fanny Cleaver

Fanny Cleaver, called Jenny Wren, Lizzie Hexam’s friend, a shrewd, pretty, but physically disabled maker of dolls’ dresses.

M. Cleaver

M. Cleaver, called Mr. Dolls, Fanny’s spiritless, drunken father.

Mr. Riah

Mr. Riah, an old, generous-hearted Jew, the friend of Fanny Cleaver and Lizzie Hexam.

Alfred Lammle

Alfred Lammle and

Sophronia Lammle

Sophronia Lammle, two charming scoundrels who marry for money, learn that neither has any, and decide to prey on prominent members of society. They are forced to go abroad when their debts become pressing.

John Podsnap

John Podsnap, a leader of society and a pompous and smug epitome of Philistinism.

Mrs. Podsnap

Mrs. Podsnap, his majestic wife, the female counterpart of her husband.

Georgiana Podsnap

Georgiana Podsnap, their warm, shy, silly daughter, the prey of the Lammles.

Mr. Fledgeby

Mr. Fledgeby, whom his friends call Fascination Fledgeby behind his back, Georgiana’s suitor. A mean, stupid, miserly dandy, he is encouraged in his social pretensions by the predatory Lammles. He hides his sharp business practices under a fictitious money brokerage firm, Pubsey and Co. Mr. Riah is his business agent.

Hamilton Veneering

Hamilton Veneering and

Anastatia Veneering

Anastatia Veneering, two shallow social climbers who have a new home, new furniture, new friends, a new baby. A former clerk in the firm of Chicksey and Stabbles, he is now a partner. He spends money liberally in order to get himself elected to Parliament.

Mrs. Wilfer

Mrs. Wilfer, Bella Wilfer’s austere, shrewish mother.

Reginald Wilfer

Reginald Wilfer, nicknamed The Cherub, Bella’s affectionate, seedy, cherubic father.

Lavinia Wilfer

Lavinia Wilfer, their younger daughter, a sharp, spirited girl.

George Sampson

George Sampson, Lavinia Wilfer’s dull suitor, over whom she exercises tight control.

Melvin Twemlow

Melvin Twemlow, a poor but “connected” friend of the Veneerings. Though he lives over a livery stable, he is accepted in society because he is Lord Snigsworth’s first cousin.

Betty Higden

Betty Higden, an old, impoverished independent person who cares for displaced children; she is a friend of the Boffins.

Emma Peecher

Emma Peecher, a pedantic, warm, primitive young woman in love with Bradley Headstone.

Lady Tippins

Lady Tippins, a foolish woman, a friend of the Veneerings, who keeps a list of her nonexistent lovers.

Mr. Sloppy

Mr. Sloppy, a foundling taken in by Betty Higden. He is adopted by the Boffins.

The Reverend Frank Milney

The Reverend Frank Milney, the humble young curate who marries Lizzie Hexam and Eugene Wrayburn.

Mrs. Margaretta Milney

Mrs. Margaretta Milney, his wife, a woman of practical mind and brisk energy.

Mrs. Sprodgkin

Mrs. Sprodgkin, one of Mr. Milney’s parishioners. She makes his life miserable by her constant questions about who begot whom and other matters in the Bible.

Young Blight

Young Blight, Mortimer Lightwood’s office boy.


Chapter Summaries


Critical Essays