Points of departure: revisiting London in Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend

Roberts, Rebecca (2021) Points of departure: revisiting London in Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Dickens’s last completed novel, Our Mutual Friend [1865], is most often studied as a conclusion to his literary career. Instead, this thesis focuses on this text as a transitional novel, not a terminal one. It analyzes how Dickens repurposes his former narrative patterns and tropes of the city in a society that was vastly different from the one he was writing in his earlier novels. I examine how Our Mutual Friend creates a multi-perspective view of London through its use of juxtaposition, fragmentation, and layering, which is representative of Dickens’s shifting focus to a broader range of perspectives and his new interpretation of the city, including his increasing belief that London in the late nineteenth century was a place lacking opportunity for its inhabitants. I analyze Our Mutual Friend’s differences, including how Dickens alters his representation of London, how he adjusts his use of the omniscient narrator, how he represents public and private spaces in the city, how he uses and represents the movement of male characters through London’s streets, how he moves away from a central protagonist, and how he treats women who actively navigate the public space of the city. Through a series of close readings, I compare these aspects of Our Mutual Friend to his earlier novels, most notably Oliver Twist [1837], David Copperfield [1849], Bleak House [1852], Little Dorrit [1855], and Great Expectations [1860]. While prior literary critics study Dickens’s representation of London through a biographical lens and cite him as the authority on literature of the Victorian city, my study takes a different approach by analyzing how his changing literary techniques make Our Mutual Friend a departure from his earlier novels.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/15232
Item ID: 15232
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 101-108).
Keywords: transition and difference in Our Mutual Friend, late nineteenth-century London, juxtaposition and layering of city space, gendered movement in London
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > English Language and Literature
Date: August 2021
Date Type: Submission
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): https://doi.org/10.48336/YBV0-DJ42
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Dickens, Charles, 1812-1870--Criticism and Interpretation; English fiction--19th century—History and criticism; London (England)--History--1800-1950.

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