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The Dickens Project - Archives > Our Mutual Friend: Book 3-Chapters 12-17 - Feb 28 - Mar 5

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message 1: by Lynnm (last edited Feb 29, 2016 05:58AM) (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments Well, we finally have Mr. Rokesmith/John Harmon and Bella get together. The two chapters were both amusing and romantic. In the scene with the Boffins, Bella, and John Rokesmith, I got a kick out of the way Dickens portrayed Bella's response, from the way she stamped her "little foot" and telling Mr. Boffins how much he's changed and how she now hated him. And then in the counting house with her father, the way she would "disappear" into John Rokesmith, and then Pa's response to the situation.

But it was romantic as well. And I felt happy for John Harmon. He didn't want a wife who was forced into marriage with him, and now he really knows that Bella loves him just for himself.

Now, the question is: will he tell Bella who he really is? Or, as he has said, has he truly buried John Harmon...

Other happenings in these chapters:

One, the game is up for the Lammles. Mrs. Lammle tries to get Fledgeby to help in the cause, but of course, Fledgeby is the one who get Mr. Riah to call in their credit. At the end, when we see Mrs. Lammle with Mr. Tremlow, she has figured it out, but as she said, the men haven't and say she has no proof.

Two, I felt bad for Mr. Riah. He takes the blame, and now even Jenny Wren thinks he is a bad man.

Three, what is Mr. Venus up to? He tells Mr. Boffin of Silas Wegg's plan, and seems to want to wash his hands of the entire thing. I can't blame Mr. Boffin for being a bit paranoid on this...I'm not sure I trust Mr. Venus, although he really could be tired of the entire plan. And here, I also got a kick of out Mr. Boffin hiding under the alligator skin.


message 2: by Lori, Moderator (new)

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1400 comments Mod
By the way, I've been wondering this the whole time but kept forgetting to bring it up: How did Mr. Harmon make his fortune in "dust?" What does that even mean?


message 3: by Lynnm (last edited Feb 29, 2016 06:29PM) (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments Lori wrote: "By the way, I've been wondering this the whole time but kept forgetting to bring it up: How did Mr. Harmon make his fortune in "dust?" What does that even mean?"

I Googled it early on in the book, and never could find a good explanation.

All I know is that he made his money via dust heaps. Whatever that is. And however a person can make money from dust heaps.

I've blocked my mind to it because I have no idea.

But...there is the idea of class mobility. Obviously, the elder Harmon was initially poor, worked the dust heaps, made money doing it, and moved up economically. Although it doesn't appear as if he moved up socially because of it.


message 4: by Robin P, Moderator (last edited Feb 29, 2016 06:43PM) (new)

Robin P | 2224 comments Mod
I'm sure Madge or one of our Brits can explain better but my understanding is that "dust" is trash, so he was the original recycling king. The British still refer to dustbins, dustmen, etc. I believe, where we in the US say trash, garbage, waste, junk, and so on. I suppose he gleaned some worthwhile things from the waste over time. It certainly was a great place to hide things.

Bella's reaction is the same as Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice or Meg in Little Women. She doesn't declare her love for a suitor until someone else starts demeaning him. and then she jumps into full defensive mode.

I like the way Bella changes throughout the book and learns from experience. The other character we've seen like that is Martin Chuzzlewit. He learned from suffering and the kindness of others setting a good example. Bella learns from a bad example that money isn't everything. I think the love between Bella and her father stopped her from becoming really awful, compared to Estella in Great Expectations, who had such a warped upbringing.


message 5: by Lynnm (last edited Feb 29, 2016 06:32PM) (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments Robin wrote: "Dust is trash, he was the original recycling king. The British still referto dustbins, dustmen, etc. I believe, where we in the US say trash, garbage, waste, and so on. I suppose he gleaned some wo..."

Thanks, Robin!

I've been picturing huge mounds of dust this entire time. And trying to figure out how Silas Weggs thought he could find a will in dust. I thought that the elder Harmon somehow hid the will amongst the dust.

But this obviously makes more sense.


message 6: by Robin P, Moderator (new)

Robin P | 2224 comments Mod
I was picturing a junkyard like I remember seeing in my youth, although that was mainly auto parts. Also I've seen articles about 3rd world countries where poor or homeless children scrounge in garbage dumps for salable pieces of metal or other materials (sometimes hazardous!) that they can sell for a meager amount


message 7: by Lori, Moderator (new)

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1400 comments Mod
Yeah, I was wondering if it was about trash. I'm American, but mainly teach from British English books, and we had a lesson yesterday about "rubbish and recycling" where a garbage man was called a "dustman." Sounds kind of cute from an American perspective. But did people really throw valuables in the trash back then the way they do now?


message 8: by Pip (new)

Pip | 468 comments Dustmen - or ashmen, as my grandmother still referred to them - got the name because a large amount of household waste consisted of ashes and dust from home fires and chimneys. If you consider the increasing London population and the growing size of classes who would have had several fireplaces, it is not inconceivable that the odd valuable could have found its way into the waste, not to mention unburnt, compromising documents!

However, I imagine a lot of household waste would already have been sifted by the collectors themselves - the wonderfully-named flying dustmen (picture and more info here: http://www.victorianlondon.org/public...). Those who collected larger items of unwanted objects were the "rag and bone men", whom I can still remember in the 70s and 80s. If anyone has seen the BBC series "Steptoe and Son", you'll know what I'm referring to :-)


message 9: by Hedi (last edited Mar 05, 2016 03:00PM) (new)

Hedi | 978 comments Lynnm wrote: "One, the game is up for the Lammles. Mrs. Lammle tries to get Fledgeby to help in the cause, but of course, Fledgeby is the one who get Mr. Riah to call in their credit. At the end, when we see Mrs. Lammle with Mr. Tremlow, she has figured it out, but as she said, the men haven't and say she has no proof..."

The game is up for them at the moment, but Mrs. Lammle mentions to Mr. Twemlow that there might be an opportunity for her husband. In chapter 12, she and her husband make plans how to gain from Mr. Boffin. The first step to that was to get Rokesmith out. I was wondering whether Mr Lammle wants to take the position as secetary and maybe have a chance of embezzling money.

We have been discussing the topic of deceipt e.g. the Lammles deceiving each other with regards to their properties.
Fledgeby is also a deceiving person who says he would help the Lammles and then forces Mr. Riah to proceed with the Bill of Sale.
It is interesting that here actually a Christian is the money-lender, but hiding himself behind the Jew as the stereotype of the money-lender.

Poor Mr. Twemlow! If I have understood it correctly he is in debt with Mr.riah/ Fledgeby because he guaranteed the loan for someone else who then did not pay it back. So he has to stand for it all.

I loved the passage when Bella tells Mr Boffin what she thinks calling him even a monster and a demon. She is for me one of the most intriguing characters as she undergoes a real personal development.
Mrs. Boffin, on the other hand, is very passive. She does not say a thing though I believe that she detests her husband for what he has become deep inside.
Mr Boffin talks of Bella being on the market for the right bidder as if she were a piece of cattle on an auction. This was indirectly the case in those days maybe, but you do not have to put it in such plain words.

I think it was mentioned in a previous thread that Mrs. Wilfer reminded us of Mrs. Bennett. I had these again in the chapter with Bella's return. And then she is washing her hands of the Boffins like Lady Macbeth of the blood on her hands.

At last, we are back at the hypocritical "society", who now does not even properly remembers / wants to remember the names of the Lammles.
Did anybody understand what was meant with the term "Scrip-Church"? My edition does not have any notes and I have not had the time to search for it online somewhere.

The scene with Mr Boffin and Mr Venus was funny with him hiding there. I think that Mr. Venus is not as bad as he seems and that he actually has a conscience in contrast to Wegg. However, I have not quite made up my mind about him yet. Maybe he tries to be good to make an impression on Pleasant Riderhood/ show her that he is not like her father.


message 10: by Lynnm (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments Pip wrote: "Dustmen - or ashmen, as my grandmother still referred to them - got the name because a large amount of household waste consisted of ashes and dust from home fires and chimneys. If you consider the ..."

Thanks for the information and link, Pip. Now that it has been explained, easy to see how the name came about.


message 11: by Lynnm (last edited Mar 06, 2016 05:23AM) (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments Hedi - I wonder what will happen to poor Mr. Twemlow - he does have to pay it all, and he doesn't have the money. I would hate to see him in debtor's prison, and given how the Veneerings as the best of "friends" treated the Lammles when they had money issues, they will likely throw him over as well.

It is interesting how we see the Jewish stereotype overturned here with Fledgeby as the money lender. Good for Dickens - he was criticized about Jewish stereotypes with Fagin, learned his lesson, and made changes.

And Bella is an interesting character. She grows and progresses throughout the story from a very immature girl to a grown woman.

I wish there was a more recent adaptation of the story on BBC. I would like to see Bella, John Rokesmith/John Harmon, Eugene, and Lizzie brought to life on the screen, but in the adaptation that is out there, the actors don't seem to fit how I see the characters. I might be wrong because I haven't watched it yet. I've just Googled it and looked at images from the adaptation.


message 12: by Hedi (new)

Hedi | 978 comments Lynnm wrote: "I wish there was a more recent adaptation of the story on BBC. I would like to see Bella, John Rokesmith/John Harmon, Eugene, and Lizzie brought to life on the screen, but in the adaptation that is out there, the actors don't seem to fit how I see the characters...."

Do you mean the one from 1998? I have that one and have watched the first 2 of the 4 episodes. However, I have not quite made up my mind about it yet. I will finish the book first and then watch the 4 epsiodes in a row again.


message 13: by Lynnm (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments I just double checked - it is the 1998 version. That isn't that old, is it. When I looked before, it seemed from the images as if the production was less recent than that, but again, it was the 1998 version.


message 14: by Renee (new)

Renee M | 752 comments I enjoyed this section very much. The romance of Bella and John was adorable. And it felt like the plot was moving forward again. Although, I'm not sure how all the pieces will resolve themselves. I suspect that now one person has seen through Fledgeby it only a matter of time until he is unmasked. I hope it it before Twemlow pays the price. Poor Jenny Wren and Riah. They both are bound to suffer because of Fledgeby's lies.

Im definitely looking forward to the last book of the novel. I'm ready to see how Dickens will weave it all together.


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