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Archived Group Reads 2011 > Our Mutual Friend Chapters 5~7 Boffin's Bower ~ Mr Wegg looks after himself

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Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Published in June 1864
For discussion of these chapters


message 2: by Bea (new)

Bea | 233 comments Well, we don't get so many new characters in this installment but the ones we do get are pips. It is interesting how Dickens moves from high comedy in Chapter 5, to misery in Chapter 6, and a kind of mysterious melancholy in Chapter 7.

What a great couple the Boffins are. Fashion and Comfort unite in such affection.

Mr. Venus's business carries on the "recycling" theme we've seen earlier. The footnotes in my book say that there was a severe shortage of corpses and skeletons for medical study during this period. The law of the day allowed only executed prisoner's bodies to be used for research. This led to all kinds of shenanigans at home, along with the import of bodies from abroad.


message 3: by Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) (last edited Nov 14, 2011 01:39AM) (new)

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I loved Chapter V. It was such fun to read of The Rise and Fall Off of the Rooshan Empire!" what a wonderful play on words! I assume this book was a popular one during Dickens's time. It was interesting and I am sure purposely done that Dickens chose to use this book since "Gibbon ( the author) provides the reader with a glimpse of his thought process with extensive notes along the body of the text, a precursor to the modern use of footnotes. Gibbon's footnotes are famous for their idiosyncrasies and often, their humor. They provide an entertaining moral commentary on both ancient Rome and 18th-century Great Britain. This technique enabled Gibbon to compare ancient
Rome to modern times. Gibbon's work advocates a rationalist and progressive view
history.
." (from wiki)

Dickens seems to have great admiration for a daughter's relationship with her father. Did anyone see the similarity of Lizzie's love for her father and Amy Dorrit's? The daughter's loyalty to a perhaps a "not so wonderful father" has appeared again in this novel.

What does everyone think of Miss Abby? Why does Lizzie send Charley away? Does she believe what Miss Abby has said? Is there a foretelling scene when her father uses the knife to show his anger? Did he murder John Harmon or others?


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I am not sure why Wegg is chosen as a reader though and Chapter 7 is pretty gruesome....

Can anyone explain Wegg's new job as a reader?


message 5: by LauraT (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 497 comments I can't! And I was really wondering about the same thing!
Abbey is, I think, a really positive figure: even if she lives and work along the river, she keeps her standard high, and try to "save" those she thinks worth.
I think that Lizzie, even if she doesn't think her father a murderem, knows really well hao deleterious he is for her brother, for whome she hopes something better. That's why she sends him away ...


message 6: by Nina (new)

Nina (ninarg) | 106 comments I think it's a very brave but heartbreaking decision for Lizzie to make. She loves her father, but not the life they lead, and like LauraT said, she hopes for something better for Charlie.

As for Wegg, I don't know, but maybe Mr Boffin needed to find someone who could read, but who would not be part of Mr Boffin's social circle because he didn't want people to know that he couldn't read? Wegg serves that purpose.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Boffin seemed to just pick Wegg off the street didn't he? It just seemed weird in a way, but your explanation does make sense, Nina.


message 8: by Nina (new)

Nina (ninarg) | 106 comments To be honest, I hadn't thought of it until you asked the question. Maybe it could also be seen as a sign of Boffin's trustfulness. He trusts a complete stranger to help him in a matter that is very important to him.


message 9: by LauraT (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 497 comments Boffin is really a naive character! He reminds me of how Alessandro Manzoni describe one of his most famous character - not so positive, though - Don Abbondio in I Promessi sposi
He was like "come un vaso di terra cotta, costretto a viaggiar in compagnia di molti vasi di ferro [a pottery vase traveling with many iron ones"! my traslation]


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) LauraT wrote: "Boffin is really a naive character! He reminds me of how Alessandro Manzoni describe one of his most famous character - not so positive, though - Don Abbondio in I Promessi sposi
H..."


I like that analogy.


message 11: by Bea (new)

Bea | 233 comments It could be Boffin's fascination with that wooden leg! I think I read somewhere that Dickens was also an afficionado.

More seriously, Boffin is interested in getting an education but in comfort. A tutor would probably make him very uncomfortable. He's not used to his wealth yet and not quite sure how to spend it.

Also, the novel needs Wegg, if only for his levity and fraudulence.


message 12: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments I seemed to miss a real clue as to Wegg's qualifications also! And Mr. Boffin does comment that he has a literary man with a wooden leg as an addition. Maybe he thought he had lived an adventurous life and could put things into greater perspective as he read about the great Empire! Do you think Boffin has noticed Wegg on the street with his booth over a period of time and was impressed that a man of the streets WAS "literary"?

And doesn't Mr. Boffin just seem to have set internal reasoning that never totally gets revealed anyway? Some of his thinking comes to the surface , but sometimes he only reveals the results of his keen ideas!


message 13: by Bea (new)

Bea | 233 comments He noticed that Wegg was able to read the words to the ballad sheets he was selling. In Mr. B's eyes that's "literary" enough!


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Perhaps we will find out later. Dickens is such a precise writer inho, that this questions of Wegg seems odd.

Btw Don't you just love the names? Hexam, Wegg, Lightwood, Riderhood, Headstone to name a few. He must have had such fun coming up with the names don't you think?


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 628 comments It must have been tremendous fun.

I've read that the names of the characters came first, and he gave it great thought.


message 16: by Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) (last edited Nov 15, 2011 03:43AM) (new)

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Dickens' friend and biographer, John Forster, said that Dickens made "characters real existences, not by describing them but by letting them describe themselves."

He is credited with creating 989 characters during his career. That was certainly a lot of naming! (and a lot of fun too!)


message 17: by LauraT (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 497 comments Fun for us as well!


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) So true, Laura!


message 19: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2531 comments Marialyce wrote: "I am not sure why Wegg is chosen as a reader though and Chapter 7 is pretty gruesome....

Can anyone explain Wegg's new job as a reader?"


I'm not positive, but my speculations are perhaps that Boffin has seen Wegg sitting patiently on his corner for years and wants to do something charitable for him, or that Boffin is illiterate but wants to get some literacy (in past centuries many wealthy people had personal readers because they didn't have the time or inclination to learn to read themselves, so maybe Dickens is playing off this, and/or he is playing off the practice of monasteries having someone reading to the monks during meals), or perhaps there is some relationship that is still hidden from us that will emerge later in the book to explain why Boffin chose Wegg.


message 20: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2531 comments LauraT wrote: "Boffin is really a naive character!"


I haven't figured out yet whether he really is naive, or whether he's clever like a fox, concealing his more shrewd side under a cloak of bonhomie.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Everyman wrote: "Marialyce wrote: "I am not sure why Wegg is chosen as a reader though and Chapter 7 is pretty gruesome....

Can anyone explain Wegg's new job as a reader?"

I'm not positive, but my speculations ar..."


Seems like a good expanantion and I guess we will see as the book continues if we find out anything else.


message 22: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments These are more interesting thoughts about Wegg. I have have another thought. I reread the chapter that introduces him and was struck by the scene of propriety that he seems to have over this house that he stakes his "booth" at (booth as a modern term from my area, I know, it may not describe Wegg's set up well). I may be totally off base about this, but even though he seems to take on this house for bragging rights -- that he is in service to them -- but he also seems to almost have a longing to be a part of the family. Almost creating a bit of ambiguousness to this character even with that, I think.

I am so enjoying the comments.


message 23: by Rebecca (last edited Nov 19, 2011 05:18PM) (new)

Rebecca I see this too Sarah and in his longing wondered if that is why he names the people in his house. Definately wanting some personal connection I think.

I am suspicious of Boffin. I think his intentions have been well though out. He appears to want a connection with the Wilfer family. I sense mystery ahead.


message 24: by Bernadette (new)

Bernadette (bern51) I thought that Boffin is trying to elevate himself now that he has inherited...and getting someone who can read will help him do that. I think that Bea was right that he saw him with the sheets on the street and thought, that's good enough


message 25: by Christyb (new)

Christyb | 44 comments It broke my heart when Lizzy sent Charley away. I think Lizzy is very unhappy and embarrassed with her fathers lifestyle, and wants a better life for him. To me, she is sacrificing herself for his betterment. In previous chapters Charley spoke of how Lizzy taught him to read. This is just speculation on my part, but maybe as a young woman she knew that her future was limited, but by sending Charley to further his education, and make a better life for himself, he would in turn help her in the future. I honestly don't think she suspected her father of murdering the people he pulled out of the river. But, I do think that Abby placed a seed of suspicion in Lizzys mind. I think Lizzy wad honestly ashamed of the way her father made a living.


message 26: by Zulfiya (new)

Zulfiya (ztrotter) Christyb wrote: "It broke my heart when Lizzy sent Charley away. I think Lizzy is very unhappy and embarrassed with her fathers lifestyle, and wants a better life for him. To me, she is sacrificing herself for his ..."

It was one of the touching scenes in the book so far. And it has already been mentioned in this thread that this part demonstrates the whole potential of the author to show the kaleidoscope of moods and emotions - I cried, I smiled, I smirked.
Lizzy is a brave heart, but there is something Shakespearean about how the actions unfold in this chapter. Usually the Bard's characters take groundbreaking and influential decisions in a blink of an eye and immediately execute their plans.
I really enjoyed the definition of literacy provided by Mr. Boffin. What a true literary gem.
And yes, those teeth scattered and found everywhere - how can this disgusting be so much fun?!!!


message 27: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2531 comments Rebecca wrote: "I am suspicious of Boffin. I think his intentions have been well though out. He appears to want a connection with the Wilfer family. I sense mystery ahead. "

I didn't see that as suspicious; after all, the fortune he inherited would have gone to Bella if her intended hadn't died. I think Dickens is suggesting there's a bit of guilt there that he wants to assuage through being able to do something nice for her.


message 28: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2531 comments Christyb wrote: "I think Lizzy wad honestly ashamed of the way her father made a living. "

I would have said more embarrassed by rather than ashamed of, but you may be right.

I actually was glad she sent Charley away -- he never would have had the chance to improve himself if he had stayed home. He would probably have wound up following in his father's footsteps.

And, isn't it strange that it was Lizzy rather than Charley who was out rowing the boat? Hardly a ladylike thing to be doing when there's a not that much younger boy available. And we should keep in mind, I think, that in Dickens's day boys as young as 8 were recruited into the navy as ship's boys and went to sea, a very dangerous and arduous job. Surely Charley, brought up on the water, would have learned to row and handle a boat; why wasn't he out with his father? In chapter 3 we are told that he was about 15; old enough to have shipped as a Midshipman if he had had the money or connections.


message 29: by Bea (new)

Bea | 233 comments If I'm not mistaken, Lizzie is younger than Charley. Her mother died giving birth to her. I think Lizzie is pained that her father robs the corpses but feels sure he does not murder them.


message 30: by LauraT (last edited Nov 22, 2011 03:29AM) (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 497 comments I thught the contrary Bea, maybe because of her protective attitude towards him!


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Everyman wrote: "Christyb wrote: "I think Lizzy wad honestly ashamed of the way her father made a living. "

I would have said more embarrassed by rather than ashamed of, but you may be right.

I actually was gla..."



Interesting Everyman, I didn't think about that. It does seem like the family or possibly just Lizzie is protecting Charley.

I,too, felt she was older, and did think it was strange that she was her father's helper. I think I assumed she was older and doing a job that Charley would take over after he attained a certain age.


message 32: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1424 comments Lizzie was the oldest and had raised Charley since a very young age. I'm not sure Dickens specifically says when their mother died, only that Charley "had never known a mother." There is a phrase which Charley then uses referring to her as "a little sister," but I think it means that Lizzie was so young and small at the time she had to take charge of him. There are a couple of references of her carrying him, at this same place in the book and then later, implying that he was almost as big as she was and a physical burden to her, so she may be only a few years older than he.

And in this same place (Ch 3) we see that Jesse Hexam was unable to care for them -- as far as making logical decisions. He locked these young children out of the house while he was gone, so they would not cause an accidental house fire, so instead they had to wander the streets in the cold or whatever weather and face whatever dangers were there.

Dickens has a way of telling the sad, frustrating realities of life like that. People who make decisions like that -- and at the time there probably was no way to assist children like that.

I get a sense that by the time Charley might have been viewed as the more logical one to help Jesse with finding the bodies, the two of them were at odds -- perhaps unable to get along and work together. And Lizzie seems she would do anything to keep peace in the family, and, having more of her father's trust, probably always offered herself to assist in this gruesome work.


message 33: by Rebecca (last edited Nov 27, 2011 12:28AM) (new)

Rebecca No mention of the encounter with Weggs and Mr Venus. It was odd and creepy. I didn't umderstand it at all except that Mr Venus appears to be collector of disgusting items and his significant doesnt approve of his hobby.


message 34: by Bea (last edited Nov 27, 2011 08:48AM) (new)

Bea | 233 comments Venus was a professional not an amateur. He sold these items and made a good living from it. It seems disgusting to us but he is quite proud of his skill. You could think of him as a taxidermist, I suppose. The human skeletons etc were useful for medical training.

Wegg is interested in Venus because he knew old Harmon, who sold Venus items found in the dust.


message 35: by Nina (new)

Nina (ninarg) | 106 comments I watched some of the extra material on the OMF DVD, and someone (a researcher, the director, can't remember who it was) said that in Victorian times there was an idea that you couldn't get into heaven if you were not "complete" physically. Wegg is missing a leg and so is naturally thankful that someone like Venus can help him become whole again and get into heaven.


message 36: by Bea (new)

Bea | 233 comments Forgot about that! Original Wegg motive was recovering his leg. The connection to the Harmon fortune was gravy.


message 37: by Sera (new)

Sera Great comments! I am enjoying reading them while I continue to catch up.

I think that all of the female characters that Dickens has introduced so far, with the exception perhaps of Mrs. Veneering, are strong women who are nurturing - even Miss Abby shows that she has a soft side. I think that Lizzie had taken over more of a motherly role with Charley. But the scene with her father and the knife really surprised me - I can't wait to find out what that is all about.


message 38: by Tim (new)

Tim (tjb654) | 45 comments Others of us also are catching up, although technically, there is no schedule. :)

I think Lizzie's reaction to her father's striking with the knife has to do with the fact that she has just learned that her father is being accused of murdering the people he pulls out of the river.


message 39: by Sera (new)

Sera Tim wrote: "Others of us also are catching up, although technically, there is no schedule. :)

I think Lizzie's reaction to her father's striking with the knife has to do with the fact that she has just learne..."


I'm happy to have company at this point of the reading. So, Tim, do you think that there's a part of Lizzie that believes her father to be capable of murder? Even though she defended him to the fullest with Miss Abbey, she does make statements about keeping her father in line when speaking with Charley about his leaving to go to school. In reading these chapters, I sensed the undercurrent that there was more going on with the father than the reader is being told at this point.


message 40: by Bea (new)

Bea | 233 comments I don't think it's ever made exactly clear. Gaffer sometimes goes out without Lizzie. However, I think Lizzie thinks that robbing the corpses is shameful, possibly criminal, in its own right even without murder involved.


message 41: by Tim (new)

Tim (tjb654) | 45 comments Sera wrote: "Tim wrote: "Others of us also are catching up, although technically, there is no schedule. :)

I think Lizzie's reaction to her father's striking with the knife has to do with the fact that she h..."


Sorry if I was guilty of stating the obvious. :)

In answer to your question, maybe just seeing her father unwittingly and momentarily appearing to act out what he is being accused of is too horrible for Lizzie? I'm not really sure...


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I thought the same thing, Tim. I felt she was scared by that action thinking it might have occurred under other circumstances as well.

There is no schedule so that you can read at your leisure. No hurry at all!


message 43: by Sera (new)

Sera I think that all of these points are valid. All I know is that I can't wait to find out.

Thanks, Marilyce :)


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