Literacy & Education as Indications of ClassEdit
An important theme in Our Mutual Friend is class disparity, and one of the ways in which class disparity is socially enforced is by differences in the quality of education received by each character or by the entire lack of it. Below is an approximation of different levels of literacy and education amongst the characters. Also included are ways in which their literacy and education have put them at odds with other characters.
High Class, Educated CharactersEdit
- Eugene and Mortimer have both received "gentlemanly" educations at quality institutions, unlike most of the characters in the book. It is mentioned that they were classmates, and speculated by scholars that they most likely would have attended Eton. Eugene exhibits a very blasé attitude toward life as is evidenced in his speech, actions, and writing. He is extremely skillful with language, though lacks any definite direction or application of it. He uses his dexterity with words, for the most part, to carelessly undermine, embarrass, manipulate, and denigrate those of lower classes -- specifically the dedicated, blue collar schoolmaster, Bradley Headstone.
- As the novel progresses and Eugene begins to take an increasing interest in the low class Lizzie Hexam, he uses his skill with language to convince her to let him finance a private education for herself and her landlord, Jenny Wren under the instruction of a tutor.
- Mortimer, unlike Eugene, uses his literacy productively, mostly in the context of his business as a lawyer.
Low Class, Educated CharactersEdit
Uneducated and Illiterate CharactersEdit
The uneducated characters of Out Mutual Friend all share the same characteristics of being from lower classes and are generally looked down upon by higher classes and even those who have achieved lower class educations. They are commonly seen as in need of "betterment." Yet, in spite of their uneducated status, they are often well versed in practical, blue collar applications that in some senses might make them more valuable/productive members of London society, for without them, there could be no rich upper class.
Similarly, some of the uneducated, illiterate characters harbor an innate mystical literacy that's deeply associated with their intuition and strong sense of morality.
- Lizzie Hexam (though later she does receive private tutelage at Eugene Wrayburn 's insistence)
- Jenny Wren (she also receives private tutelage alongside Lizzie)
- Gaffer Hexam
- Rogue Riderhood
There are many literate characters in the novel whose educational backgrounds aren't discussed or are discussed very little. The most significant characters that fall under this category are listed below.