None of them.
It can take a while for a big Dickens novel to end. When you have so many different characters with so many different story lines going, bringing them all to a fitting close can take a couple of hundred pages. This is the case with Our Mutual Friend.
There are at least seven endings in Our Mutual Friend depending on how you count the overlapping plot lines. That’s been my major, and growing issue with the book all along, the very large number of plot lines, even for Dickens, and the loose way they are connected. This time around, it just didn’t work for me.
THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!
I’m just going to talk about two plot lines. First the Lammles. The Lammles are two of my favorite characters in Dickens, in spite of not really liking Our Mutual Friend all that much. Each thought the other had money when they married, so theirs was a very dissappointing wedding night in more ways than one. They manage to fake their way through London society for a while, but eventually they can not longer convince their circle of friends to provide them a place to live while they look for just the right house.
They get an ending reminiscent of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce in Bleak House, one of my favorite endings in literature. No big finish for the Lammles. Once their scam runs out of steam, they simply slink away to the continent which is where aristocrats who run out of money go in Victorian novels. I have to admit that it’s a fitting end for the Lammles, but it didn’t satisfy they way the same ending did in Bleak House.
The main story line, the one that connects the greatest number of characters concerns John Rokesmith and Bella Wilfer. To be honest, their ending just kind of pissed me off. When it turns out that John Rokesmith is not really penniless but John Hrmon, the true heir to the Golden Dustman’s fortune and that he was just pretending to be penniless in order to test Bella’s love and character, well….
Sorry, Charlie, you lost me there.
Bella has been a problem throughout the novel, as have so many of the other female characters in Our Mutual Friend. Typically, I don’t have much patience with the criticism Dickens gets over his women. It’s not that I feel the criticism is off the mark, I just don’t see much point in going after a mid-nineteenth century novel over its portrayal of women; Dickens really is in line with what most authors were doing in his day, but it just really went too far in Bella Wilfer. She is so saintly, so meek in her love of John Rokesmith/Harmon, so trusting of Mr. and Mrs. Boffin who have been in on the charade all along, so demure and dedicated with her father….. it just went too far over the top for me.
Honestly, I felt like I was reading a parody of a Dickens novel by the time I finished the book.
As for the rest, those who deserved reconciliation with those they love found it, there’s even a deathbed marriage, those who should have been punished were punished. I wish I could be more generous because I had such high hopes for Our Mutual Friend when I began this report, but this one just didn’t work for me, not at all.