Dickensian characters - real or nil? An analysis of characters in Our Mutual Friend
This will be the foundation for my claim that his characters are not realistic since they are only described from the outside and, thus, character-development is only achieved by means of the plot. That Dickens was a great novelist will not be questioned, seeing that, despite this lack of interiority and the ensuing incoherence of the characters to the critic, his characters work during the experience of the first reading.
This I will show by examining the character of Eugene Wrayburn in Our Mutual Friend, whose final catharsis is approved of by the reader at first, but has to be highly doubted at second sight, as his actions and thoughts do not justify his reformation to a person of integrity.
I will then investigate the character of Bradley Headstone, who appears to be the villain of the subplot revolving around Lizzie Hexam. This analysis will lead to the discovery that Headstone is not so much of a villain but has to be seen as a victim of society and its machinery.
Headstone's story has to be seen as tragic since he succumbs to his violent passions and lets them drive him to despair and the edge of reason in the end. In addition, I will juxtapose Wrayburn's character to that of his opponent Headstone and thus illustrates the fact that, while we do not get an insight into Wrayburn's emotions and therefore cannot understand his deeds, Headstone's actions and motivations are rendered plausible for the reader by the way Dickens describes his character, from the outside as well as from the inside.
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Our Mutual Friend – Charles Dickens
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