Narrating Self-Creation:
John Harmon's Solioquy in Our Mutual Friend 

Carol Hanbery MacKay

University of Texas at Austin

Men's words are a poor exponent of their thought; nay their thought itself is a poor exponent of the inward unnamed Mystery, wherefrom both thought and action have their birth. --Thomas Carlyle, The French Revolution

At the center of Charles Dickens's Our Mutual Friend, John Harmon engages in a protracted soliloquy [1]. His situation is complicated by the fact that he has assumed two different guises since disposing of his own identity through the convenience of his supposed drowning. Now he confronts his true self and asks the crucial question: Should he come back to life -- in effect, resurrect himself -- or should he bury his old self under his current disguise forever? He sums up the two alternatives as if he were a lawyer arguing the two cases, and he finds his decision self-apparent:

Dead, I have found the true friends of my lifetime still as true as tender and as faithful as when I was alive, and making my memory an incentive to good actions done in my name. Dead, I have found them when they might have slighted my name, and passed greedily over my grave to ease and wealth, lingering by the way, like single-hearted children, to recall their love for me when I was a poor frightened child. Dead, I have heard from the woman who would have been my wife if I had lived, the revolting truth that I should have purchased her, caring nothing for me, as a Sultan buys a slave. [2]

So "dead" he resolves to stay, and he carefully projects his future course as John Rokesmith, finally declaring, "And now it is all thought out, from the beginning to the end, and my mind is easier."

What is most striking about this soliloquy is its monumentality (it runs to some ten pages in most editions), and during its course Harmon ranges widely over his past actions as well as looking ahead to several possible futures. The key to this lengthy review and alternative projections lies with the notion of self-confrontation and the purpose it serves for character self-creation. True, the factor of revelation enters the picture, for until this soliloquy occurs, the multiple identities of John Harmon and Julius Handford and John Rokesmith have not been overtly subsumed under one. But more important is the psychological feat performed by the man known as Rokesmith when he decides not to resurrect his identity as Harmon. Through an act of self-negation, Rokesmith denies his original name, but his confrontation with his own consciousness helps him to forge a new social identity that is at bottom true to his original conscience. Rokesmith the social entity is still Harmon the private man, and the public deception that occurs is not also an instance of self-deception.

The careful review of Harmon's past is crucial here, because Rokesmith needs to make it a solid groundwork from which he can catapult into hypothetical alternative futures. Harmon moves through self-obliteration ("There was no such thing as I") to self-preservation ("John Harmon, call on Heaven and save yourself!"), almost prefiguring his death to the world and his solution through self-distancing. As Julius Handford, he confronts the horror of seeing a body labelled John Harmon as dead -- "before my eyes in its most appalling shape"--and the whole world seems to join in the determination to have him dead. This determination changes his hesitation into resolve: "In that intent John Rokesmith will persevere, as his duty is." But before Harmon can define and persist in that duty, he needs to sort out the pieces of his old values in terms of his new social role. He does so by referring to himself in the third person and commanding himself in apostrophe. These verbal acts--the rhetoric of the soliloquist--help him to reintegrate his identity as he becomes increasingly self-aware. His resolve emerges as he rejects one alternative future but accepts another. By the end of the soliloquy, he has redefined himself and consciously chosen his relationship with the woman he loves. Well might he declare, "And now it is all thought out, from the beginning to the end, and my mind is easier."

Despite the soliloquy's length and the soliloquist's multiple identities, we still find him struggling with a problem of identity that is intimately connected with his social being. Before he can solve that problem, he confronts nothingness -- he verbally negates himself through rhetorical acts of self-division. These verbal assaults energize him out of his "slough of despond," however, and eventually self-negation devolves into self-creation. By projecting several alternative futures (i.e., rejecting one course and resolving on another), the soliloquist recreates himself as an active, on-going character -- one who almost coexists with the author as a problemsolver and a predictor of future action.

In general, by introducing and then providing final commentary on their soliloquists, novelists in effect "frame" soliloquies [3]. This immediate context sets soliloquist and author/narrator in creative juxtaposition. Each thereby illuminates his or her ability to spin out a narrative -- the soliloquist apparently to create his or her own destiny, the author/narrator to establish that narrative within the larger fiction. The boundary line between soliloquist and narrator is thus a crucial one, for it highlights the author's ability to create character, solve problems, and tell a story. In the case of Our Mutual Friend, John Harmon's moral resolve remains intact, but he is not an accurate prognosticator of his own future or the behavior of others. The narrative voice created by Dickens points out how quickly the soliloquist's resolution can dissipate into other indecision by informing us that Harmon has been so wrapped up in his self-communing that he cannot decide on his most immediate practical step. That narrative voice begins to speak again after the direct speech of the soliloquist has concluded.

Underlying his lengthy review of the past and his raising of alternative narratives is Harmon's almost single-minded drive toward self-projection -- specifically, a form of personal and interpersonal resolution -- and neither he nor we ever lose sight of it [4]. In fact, as if to balance the implied self-division of comparing his actual self with his imaginary selves in "what might have been," he extends his projection into alternative narratives as well, spinning out two different accounts of the future. Intermediate resolutions repeatedly confirm Harmon in his course and build towards his final resolution, when he assures himself that he has made the right decision to remain among the "living dead." He may flirt with a transcendent solution as he moves among several identities, but he finally earns a stable solution to his problem of social and personal identity.

Soliloquy is such an exciting literary mode because the soliloquist could end up in an intriguing array of final situations: in the crippling, suicidal trap of self-division; in the sinister plotting of revenge; in the mind's own labyrinth of rationalization; or in mystic transcendence. As false solutions or entrapments, this array begins to sound like stages in an epic quest. If we add the elemental imagery of water, disguise, circularity, and identity, then we can read the massive soliloquy uttered by John Harmon at the center of Our Mutual Friend as a quest indeed [5]. It begins with the usual calling -- in this case, Harmon's need to return to "the scene of [his] death." Moreover, the hero must descend into the hellish underworld of his own past and deal with the deception of rationalization before he can solve the mystery of his own identity, undergo rebirth, and project solutions for others. Harmon ultimately creates a competing narrative to the main storyline in this soliloquy, and he achieves his quest for truth through the act of self-creation that this narrative entails.

Part of soliloquy's creativity inheres in its harmonics. In Harmon's projective rhetoric, we can hear echoes or harmonics of the aforementioned "solutions" -- self-division, transcendence, rationalization, and self-projection -- and this multilayered rhetoric reinforces the soliloquy's multilayered structure [6]. The soliloquy proceeds through three distinct stages, in which Harmon progressively recreates his sense of space, time, and morality. Paradoxically, it also moves from the past into the future, while simultaneously returning full circle. The cosmic implications of true projection almost demand this multilayered effect: they call for Harmon to enter another realm, a new level of rhetoric that rises above the four likely conclusions. In particular, this self who narrates himself shows how a transcendent/ self-projective orientation can become predominant, despite its apparent contradictions. As harmonics for each other, transcendence and projection sound notes of sympathy, defying logic and causing their opposition to disappear.

Harmon manages to work with all four potential solutions, while avoiding their pitfalls. In fact, he encompasses them all. We see this encompassment in the uniquely clearcut structure of the soliloquy, which shows Harmon taking on space, time, morality, and ultimately identity. At least initially, Harmon epitomizes the self-divided soliloquist -- he has three possible identities; furthermore, he has to decide whether to remain dead or come back to life, and he questions who is his true self. By his very assuming of three different guises, he engages in a kind of transcendence that has cosmic overtones [7]. And to some extent, Harmon's review of the past constitutes extended rationalization -- all in preparation for choosing one of his two projections. Having covered the field, he finally becomes a successful self-projector.

Projection may well be the most demanding of the four solutions, because it can force the soliloquist to consciously enter a new dimension. In its fullest form, it takes him beyond the other "temptations" -- each with its peculiar distortion of the relationship between emotion and intellect, self and society -- and insists that he maintain that external thrust. At the center of Harmon's soliloquy, time stands still, and he experiences a kind of nothingness. But he continues to dissect time and space, preparatory to establishing his new-dimensional relationship. His self-negation -- "There was no such thing as I" -- is the nexus that precedes insight and successful self-projection. Thus, Harmon's soliloquy also helps us to understand why the true self-creator is relatively dispassionate -- and a somewhat rare case among the more emotional, melodramatic soliloquists who define the fictional mode.

Most projectors engage in verbal acts of self-assertion, but the rare, full-fledged type that Harmon epitomizes shows true self-creation. To the extent that Harmon is typical or archetypal, he demonstrates the singularity and clarity of the projector's approach. Neither he nor the typical avenger spends much time in the slough of despond: they are both impelled by their sense of purpose. Harmon's is a wilful soliloquy. He seems already to have made up his mind, but he needs to sort out the elements of his existence. His journey is less emotional and more a logical, rhetorical one--essentially ontological. This is not to say that the journey is all downhill for Harmon after his self-negation occurs. On the contrary, his real challenge lies ahead, in the delicate nuances of his moral decisions. And he rises to the occasion superbly. From his clear, supra-dimensional viewpoint, he is almost like a god, deciding on his own existence (namely life or death) and the lives of others.

J. Hillis Miller speaks of withdrawal and disguise as enabling character to assume the role of narrator in Our Mutual Friend [8]. If this is so, then Harmon's soliloquy constitutes the pre-eminent case in point. The sheer monumentality of the soliloquy argues for it as a separate narrative. Harmon draws us into his narrative partly because it challenges him and us to decipher his journey's circularity: "This is like what I have read in narratives of escape from prison . . . where the track of the fugitives in the night always seems to take the shape of the great round world, on which they wander; as if it were a secret law." As he continues, the narrator develops two hypothetical futures -- a variation on soliloquy's usual propensity to project alternative narratives into the past. And the self-division implicit in any alternative narrative finds repeated fueling in Harmon's complex set of identities and allegiances [9]. Finally, the competing narrative's position at mid-point in the novel provides a moral gauge for the larger narrative: it presents us with an opportunity to test rhetorical projection against fictional fact. Harmon's narrative measures up to the larger framework because he holds to his resolution--even though the "greater plot" lets him have both his alternatives by restoring his name as well as allowing him the resolution to bury it.

The soliloquy begins with an almost overwhelming sense of negation, as if Harmon were starting out from scratch to recover his old identity or build a new one [10]. His "slough of despond" is one of numbness, nothingness, space without time: "And I have nothing else in my mind but a wall, a dark doorway, a flight of stairs, and a room." But Harmon persists, largely through the self-apostrophes of the self-divider. Referring to being "divided in my mind," he orders himself to "think it out," to review the past and project a new future [11]. And this self-debater continues to check his direction, periodically stopping the on-going narrative and assessing his reasoning to be sure he is on the right course [12].

Self-division ushers in a series of parallels that contribute to the rhetoric of transcendence, however, suggesting that this state of the "living dead" moves Harmon back and forth between self-division and transcendence. He is "mistrustful" -- of his dead father, his friends, his intended bride, himself. Even his repeated confirmations to himself -- "Now, stop, and so far think it out, John Harmon. Is that so? That is exactly so" -- reflect both self-division and the reduplicative patterning of transcendence. The doubling motif continues as we learn about his double, Radfoot, who ends up assuming Harmon's identity in death. Furthermore, Harmon's past incidents seem remarkably parallel to his present situation; "more dead than alive," then and now, he knows what it is like to have passed beyond life's boundaries: [13] "It is a sensation not experienced by many mortals . . . to be looking into a church yard on a wild windy night, and to feel that I no more hold a place among the living than these dead do, and even to know that I lie buried somewhere else, as they lie buried here. Nothing uses me to it. A spirit that was once a man could hardly feel stranger or lonelier, going unrecognized among mankind, than I feel."

As Harmon tries to piece his past together, he skirts the temptations of rationalization. When applied to the past, rationalization is a rewriting of that past to suit one's emotional proclivities. Harmon, by contrast, projects himself into the past, virtually reliving it, in all its pain. Harmon is in a delicate position here. He does not yet have all the pieces to work with, so he must proceed slowly and carefully if he is to build the foundations of a new self . Yet even his checks and cautions sound suspiciously like what a rationalizer might say to confirm his version of reality: "I have all these facts right? Yes. They are all accurately right." Nonetheless, Harmon pauses again and catches himself before rationalization can take hold: "But let me go on thinking the facts out, and avoid confusing them with my speculations. Whether he took me by a straight way or a crooked way, what is that to the purpose now? Steady, John Harmon." This steadying process prepares him to evaluate the evidence about his being drugged. He assumes an Apollonian tone here, calmly citing the scant evidence for his "suspicion." Even though Harmon has been assuming a variety of identities, we fully respect his integrity at this point. Unlike the avenger, whose success is totally dependent on rationalization, Harmon must constantly battle against rationalization, and we witness his repeated victories.

Appropriate to the quest's search for truth, the attempt to recover memory governs the whole first half of this soliloquy. But Harmon is not just reminiscing; in effect, he is establishing the grounds for his ultimate projection or self-actualization. His task differs from that of most soliloquists in one important respect: he must recreate his past. With this primary goal in mind, he has no time for regret, for he is more engaged in the act of remembering than in reviewing and evaluating his past. In order to regain that past, Harmon needs to recreate the sensations that structured it. Starting almost from nothing, he calls upon memory to embellish the physical details of his bare picture. This elemental imagery--rain, water, stones--helps him project accurately into his past and recover it. As he progresses, Harmon reveals an increasing clarity and presence of memory, until he begins, about half-way through, to reproduce dialogue.

Midway through the soliloquy, Harmon experiences his "Center of Indifference," from which he emerges into his version of the "Everlasting Yea" [14]. Prompted by the drug that Radfoot and Rogue Riderhood have given him, he passes "to sick and deranged perceptions." Now Harmon's task is doubly difficult, as even memories are distorted, losing their sense of time, pervaded by periods of nothingness. The drug provokes radical self-division--"Something urged me to rush at [Radfoot]" -- and he sees his double (or is it himself?) lying on a bed. Harmon has lost his identity at this point: "I could not have said that my name was John Harmon -- I could not have thought it -- I didn't know it." Self-division has again introduced transcendence, for it leads Harmon to initiate another identity, which society will echo. At the moment of his rebirth, we see him on the boundary line between self-division and transcendence: "This is John Harmon drowning! John Harmon, struggle for your life! John Harmon, call on Heaven and save yourself!" Calling upon both divine and self-divided aid, Harmon manages to reintegrate himself [15]. From this central moment in this central soliloquy, he sets off reverberations of both rebirth and the return to consciousness that resound throughout the novel, encompassing not only Eugene Wrayburn but Riderhood as well.

Having recalled his attempted murder, Harmon turns from establishing space to trying to sort out and control time. A desire to control his sense of space momentarily returns -- he cannot at present "conceive" how he reached the opposite shore -- but he refuses this threat to his "thinking it out" through the past. "Control" is the key word here, for self-control leads to outer control, namely projection. By planning to "play dead," Harmon reveals his desire to change "fate." Although he stands apart from society at this moment, it is the social nexus that has motivated his situation and that sparks his first waking thoughts. Referring to his long-standing "moral timidity" with respect to fate, he reminds us that his quest is a moral one. Like so many other soliloquists, this hero is trying to define himself in terms of society, and that effort constitutes a moral evaluation.

Society again intrudes by reminding Harmon of the importance of money. "More dead than alive," he still needs money, for without the forty-odd pounds concealed in his waterproof belt, he could not hide his identity. The money makes it possible for him to recover anonymously at the coffee house -- during which time he decides to "play dead" -- and eventually to take lodgings with the Wilfers. Despite his renunciation of his inheritance, Harmon recognizes money's necessary role. This difference thus clarifies a significant moral distinction for Harmon: money represents survival and projection in society, but when it becomes an end in itself, it is immoral. Here the themes of greed and possessiveness return, only to be re-evaluated and clarified anew.

As a self-projector, Harmon is unnervingly successful. "With the horror of the death I had escaped, before my eyes in its most appalling shape," Harmon confronts his dead "self" in Radfoot's body and discovers that all of society seems determined to confirm his own initial projection by declaring him dead. Having passed through his own "heart of darkness," the questor can now proceed to his goal. In his new identity, Harmon confidently states his moral mission "to repair a wrong" by invalidating the false accusation of murder against Gaffer Hexam: "In that intent John Rokesmith will persevere, as his duty is." The quest has crystallized and moved to its final stage, propelled by the single-minded drive of the projector. Harmon leaves behind self-division and transcendence, both of which would undermine his emotional drive. More importantly, he has avoided the pitfalls of rationalization -- a sop to self-creation -- which destroys the intellect needed for self-actualization. And he is not distracted by vengeance, either. "In that intent" to impose his will, we do not doubt that Harmon, alias Rokesmith, "will persevere."

Turning to the future, "a harder though a much shorter task than to think it out through the past," Harmon confronts the moral dimension and projects two alternatives: should he return as John Harmon, or should he bury his old self under his current identity? The moral balance is a delicate one, for he has obliterated a dead man's identity, which would be restored if Harmon reclaims his name. But the moral balance sheet finally works against this resurrection. He returns to the core images that originally helped him recover his sense of self -- "a stone passage, a flight of stairs, a brown window-curtain, and a black man"--and they now help him to see the value in bringing the truth to light. Harmon runs into a snag, however, when he recalls how "sordidly" he would "buy a beautiful creature whom I love." He perceives his own self-division in this projected union with Bella Wilfer -- "I love her against reason" -- and so his thinking is heavily weighted against his return. Yet even this "road not taken" in his future remains an option, as the novel ultimately bears out. Dickens is here letting Harmon have it both ways. His two choices set up an interesting variation on Dickens's handling of alternative lives; this time it occurs within a single character, instead of through shadow figures. Harmon's supposed death allows him to postulate different futures and different selves. As Robert Newsom observes, doubles can blur boundaries of the self (54), but Harmon, by contrast, creates something analogous to doubles within himself, and thereby clarifies his sense of self -- his integrity.

Contrasted with the more problematic, conditional, and fragmentary rhetoric about returning as John Harmon, Harmon's argument for not resuming his old identity sounds completely certain. He delivers seven strong reasons why he should not return, each technically a fragment beginning with "[b]ecause" and each carrying the weight of his moral conviction. He goes on to add to this already "proven" case the melodramatic summation previously quoted in the first paragraph of this article. Perhaps the need to belabor his point ("Dead, I have found/heard . . .") suggests a tinge of rationalization, but Harmon's rhetoric primarily reiterates that he has given up his previous self. To that extent, then, he has invoked transcendence, and from this transcendent perspective he can see and prefer the goodness in his friends, the Boffins, without actively participating in it. Toward the end of his soliloquy, Harmon can let go his mortal existence, recalling the transcendent peace we recognize in Sydney Carton's final soliloquy at the end of A Tale of Two Cities. At the same time, he insists that he will be in the thick of things, keeping the Boffins's "machine in such working order" as their secretary. At the end, he again has it two ways: he is both a transcender and a projector, still trying to control his destiny.

Harmon's strong suit lies in his ability to work things out without rationalization or ego-involvement, so it is a touch of comic irony that his soliloquy should end with his decision to propose to Bella under his new identity, certain that she will not accept him. This same strength finally disenables him from perceiving or predicting that Bella will ever accept him, as she eventually does, for himself. Given his previous rejections of rationalization about so many life-and-death matters, however, this last amusing touch of rationalization hardly undermines our sense of Harmon's character. In fact, given his highly empirical approach, his minor note of rationalization is a humanizing touch. Well might we conclude with him: "And now it is all thought out, from the beginning to the end, and my mind is easier."

Harmon's soliloquy finally achieves harmony in its predominant orientation lying between projection and transcendence, and the novel not only awards him the woman he loves but gives him back his name. Like all narrators, he operates on a band somewhere between projection and transcendence. Some narrators may be less interesting than the stories they narrate -- witness David Copperfield's frequent "transparency" -- but Harmon as soliloquist is a fascinating character. His journey takes him all over the emotional-intellectual spectrum, and it does so without compromising his integrity. In particular, his brand of rationalization seems more like projection because it contains harmonics of genuine suffering and self-doubt. And Harmon's rhetoric of self-division reveals that he acknowledges how emotion can hold sway over reason. The overall tone of this soliloquy reinforces our sense of Harmon's integrity because he is not trying to get away with anything or inflate his ego. We end up feeling that he deserves his solution because he has earned it.

Not only does Harmon touch on an emotional-intellectual range, but he draws on elements of soliloquy's most typical patterns, namely self-debate, regret-to-resolution, even some of the revenge formula. At the same time, although the soliloquy works with all the usual rhetorical devices, it also tries to expunge the distortions of the soliloquist's emotional relationship to reality that are inherent in any emotional or intellectual tonality. Charlotte Brontë, William Makepeace Thackeray, and George Eliot all recognize the rhetorical effect of soliloquy and deal with its moral implications, but they tend to treat soliloquy in a developmental, sequential manner. Dickens, on the other hand, either treats it casually, in occasional self-apostrophe, or he grants it the large scale that we witness at the end of A Tale of Two Cities and in the middle of Our Mutual Friend -- where John Harmon's extended act of self-creation achieves self-actualization in its fullest this-world sense.

Despite its solid Victorian grounding, the multilayered rhetoric and structure of Harmon's soliloquy suggest a Modernist effort to include the world in one's own microcosm. Even the quest for order reflects the same concern that dominates stream of consciousness: observe how the soliloquy's circular structure anticipates the monologues of Joyce. Harmon is less emotional and more cosmic in his outlook than the typical melodramatic soliloquist because of his transcendent/projective orientation. His rhetoric effectively reinforces our sense of the cosmic order, even though he is still dealing with a social problem -- primarily the purview of nineteenth-century literary self-talk. Thus, Harmon's soliloquy justifies our initial attention to it as a kind of "Ur - soliloquy": it stands at the center of Our Mutual Friend and any informed discussion of soliloquy in nineteenth-century fiction.


1. This website article is adapted from my book, Soliloquy in Nineteenth-Century Fiction (1987), reflecting as well some of the insights I developed in my DSA article on John Harmon as an "encapsulated Romantic" (1989); thanks go to both Macmillan and AMS Press for permission to reprint portions of my previous arguments. I am also grateful for two other forums that enabled me to explore my thinking about Harmon's monumental soliloquy, namely the 1985 conference on "The Romantic/Victorian Threshold" (co-sponsored by the City University of New York and the Browning Institute), and the 1987 Dickens Universe on Our Mutual Friend (conducted by the Dickens Project at the University of California at Santa Cruz). My book studies soliloquy as one mode of what I called "autodiction," namely what occurs "when the mind is communing with itself, regardless of whether that communication is spoken or unspoken, and its range entails various degrees of self-awareness and discovery" (14); that theory was first inaugurated in my dissertation on soliloquy in the novels of William Makepeace Thackeray (UCLA, 1979). Coined by St. Augustine, soliloquium refers to solitary speech that may in practice merge into prayer or an internal series of thoughts (bk. 11, sec. 7, par. 14).

2. See Our Mutual Friend in the Penguin Edition (bk. 2, ch. 13, 429). Individual pages (here ranging from 421-30) are not cited hereafter

3. Here I am adapted Erving Goffman's language of frame analysis, for such narrative framework establishes a distinctive convention that defines and organizes our responses. See especially his introductory chapter (1-20). 

4. Harmon's almost single-minded direction stands in sharp contrast to that of Thackeray's titular protagonist, Arthur Pendennis. Pen is all over the map, so to speak, proceeding in no discernable order and demonstrating no real plan of action in his myriad forays into soliloquy. These multifarious attempts at "self-talk" serve only to confirm Thackeray's designation in subtitle that Pen is his own "greatest enemy." 

5. The quest motif's language of myth prompted Edgar Johnson to proclaim, "Our Mutual Friend is The Waste Land of Dickens's work" (2: 1043). At that time, Johnson did not know that T. S. Eliot had intended to use a line from Dickens's novel as his title: "He do the Police in different voices" (bk. 1, ch. 16). 

6. I propound this conceptualization of a four-way scenario in SNF, where I break it down and graph it into four quadrants, further analyzing it along an emotional-intellectual axis (49ff). In the context of discussing projection, I demonstrate how it essentially entails self-creation or self-actualization. Other novels examined besides those cited in this article include Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Vanity Fair, Villette, Middlemarch, and Romola

7. The notion of cosmic transcendence recalls Sydney Carton's final soliloquy at the end of A Tale of Two Cities; for a study of the rhetoric of soliloquy in this novel, see my 1983 DSA article comparing it to Carlyle's use of soliloquy in The French Revolution, as well as the discussion in SNF (78-85 passim). 

8. "The character becomes like the narrator, a separated mirror able to see society from the outside and therefore able to recognize that it is a masquerade of false appearances," Miller argues in The Form of Victorian Fiction (108). He is here referring to Our Mutual Friend in general, citing Harmon among other characters but not specifically mentioning Harmon's long soliloquy. Writing to John Forster sometime in 1861, Dickens himself declared, "I think a man, young and perhaps eccentric, feigning to be dead, and being dead to all intents and purposes external to himself, and for years retaining the singular view of life and character so imparted, would be a good leading incident for a story" (Letters, 3: 271). One of the titles that Dickens considered for his novel was "Rokesmith's Forge." 

9. Harmon's self-division parallels Bella's self-conflict and looks ahead to Dickens's plans for depicting John Jasper at the end of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Forster describes in his study of Dickens the extreme form this self-division would have taken if the novel had been finished: "The last chapters were to be written in the condemned cell, to which [the murderer's] wickedness, all elaborately elicited from him as if told of another, had brought him" (2: 366). 

10. Miller would seem to argue that the novel permits no such accomplishment. The first three sections of his chapter on Our Mutual Friend in Charles Dickens: The World of His Novels assert that it is impossible "to create out of nothing a new self" and deny that the novel shows anyone "solving the problem of self-identification." Later in the chapter, however, Miller acknowledges Harmon's regenerative powers and the role of transcendence (see 279-327 passim). 

11. These words look back to Sydney Carton's second attempt to soliloquize--"Let me think it out!"--in A Tale of Two Cities (bk. 3, ch. 12), when he carefully plots out his plan to change places with Charles Darnay, his self-command insuring that his resolution will lead to inviolate action. As another example of the "living-dead," Harmon is also plotting the possible consequences of an exchange of identities, but his choices conflate the extremes of physical death and cosmic transcendence. On this point, Miller observes that "it is only in Our Mutual Friend that [Dickens] is able to put the two motions of resurrection, descent into death and return, together in a single person" (Charles Dickens, 248). 

12. Masao Miyoshi alerts us to the role of self-debate in the novel as linking Harmon and Bella: "The chapter title ['A Solo and a Duett'] has a double significance, referring, of course, to Rokesmith's monologue and subsequent dialogue with Bella, but also to the section in which they each talk to themselves, in a kind of dialogue of the mind with itself" (284, n. 49). 

13. "More Dead Than Alive" is the title of Marcus Stone's illustration for this chapter. The etching depicts the event from the past that Harmon narrates in soliloquy: a half-drowned form is crawling onto the shore, the rain almost sweeping away our view of the waterfront backdrop (see the first edition, vol. 1, opposite p. 280; ). Stone's original watercolor sketch, housed in the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library, depicts a figure that looks rather ape-like, as if he is rising from some primeval swamp. 

14. See Diogenes Teufelsdröckh's movement in Carlyle's Sartor Resartus (bk. 2, chs. 8 and 9). For a reading that emphasizes Harmon's despondency at this point, see U.C. Knoepflmacher (154). 

15. This combination expresses Dickens's brand of Christian humanism. "Though they do not express orthodox Christian doctrine," Miller notes, "Dickens's novels are religious in that they demand the regeneration of man and society through contact with something transcendent" (Charles Dickens, 315). 


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