Document Type

Class Paper

Publication Date



These lines, taken from Part III of Charles Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend, come from a chapter entitled “A Marriage Contract.” Dickens named the chapter very well, as the marriage that takes place in it is indeed a contract between two people who, while not in love with each other, are in love with the idea of gaining wealth and improving their social status. Alfred and Sophronia Lammle are both led to believe that the other is rich by their so-called dear friend, Mr. Veneering, who believes himself to be a matchmaker. The illusion of wealth is the driving force toward the couple’s marriage, and they grow to loathe each other the moment they realize that neither of them actually married into money. The lines mark not only the marriage ceremony of these two lovelessbirds, but the monetary value of their marriage as well. The primary concern of the passage, in fact, is not the coming together of two souls in holy matrimony, but rather the coming together of two thirsty wallets. More than that, Lady Tippins’s appraisal of the characters in this scene depicts just how important the apparent worth of people and things was to the Victorians. Dickens was well aware of this fact when he wrote Our Mutual Friend, as is made clear by the fall of the Lammles and their monetary marriage, and the rise of Lizzie Hexam and Eugene Wrayburn, who marry for love. Money, status, and appearance were the main concerns of Victorians, as this was a time when people were just beginning to realize that they had the power to change their social standing. The Lammles, like many Victorians, take their financial identity very seriously and choose to marry for money as a result. Marriage for anything but love is an important theme in Our Mutual Friend that Dickens uses to illustrate the impact that appearances have on Victorians, as well as the lengths to which they will go in order to achieve their greedy desires. Dickens seems to have used this novel to illustrate the problem he has with Victorian consumerism and the Victorian belief that marriage is little more than a contract between two people who wish to gain social standing by commodifying their entire lives.


This paper was presented as part of English Literature III (ENGL 3653), taught by Dr. Amy Sonheim.