Shadowing the Dead: First Person Narration in Our Mutual Friend

  • Eleanor Salotto


In the previous chapters, we have focused on the difficulties women face in narrating their stories. Bleak House confronts head-on the problems in women’s narration by introducing the double narrative which deconstructs a unified speaking subject and thus gendered identity. Rather than two gendered narrators, we are presented with the ghostly signifiers of gendered narration, and these ghostly presences wander at will and indiscriminately. Our Mutual Friend presents a problem of a different order: the novel is haunted by the specter of first person narration. The narrative home is haunted by the question of how to reproduce the voice of the “I.” In the novel’s return to origins—to the face of the dead man on the boat in the opening chapter—it is confronted with the point of unattainable origin. To compensate for this haunting effect, the novel deploys the multiplot. It is as if the multiplot novel has run amok in its attempt to wander away from first person narration. The proliferation and contagion of plots and characters point to a covering over of first person narration. In trying to present the unrepresentable, the text creates the multiplot. Whatever first person narration cannot speak, third person narration covers over. In this way, Dickens creates gothic writing—the ruin and decay of first person narration.


Dead Body Person Narration Master Plotter Fictional World Mutual Friend 
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© Eleanor Salotto 2006

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  • Eleanor Salotto

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