- The Inorganic Aesthetic in Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend
- Partial Answers: Journal of Literature and the History of Ideas
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 14, Number 1, January 2016
- p. pp. 1-20
- View Citation
This paper argues that in Our Mutual Friend, Dickens provides an alternative to the dominant aesthetic paradigm of his time, organicism. While organic form implies unity in the many, dust in this novel offers an aesthetic of similitude in which the whole is nothing but the part replicated over and over. Through the use of recurrences and doubling, the novel comes to embody this aesthetic. Social formations in the novel similarly challenge organic form, as familial roles are empty shells that characters only temporarily inhabit. When Dickens departs from organic ideals of differentiation and progress, he challenges the liberal principle of individuation.