Our Mutual Friend, published just six years after Darwin's The Origin of Species, is structured on a Darwinian pattern. As its title hints, the novel is an account of the mutual-though hidden-relations of its characters, a fictional world of individuals seeking their own advantage, a "dismal swamp" of "crawling, creeping, fluttering, and buzzing creatures." The relationship between the two works is quite direct in light of the large number of reviews on science, evolution, and The Origin from 1859 through the early 1860s in Dicken's magazine, All the Year Round. Given the laissez-faire origin of the Origin, Dicken's use of it in a book directed against laissez-faire economics is ironic. Important Darwinian themes in the novel are predation, mutual relationships, chance, and, especially, inheritance, a central issue in both Victorian fiction and in The Origin of Species. The novel asks whether predatory self-seeking or generosity should be the desired inheritance for human beings. The victory of generosity is symbolized by a dying child's "willing" his inheritance of a toy Noah's Ark, "all the Creation," to another child. Our Mutual Friend is saturated with the motifs of Darwinian biology, therefore, to display their inadequacy. Although Dickens made use of the explanatory powers of natural selection and remained sympathetic to science, the novel transcends and opposes its Darwinian structure in order to project a teleological and designed evolution in the human world toward a moral community of responsible men and women.
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