Thursday, February 10, 2011

Our Mutual Friend

Finished Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. I really enjoyed this book. There is the usual unwieldy cast of characters, including several villains and more than one hero. As always, one character in particular captured my fancy. This time it was Jenny Wren.

Jenny is crippled with a bad back. Like a wren she is quite small. She seems very bird-like to me. According to Wikipedia, "Most wrens are small and rather inconspicuous, except for their loud and often complex songs." Jenny is very sharp and observant. She tells of dreams and visions of long rows of children in white coming to comfort her in her pain. She works as a doll's dressmaker, hobbling about town with her crutch, observing ladies' fashions and taking the images home to recreate for her inanimate clients.

Jenny is a deeply loyal person. She discovers Fledgeby's villainy towards her friends Lizzie and Mr. Riah. After he has been flogged by an associate, Jenny endeavors to give him the assistance he requests. He asks her to soak strips of brown paper in vinegar and plaster them to his smarting back. She feels he would benefit from additional punishment and so sprinkles the plasters with pepper before applying them. Later, when she realizes just how evil he is, she wishes in retrospect that she had used cayenne instead of black pepper.

Paul McCartney wrote a song about Jenny Wren for his 2005 album Caos and Creation in the Back Yard.

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