Chapter

‘His behaviour betrays the actual state of things’ Onanism and obsessive behaviour in <i>Our Mutual Friend</i>

Diane Mason

in The Secret Vice

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print August 2008 | ISBN: 9780719077142
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781701089 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7228/manchester/9780719077142.003.0006
‘His behaviour betrays the actual state of things’ Onanism and obsessive behaviour in Our Mutual Friend

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Relationships between men form the backdrop for this chapter. The discussion concentrates particularly on the way the discourse on masturbation appears to inform Dickens' construction of Bradley Headstone, protagonist of the author's penultimate novel, Our Mutual Friend (1865). In Dickens' evocation of a society where the appearance of respectability was of paramount importance, this chapter contends that Headstone's ‘secret past’ and ‘guilty secrets’ are manifested in and recounted through the pathology and imagery of onanism. Headstone is not merely associated with Eugene Wrayburn through their erotic rivalry for Lizzie Hexam but also inasmuch as Wrayburn, too, exhibits many of the classic symptoms of masturbatory disorder.

Keywords: Bradley Headstone; Dickens; Our Mutual Friend; pathology; onanism; masturbatory disorder; Eugene Wrayburn; Lizzie Hexam

Chapter.  12916 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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