In Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens paints a complicated portrait of alcohol consumption that resists following any one vein of contemporary sociological, medical, or religious writing about alcohol. Instead, he senses the roles of economy and geography in the circulation of alcohol through individuals and city alike and structures the narrative as an investigation of the possible outcomes of differing efforts to regulate that movement. Within this physical and economic landscape, Dickens creates two competing examples of working-class and abject poor drinking economies. In one, Miss Potterson maintains strict control over her tavern, The Six Jolly Fellowship-Porters, which she operates as a small-scale, moralized yet dictatorial economy that provides orderly community and relative healthfulness. In the second, metropolitan disciplinary administration oversees the citywide drinking economy, in which Jenny Wren's father drinks himself to death. Ultimately, Our Mutual Friend refrains from fully endorsing one model of alcohol regulation as a metropolitan or national solution, illuminating the failures of large-scale, sanitary-disciplinary efforts while also implying that Miss Potterson's more effective, small-scale, moralized economy relies upon her autocratic control of an idiosyncratic space—and therefore could (or should) not apply to the whole city of London.

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