The audience for the performances by Dickens's characters in Our Mutual Friend is usually taken to be the reader. This article argues that this relationship is inscribed in the novel by the character-audience relationship within the fiction, which draws us into reconsidering the nature of spectatorship in our reading and in our lives. Those who enable the rule of money would appropriate the power of the audience for themselves and make others helpless spectators of their own lives. Society seems caught in an eternal present that deprives characters of choice and change. Dickens unlocks time through his use of wonder, which encompasses both realism and fantasy, and which shapes the two central romance narratives. In each of them, a triangular relationship between the lovers and a character acting as a catalyst (one benign, the other malign) affords a new temporal perspective that makes change possible, along with a new sense of individual and social identity. For the reader, the two perspectives are incompatible, and since each involves and questions our own spectatorship in the very act of reading, we are driven to choose for ourselves. We must make a decision about time and performance that will have real consequences in our lives.

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