This article focuses on stains, blushes, flushes, and other nonphonetic marks such as scriptural signifiers in Our Mutual Friend. These metonymic markings help constitute what Dickens called the “main line” of the novel’s development. This line turns rhizomorphic as it figuratively begins with the rope line salvaging the stained corpse in the novel’s fifth paragraph and extends to the later lines ironically salvaging Gaffer Hexam’s own marked corpse and the dead-alive Rogue Riderhood’s body as examples of the death-by-drowning with the possibility of resurrection motif. But the fifth paragraph also anticipates other significant signifying tropes and events in Our Mutual Friend as the meaning of all such signifiers, whether finally legible or illegible, requires close reading by the novel’s characters and readers alike. And other Dickens novels, like Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, provide a significantly larger context for the stains and other markings in Our Mutual Friend. According to the problematic principle of the inside outside the outside, surface signifiers, particularly somatic signifiers, often become self-defining indicators of nearly all the novel’s characters and their interrelationships.

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