Dickens scholars have often noted the failure of Our Mutual Friend as a detective story. In this article, the author argues that Dickens draws from the parable tradition to reimagine the detective genre. Dickens delineates a parabolic detective story that foregrounds, rather than a story of surveillance supporting a panoptic vision of the novel, a reciprocal and mutual gaze that challenges the authority and character of the watcher. The reciprocal turning upon the figure of the watcher also implicates the reader, usually a participant in a non-reciprocal relation with the text, in a deeper formal, ethical, and moral engagement.

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