Son of Earth - John Harmon
alias Julius Handford alias John Rokesmith
Our Mutual Friend
John Harmon, in metallurgical terms, is an assayer. By taking on an alias, and offering his services for free, he is trying to determine the quality and purity of those who would be his friends. Of greatest value to him in this appraisal is the would-be wife he has been bequeathed, Bella Wilfer. This valuation becomes, for John Harmon, his soliloquy throughout Our Mutual Friend.
Harmon's father was something of a miser. The two had a falling out when the son defended his sister's right to marry a man for love rather than money. As a result, John left the country, but his father nevertheless left his fortune to the boy – provided John marry the girl his father chose for him, Bella Wilfer. When John returns to England after his father's death, the drowned body of a young man pulled from the Thames for its portable property by Gaffer Hexam, is mistaken for John Harmon. John seizes the opportunity to become invisible, adopting first the name Julius Handford, and then John Rokesmith. Becoming Ned Boffin's secretary, he observes the fiancé his father chose for him, to evaluate if his father's wealth is worth spending his life with this woman. Thereby is John not only Boffin and Bella's mutual friend of Our Mutual Friend's title, but he – as Julius and the two Johns – is his own mutual friend.
In this sense, too, he creates – or recreates – himself. His newly formed persona and position cause him to resonate with the harmonics of true suffering and self-doubt. His strength of character allows him to work things out for himself, without rationalizations, outside influences, or ego-involvement. “Now, stop, and so far think it out, John Harmon.” he says to himself, “Is that so? That is exactly so.” The splitting of himself into three creates a chord - an accord and a harmony - which facilitates the emergence and rebirth of the true John Harmon.
Having determined Bella's intentions to be unalloyed, he marries her - as John Rokesmith. For now John Harmon is reluctant to reveal his old self. The question has become not who is Bella Wilfer or Ned Boffin, but who is John Harmon?
"Dead, I have found the true friends of my lifetime still as true as tender and as faithful as when I was alive, and making my memory an incentive to good actions done in my name. Dead, I have found them when they might have slighted my name, and passed greedily over my grave to ease and wealth, lingering by the way, like single-hearted children, to recall their love for me when I was a poor frightened child. Dead, I have heard from the woman who would have been my wife if I had lived, the revolting truth that I should have purchased her, caring nothing for me, as a Sultan buys a slave."
John Harmon has good reason to wonder if money won't destroy everything he has worked so hard for and attained – money had made his father cold, unloved, and unlovable, after all. When he is recognized by Mortimer Lightwood, John Harmon admits to who he was, who he had been pretending to be, and who he is. And because he has rightly assayed his surroundings, his friends, and himself, he lives there, with them, as John Harmon, happily ever after.
Shorthand : odd young man - morally upright - defender of what's true - yet hits himself something of a false note - practical rather than abstract - good with numbers - hands-on - struggles with established authority and judging for himself - perhaps overly cautious - doesn't give much away - solid but stolid - slow to action - a little wet behind the ears - values values - so patient he might be ill - willing to work pro bono.