Martin Chuzzlewit, Week 3 ~ and a Week 2 Wrap-Up

Wherein we revisit our second week’s reading of Martin Chuzzlewit (Week 46 of the Dickens Chronological Reading Club); with a chapter summary and discussion wrap-up; containing a look-ahead to Week Three.

(Note on Banner image: By Fred Barnard. Scanned image by Philip V. Allingham Via Victorian Web.)

By the #DickensClub members, edited/compiled by Rach

Friends, if I am ever in need of a dramatic cure of my own illusions and follies, I’d be hard-pressed to say whether I’d prefer the terrifying prospect of three Ghosts on Christmas Eve, or this nightmare journey to America…

But if the latter, I hope at least that I have Mark Tapley close at hand.

This week, we’ve dealt with corpses and superstitious sons, hellish marriage prospects, tipsy caretakers, brash and dishonest Americans, obsequious architects, and deathly fevers out in the middle of nowhere.

How will our protagonists survive?

Here are some quick links:

  1. General Mems
  2. Martin Chuzzlewit, Week Two (Chs 13-26): A Summary
  3. Discussion Wrap-Up
  4. A Look-Ahead to Week Three of Martin Chuzzlewit (22-28 Nov, 2022)

General Mems

If you’re counting, today is day 322 (and week 47) in our #DickensClub! Today we wrap up our second week of Martin Chuzzlewit, our ninth read of the group. Please feel free to comment below this post for the third week’s chapters, or use the hashtag #DickensClub if you’re commenting on twitter.

No matter where you’re at in the reading process, a huge “thank you” for reading along with us. Heartfelt thanks to our dear Dickens Fellowship, The Dickens Society, and the Charles Dickens Letters Project for retweets, and to all those liking, sharing, and encouraging our Club, including Gina Dalfonzo, Dr. Christian Lehmann and Dr. Pete Orford. Huge “thank you” also to The Circumlocution Office (on twitter also!) for providing such a marvelous online resource for us, and to The Charles Dickens Page and The Victorian Web for such fantastic background information and illustrations.

And for any more recent members or for those who might be interested in joining: the revised two-and-a-half year reading schedule can be found here. Boze’s introduction to American Notes and Martin Chuzzlewit can be found here; Chris’s supplement of Peter Ackroyd’s introductions can be found here. If you’ve been reading along with us but aren’t yet on the Member List, we would love to add you! Please feel free to message Rach here on the site, or on twitter.

And speaking of twitter, just in case of its spontaneous combustion like a certain friend of ours in Bleak House:

Martin Chuzzlewit, Week Two (Chs 13-26): A Summary

“Martin Meets an Acquaintance…” by Phiz.

Young Martin, after the first flurry of his haste to get out of Pecksniff’s house abates–he later writes to Tom to have his clothes sent to him, as he’d left in such a hurry–finds money in the book that Pinch gave to him. His attitude towards Pinch is one of grateful superiority. The coach driver who takes Martin to London tells him about someone he knew who had gone to America to make his fortune.

Young Martin meets again with Montague Tigg while at a pawn shop; the former tries to be chummy, saying he has broken off with Chevy Slyme, and Martin gives him some money and is dismissive. In the weeks that pass while looking for employment, Martin gets accustomed to visiting the pawn shop—when, finally, an anonymous letter shows up, with twenty pounds. Martin also encounters another unexpected gift: Mark Tapley (who knows nothing of the money). Tapley assures him that he is simply ready for a position of adventure, and is not looking for something lucrative—he has enough saved to provide for his own needs, and he is still ready and willing even after hearing Martin’s full story, and why he is leaving.

Mark delivers a letter from young Martin to Mary Graham, discreetly (for she and old Martin are in London), and arranges for the two to meet and she tells of their recent closeness with the Pecksniffs.

Martin tells Mary that he believes all suffering he may undergo is worth it for her sake; he warns her to be wary of the Pecksniffs; meanwhile, Martin will come back to her once he has made money. After parting, Mark is sent by Mary to give young Martin a ring which she had bought as a kind of source of emergency money for him—young Martin doesn’t seem to give much notice of the sacrifice of her own funds that this implies, nor of the heart that goes with it.

Though Mark and Martin are both ill from the sea voyage to America, they handle themselves differently: Martin is cross, self-contained, and nervous of being seen as poor; Mark keeps everyone else in lively spirits and helps his fellow passengers, including a lone mother with her two sons, who is traveling to her husband. (We later find out, in an instance of foreshadowing, that when she meets her husband, he is very sick from the lack of clean water on the land that he had purchased.) Mark quickly becomes very popular.

Upon arrival in America, Martin and Mark meet with various American characters (Colonel Diver, Jefferson Brick) who are various shades of bragging, disdainful, over-familiar and inquisitive, brash and insensitive; however, he finally meets with one, Mr. Bevan, who is polite, reasonable, and unostentatious.

Meanwhile, back in England, Jonas can’t understand Mr. Chuffey’s attachment to his old employer. Mr. Pecksniff comes in, having received a letter from Anthony Chuzzlewit, and they discuss Jonas’ preference for Charity. When Jonas returns, they hear Chuffey scream as a strange noise as Anthony struggles for breath, and dies. Jonas begs Pecksniff to stay, fearing that people will think that he was to blame. They hire red-nosed Mrs. Gamp—though it takes Pecksniff a bit to waken her from sleep—who generally acts as a midwife, but she can sit with the corpse, if sustained by “a taste” of strong drink. For the following week, Pecksniff stays close to the nervous and superstitious Jonas, who fears his father’s ghost.

Jonas is back to his old self once the corpse is out of the way, and asks Pecksniff how much he’ll be giving his daughters as a dowry, and Pecksniff flatters him into thinking that all will depend on whether the young man is as worthy as, say, Jonas himself. When Jonas is alone with Charity, he acts as though she were in on his scheme—of getting in her good graces in order to be closer to her sister, Mercy. Charity is offended and leaves in a huff, while Mercy tries to evade Jonas and his marriage proposal, and would have no other object than to make him miserable if she ever did accept him.

“The Thriving City of Eden as it Appeared on Paper,” by Phiz.

In America, Martin draws his faithful (but in this case, rightfully dubious) Mark Tapley into a scheme to purchase land in a place called “Eden,” inspired by General Choke who is to introduce them to an agent, Mr. Scadder. Martin condescendingly offers to make Mark his partner, though Mark is investing the larger sum of money between them. Martin then attends a meeting of the Watertoast Sympathizers, whose secretary is Mr. Kettle, and Martin is surprised by the extremely racist and pro-slavery positions among its members.

While Mark is busily preparing for the steamboat journey to Eden, Martin finds himself the center of curiosity from many quarters—some of this, perhaps, due to the fact that he is going to Eden, which seems to be a bourne from which no traveller returns.

“On they toiled through great solitudes, where the trees upon the banks grew thick and close; and floatad in the stream; and held up shrivelled arms from out the river’s depths; and slid down from the margin of the land, half growing, half decaying, in the miry water. On through the weary day and melancholy night: beneath the burning sun, and in the mist and vapour of the evening: on, until return appeared impossible, and restoration to their home a miserable dream.”

“The Thriving City of Eden as it Appeared in Fact,” by Phiz.

When Mark and Martin arrive in Eden, they find it is a swampy, thick-forested patch of nowhere, with only a few dingy cabins—theirs is doorless—and a bad fever raging through its few inhabitants. Martin breaks down, while Mark puts up a door and makes arrangements for something resembling a habitation and food. Martin becomes ill.

In England, while Jonas is at the Pecksniff’s, old Martin comes to visit with Mary Graham. He asks to see Jonas, who defends himself as not being the worst son in the world. Afterwards, Tom Pinch escorts old Martin and Mary to their lodgings at the Dragon, and on his way back encounters Jonas who is hostile to Tom, and tries to hit him with his stick but injures himself as Tom is put on the defensive. Tom helps him home. Charity, once she realizes the true state of the case, is happy with Tom and for any injury that is done to Jonas.

Mercy has a conversation with old Martin, and admits that she will only be marrying Jonas to quarrel with him and make him her slave. Old Martin questions her in several ways, entreating her to consider her motives; he clearly wishes not only to understand her, but to help her to understand her own mind and to rethink her priorities. However, when she is determined to proceed with the marriage, he wishes her joy—with a gently emphatic repetition of the word.

Mercy puts off the marriage that Jonas is wanting to proceed with hastily; she insists that he do exactly as she says; Jonas intends to have his revenge after they are married.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Gamp is caring for Mr. Chuffey in Jonas’ absence, and sneaks away to do another patient-sitting job during the night hours, to which she was referred by Mrs. Prig, who watches during the daytime.

“Mrs. Gamp Has Her Eye on the Future,” by Phiz.

“The lady in question was by this time in the doorway, curtseying to Mrs. Mould. At the same moment a peculiar fragrance was borne upon the breeze, as if a passing fairy had hiccoughed, and had previously been to a wine-vaults.”

She overhears John Westlock talking about the patient, an old schoolfellow of his, and Westlock wants to supplement any needed money for care of the patient. However, in the patient’s delirious chatter, Jonas Chuzzlewit is mentioned. Meanwhile, “Poll” (Paul) the barber has come with young Bailey to help Mrs. Gamp move out of Jonas Chuzzlewit’s house. Mrs. Gamp—whose services are no longer needed, according to Jonas—notices that the recently married Mercy (married a month prior) is looking unwell and unhappy. Chuffey, realizing that she is married to Jonas, curses the wicked house.

Discussion Wrap-Up

What We Loved–and Didn’t

Lenny loved the hilarious passage as Pecksniff tries to maintain his dignity–and even to hold forth–while being told off for trespassing on a stranger’s lawn:

Lenny H. comments

Rob “loved the idea of the year having a wardrobe”, and was thrilled with Chapter 2’s opening. He is preferring the Pecksniffian shenanigans in England to the adventures in America with Martin and Mark:

Wrapping up the second week of the Dickens Chronological Reading Club's discussion on Martin Chuzzlewit, with a look-ahead to Week Three.
Rob G. comment

Dickens’ “Writing Lab”: Characterization and Self-Definition; Mrs. Gamp; Dickens and America; “Eden”

The Stationmaster considers whether Dickens should have started the book with the second chapter:

Adaptation Stationmaster comment

Okay, but what do we think of Mrs. Gamp? The Stationmaster is not so sure…

Chris comments on how “the altercation between Tom Pinch and Jonas is the proverbial battle between good and evil, with good prevailing.” She also finds Mrs. Gamp to be “not as funny as critics have purported her to be”; yet, “Mrs Gamp’s creating herself or defining herself via Mrs Harris is like watching Dickens creating himself or defining himself though his characters”:

Chris M. comment

Stationmaster commented that “Steven Marcus’s tribute to Mrs. Gamp reminds me of critical praise of Shakespeare’s Falstaff.” I responded, wondering whether Mrs. Gamp is the supreme example of why Dickens also needs to be read aloud:

Stationmaster then shared with us a fabulous clip of the great Miriam Margolyes doing Mrs. Gamp:

Meanwhile, Chris shared an article which helps to illuminate the ill-fated Eden purchase:

Chris M. comment

Here is Chris’ file:

Here, the Stationmaster tackles the offensiveness–or otherwise–of Dickens’ portrayal of America, and how he channels his anger into his biting comedy:

Adaptation Stationmaster comment

Chris responds, as to why “the American scenes are difficult reading,” but why the whole sojourn is effective for the interior journey of our heroes:

Chris M. comment

Stationmaster comments:

“I guess if I were to take issue with any part of Dickens’s satire of America or say that America has progressed past it by now, it’s the idea that Americans are obnoxiously patriotic or jingoistic” but “other than that, I’d say Dickens’s satire of the USA was pretty spot on. LOL. (Actually, I’d say that even the part I just pushed back against was spot on. Just more spot on for Americans I meet on social media than the ones I meet face to face.)”

~ Adaptation Stationmaster comment

Martin Chuzzlewit as “Problem Novel”: Problematic Comedy; Young Martin as “Antihero”; Finding Mercy’s “Core Sensibilities”

Following up on one paragraph in the Stationmaster’s comment above, I am considering his idea about whether or not the American voyage really works as a vehicle for young Martin’s character development:

Rach M. comment

Lenny had brought us back earlier to this whole notion that we’ve begun discussing in relation to several aspects of Martin Chuzzlewit. With its “antihero,” its problematic comedy, its manipulations for good and ill…is this a “problem novel”?

Lenny H. comment

Yes…how to “the comic and ‘tragic’ or serious moments weigh against one another”? Here, Lenny comments on that extraordinary bit of dialogue between old Martin and Merry, as he tries to probe her reasoning for accepting Jonas as a husband, warning her of impending unhappiness:

Lenny H. comment

I responded about my love of this scene, and that it has, perhaps, planted a seed in Merry’s mind, to bear fruit later.

Chris comments:

Chris M. comment

A Look-Ahead to Week Three of Martin Chuzzlewit (22-28 Nov, 2022)

This week, we’ll be reading Chapters 27-41, which constitute installments XI-XV, published November 1843-March 1844.

If you’d like to read it online, you can find Martin Chuzzlewit at The Circumlocution Office. It can also be downloaded at sites such as Gutenberg.


  1. Hey, All,

    So beneficial to me to hear your thoughts, questions, and critiques.

    I’m very behind, and doing what I can to catch up on my reading.

    I’m intrigued by Tom Pinch. I’m listening while walking (and recovering from COVID), so I’m not sure that all of my mental synapses are firing. I’m likely missing something.

    He seems so good, innocent, benevolent, kind. Is he considered to be “cognitively challenged”? Unlike Mark Tapley, who seems to be endowed with an irrepressibly optimistic outlook, Tom’s disposition seems to be more passively agreeable. (They are both lovable characters.)

    Tom’s appreciation of and attachment to Mr. Pecksniff (at this point of my read) seems naive and susceptible.

    Does anyone understand Dickens’ own assessment of MC as “immeasurably the best of my stories”?

    Blessings, and keep sharing your insights that serve as stepping-stones to my way across the river!


    P.S. That clip of Miriam Margolyes is brilliant!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Daniel: I’m so sorry you’ve been dealing with Covid, but that you are up and walking seems like a good sign. I hope that’s true. Please stay well!

      You’re right about Tom Pinch. He IS an intriguing character, and I like your idea of him being “passively agreeable.” But later you call him “susceptible,” and I think that’s right on target! His relationship with Pecksniff is SO one-sided, his boss always having the upper hand and using it nastily while Tom continues to fawn on him. Naive, and really quite obtuse.

      “Immeasurably the best of my stories.” Hmmm…not so sure about that!

      Take care, sir, and enjoy your Thanksgiving…!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m reading midway through Chapter 33, and I feel like I’m entering an inflection point in this novel. Maybe that’s just putting it too mildly. The ENTIRE narrative, from my reading experience is really spiralling down into the Slough of Despondency. This murky depression is certainly the PHYSICAL reality of Martin and Mark in “Eden,” where desolation and disease reigns and Martin is suffering from some malady which appears to be responsible for the death of many who have gone before him, and has just taken the life of the infant who Mark had cared for on the ocean passage over from London. This narrative thread, in short, has hit rock bottom. Eden has become a hellish place to lay down one’s roots.

        Likewise the narrative stream involving the Pecksniff, Tom, Martin Sr., and Mary grouping. Pecksniff has physically and psychologically cornered and virtually tortured Mary, he’s fired Tom, and is back to currying favor with old Martin. The only possible bright spot is Charity’s leaving for Mrs. Todgers–where I hope she’ll find some solace with her “courtship” of the “youngest gentleman.” But the overall outlook in this segment of the novel is pretty much gloom and doom, too. The relationship Cherry has with the young gentleman is really quite tenuous; I feel like the only hold she has on him is her resemblance to her sister’s profile which really only adds to his depression over the loss of Merry with her marriage to Jonas. He continues to weep copious tears over this loss.

        And then there is the set of narratives, first involving Jonas in the insurance scam, and second leading to the horrible mistreatment of his young wife, Mercy. I’m not exactly cheering for Jonas to be ripped off, here, because I know that his temperament–if he should lose his savings–will wreak havoc on Merry. He becomes the victim of the scam, and she will become the victim of his wrath. This is so complicated and, ultimately, very sordid. Doom piled upon Doom. The “positive” by-product of this narrative sequence is the reappearance of young Bailey who has always held a soft spot in his heart for Mercy and is very saddened by his realization of how badly Jonas is treating her and his seeing the disintegration of her physically. Can he DO anything for her now is the question the reader has when leaving this part of the narrative.

        But as a kind of symbol for all this darkness is the narrative involving Sarah Gamp. Great comic figure–I’m not so sure. If comic, then it’s dark, morbid, theater of the absurd kind of comedy. Yep, her dialogue is wildly fantastic, and she seems to create quite a swath for herself wherever she goes, setting forth her own rules for what she needs and how she’ll get it to achieve satisfaction for herself on the job. In some ways, she resembles Martin Jr. who always wants things his way with little regard for others. But a close reading of her character gets to the predatory nature of her “profession,” preying on situations where older and enfeebled folks are dying. She might think of herself as some kind of angel of mercy, but really she’s more of a morbid vampire character living off the situations of her dying “clients.” The angel of death, really!

        So, what is Mr. D gong to do with all this Darkness and despair? That’s the question I have as I move through Chapter 33. He COULD achieve more darkness, but then the novel would veer wildly towards tragedy. Hmmmm…that’s where we are, now. But this is a “comedy,” right??? Yet, I hope, we readers might be at some kind of crossroads. Maybe there’s SOME relief to all this nasty gloom!

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Greetings!

    Lenny, thanks for your well-wishing. I am on day #5 of my COVID quarantine.

    With the help of the anti-viral medication, Paxlovid, and doing all of the right protocols, I’m feeling ready to emerge from my caccoon!

    Thanks much for your comments about Tom Pinch, which confirm my impression of this dear and, as you note, somewhat obtuse soul!

    Like you, I’m not sure what made Dickens think that MC as his best story yet. Clearly, his genius shines through every work and every page of every work.

    But, MC seems to be missing some of the best of his characters we have encountered so far–e.g., Nicholas Nickleby, Ralph Nickleby, Fagin, the Artful Dodger, Sam Weller, Mr. Pickwick, Mrs. Crumbles, to name just a very few!

    Blessings, and have a blessed and joyful Thanksgiving!


    Liked by 3 people

    1. I don’t know where Dickens took that idea into his head, about his “best work” to date, but I think perhaps he was occasionally inclined to favor whichever work was his current…I know he said the same when he wrote A Tale of Two Cities–and I think at least one other–and, of course, his darling child was David Copperfield. Hmm….

      Pecksniff is an utterly **brilliant** iconic character, and of course I love Tom and Mark, but otherwise, there are not many here with whom I want to spend my days like I do with Sam, Pickwick, Nicholas & Noggs, Mr. Mantalini, Dick and the Marchioness, etc…

      Lenny, Dan & Stationmaster…Just loving these reflections!

      It is really difficult to see lively Merry become crushed under the cruelty of Jonas Chuzzlewit…one of the more despicable characters, I think, in any novel.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Totally agreed about Dickens likely favoring the current book . . . and Pecksniff is a remarkable portrait.

    One of the satisfactions in reading Dickens is that, typically and in time, the villains get their due and the good emerge intact and “triumphant.”

    I consider Dickens to be the master of literary providence!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Friends, addressing the question of Dickens’s assessment of MC, I’ve copied the first section of Steven Marcus’s Chapter 6: The Self and the World from his book, “Dickens from Pickwick to Dombey” (1965) and linked it below. There are more recent critiques of MC, but I like Marcus’s treatment. In a nutshell, Marcus points to the “greatness of . . . its prose”, discussing how Dickens not simply uses language but also the use he makes of language to tell his story. If I understand Marcus correctly, his argument is that in MC Dickens has successfully corralled language to do his bidding – this is the “power” Dickens recognizes he has and which he will use to great advantage in his forthcoming works.

    (Again, please let me know if you have any trouble opening the link.)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I can’t really say I agree since I don’t find Martin Chuzzlewit, either the dialogue or the prose, more quotable than plenty of other Dickens books. Probably less so than some. Still, Marcus’s chapter was an interesting read.


  5. Chapter 31 is the most emotionally devastating in the book for me, especially these bits

    And now the full agitation and misery of the disclosure came rushing upon Tom indeed. The star of his whole life from boyhood had become, in a moment, putrid vapour. It was not that Pecksniff, Tom’s Pecksniff, had ceased to exist, but that he never had existed. In his death Tom would have had the comfort of remembering what he used to be, but in this discovery, he had the anguish of recollecting what he never was. For, as Tom’s blindness in this matter had been total and not partial, so was his restored sight. His Pecksniff could never have worked the wickedness of which he had just now heard, but any other Pecksniff could; and the Pecksniff who could do that could do anything, and no doubt had been doing anything and everything except the right thing, all through his career. From the lofty height on which poor Tom had placed his idol it was tumbled down headlong, and
    Not all the king’s horses, nor all the king’s men,
    Could have set Mr Pecksniff up again.
    Legions of Titans couldn’t have got him out of the mud; and serve him right! But it was not he who suffered; it was Tom. His compass was broken, his chart destroyed, his chronometer had stopped, his masts were gone by the board; his anchor was adrift, ten thousand leagues away.

    Early on summer mornings, and by the light of private candle-ends on winter nights, he had read himself half blind in this same room. He had tried in this same room to learn the fiddle under the bedclothes, but yielding to objections from the other pupils, had reluctantly abandoned the design. At any other time he would have parted from it with a pang, thinking of all he had learned there, of the many hours he had passed there; for the love of his very dreams. But there was no Pecksniff; there never had been a Pecksniff, and the unreality of Pecksniff extended itself to the chamber, in which, sitting on one particular bed, the thing supposed to be that Great Abstraction had often preached morality with such effect that Tom had felt a moisture in his eyes, while hanging breathless on the words.

    Yet it’s gratifying that Tom maintains and even gains his dignity throughout the chapter.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Chris:

      MUCH thanks for posting this energizing chapter on CD’s writing style as it appears in MC. It really gets at Dickens’ maturing use of language and its powerful effects on the reader and, thus, his readers’ response. To me, it helps explain how I so intensely relate to the highs and lows, the comic and the tragic in MC. Part of my continual feeling of the edginess of this “problem” novel comes from the very deliberate control the author has over my emotions from sentence to sentence, page to page, and chapter-by-chapter.

      Late in his essay, Marcus reminds us about Dickens’ disappointment over the lack of reader enthusiasm that he felt while writing the novel from month to month. The sales were down and the critics were rather subdued in their appreciation of this newer phase in his writing. What CD needed to realize, I think, is that this utterly intense story–with its many AND complex narrative strains–created new challenges for his readers. As I think it has done for the readers in this group. This is his most complicated novel to date, the subject matter can be pretty distasteful and quite depressing in many respects, and it didn’t, for the casual reader in the early 1840’s, feature an abundance of the sections of light comedy present in the novels before it. He’s definitely entered a new phase with his writing, and I think his reading public wasn’t quite ready for it.

      But in my subsequent reading from a few days ago (after the despondency I felt while reading Chapter 33), I’ve come to realize that I’ve moved past the “inflection point” I earlier mentioned, and with the galloping bravado of Tom Pinch during that wonderful coach ride from Peckniff’s to London, have arrived at something quite different while getting to the other side of the crossroads–along with and because of Tom. What the heck. If he can take Pecksniff’s horrible psychological pummeling and survive, I guess I can too, and regale myself with his and my escape from the clutches of this horrible, despicable man! Free at last (I hope)!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Ditto from me, Stationmaster. This is rough stuff for Tom to deal with, and because we readers identify so closely with him and ALL his circumstances, we just have to suffer along with him. This is one of many passages which I’ve labeled the “inflection point on MC. The reader and the novel can only stand so much sadness and disappointment, that something’s got to give. And we see that ultimately Tom can ride this sad situation out and take that beautiful. refreshing, and renewing coach ride to London.

      Here’s the Key: His joy, the beautifully galloping prose is the writer’s joy, and this all leads to the reader’s joy! We may have crossed the line from dark tragedy to redeeming comic feeling and events.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!!
    I’m probably not going to get this week’s reading done and prepare a post because of the holiday – I’ve been cooking and wish you all could be here to join my family for the holiday (it’s my favorite meal to cook and my family’s happy faces confirm that I do a good job!).

    Wishing you all a safe holiday filled with good reading, good food, and lots of love!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. For me, the big disappointment of Martin Chuzzlewit (the book) is how Dickens handles the redemption of Martin the younger. Nearly all of his scenes during the book’s “opening act” emphasize that he’s a jerk, then roughly two thirds of the way through, he just has this big revelation with no buildup in the previous chapters and becomes a perfectly virtuous character for the rest of the story. Lame.

    The impetus of his revelation though is interesting in that it’s a motif that will reoccur throughout Dickens’s books: a character undergoing some sort of spiritual rebirth while being ill and being cared for by someone who’s morally superior to them. We’ll see this again in Dombey and Son, (arguably) Little Dorrit, Great Expectations and Our Mutual Friend. In a way, we’ve already seen it with Dick Swiveller in The Old Curiosity Shop, though I’m not sure if he was immoral enough before his illness for it to count. This version in Martin Chuzzlewit is unusual in that it’s not when he’s sick and Mark Tapley is tending to him that Martin is reborn (at least not explicitly) but rather afterwards when their positions have been reversed.

    My favorite part of the book’s American section is actually near the tail end of it. In the conversation between Martin and Elijah Pogram, Dickens totally captured how annoying it is to try to discuss something with someone who refuses to actually interact with any of your arguments and keeps repeating the same points over and over. (“The morbid hatred to our institutions yadda yadda.”)

    Maybe I’m getting some sort of weird Stockholm Syndrome, but towards the end of being stuck in America with Martin and Mark, I actually started to see the appeal of the “American ideal” the residents kept spouting. It seems like one of the non-moral things that disgusted Dickens about America was the way it romanticized the rugged “natural” outdoorsman. While I’ve no attraction to rugged living myself (I prefer the library), I think it can be argued there’s a genuine poetic appeal to the type. Or maybe Dickens is so eloquent himself that even his attempts at writing ineloquence for his character to say ends up being eloquent. LOL.

    Speaking of which, when the Americans were blathering about the beauty of nature, was anyone else reminded of Squeers doing the same thing in Chapter 45 of Nicholas Nickleby?

    I have a new blog post up about some…interesting adaptations of two of Charles Dickens’s Christmas books. As I wrote earlier, half the images on it are only appearing on certain browsers. (At least that’s the case with my laptop.) I’d appreciate it if you guys could give it a read (it’s pretty short by my standards) and I hope you can find a way to read it with all the images.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I forgot to warn you that one of the Christmas specials discussed in my blog post is adapted from The Cricket on the Hearth, which is less well known than A Christmas Carol in Prose, so if anyone hasn’t read it yet and doesn’t want in spoiled, they should skip that part. Of course, that particular adaptation is highly inaccurate, so I don’t know how much reading my blog post would spoil, but better to be safe than sorry.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I really wish this book had been The Life and Adventures of Tom Pinch. His character arc is a lot better than Martin Chuzzlewit’s. Here’s a great speech he gives to his sister’s employer.

    ‘When you tell me,’ resumed Tom, who was not the less indignant for keeping himself quiet, ‘that my sister has no innate power of commanding the respect of your children, I must tell you it is not so; and that she has. She is as well bred, as well taught, as well qualified by nature to command respect, as any hirer of a governess you know. But when you place her at a disadvantage in reference to every servant in your house, how can you suppose, if you have the gift of common sense, that she is not in a tenfold worse position in reference to your daughters?’

    ‘Pretty well! Upon my word,’ exclaimed the gentleman, ‘this is pretty well!’

    ‘It is very ill, sir,’ said Tom. ‘It is very bad and mean, and wrong and cruel. Respect! I believe young people are quick enough to observe and imitate; and why or how should they respect whom no one else respects, and everybody slights? And very partial they must grow—oh, very partial!—to their studies, when they see to what a pass proficiency in those same tasks has brought their governess! Respect! Put anything the most deserving of respect before your daughters in the light in which you place her, and you will bring it down as low, no matter what it is!’

    ‘You speak with extreme impertinence, young man,’ observed the gentleman.

    ‘I speak without passion, but with extreme indignation and contempt for such a course of treatment, and for all who practice it,’ said Tom. ‘Why, how can you, as an honest gentleman, profess displeasure or surprise at your daughter telling my sister she is something beggarly and humble, when you are for ever telling her the same thing yourself in fifty plain, outspeaking ways, though not in words; and when your very porter and footman make the same delicate announcement to all comers?

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    1. Stationmaster, I’d love to more fully engage with some of the things you’ve brought up (and yes, although I love my long walks, I too am more library inclined than outdoorsy!!!) but I realize that I not only finished this week’s reading rather late to make as many comments as I’d like, but now need to really start pulling together the wrap up. However, your wishing that this could be the “life & adventures of Tom Pinch,” I COMPLETELY agree with. I love Tom, and have always felt inspired by him. Although some might not have patience or fondness for it, I confess I love the domestic scenes between Ruth and Tom, and of course John Westlock, too, once he comes more into the picture again.

      When Tom comes in (very Nicholas Nickleby-style) to rescue Ruth from her situation of (I suppose one could say) verbal/emotional abuse at her employer’s home, I just want to cheer. And I love the whole scenario with the mysterious benevolent benefactor who comes in and gives Tom (SO deservedly) a kind of dream job: secretarial, looking after & organizing BOOKS! And for 100 pounds a year?!?! (When we recall that Nicholas was to have 5 pounds per year at Dotheboys Hall…!!!) Boy, how many of us could sure use that mysterious benevolent benefactor!

      I can’t help but wonder whether, considering Dickens’ childhood history at the blacking factory, and some of his early work struggles, whether he creates in his novels the kind of situation he would **loved** to have had himself: the sibling who comes in to rescue one out of a degrading work situation and assures you that they’ll stick with you thick and thin to make it work; the benevolent benefactor to give you the kind of job that inspires the loyalty & devotion, and gives the personal financial security, that eases the burden of all of these work considerations…?

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  9. Yeah, I agree with both of you. The domestic situations at Tom and Ruth’s really “work” for me, especially as they contrast so vividly with most of the living environments in the rest of the novel. The Pecksniff home is filled with hypocrisy, jealousy and artificiality, especially when Martin Sr. takes up his residence there, the “home” of Jonas and Merry is a place of abuse and other sordid happenings and, of course, there are the horrible “domestic” circumstances that Martin and Mark find themselves in and almost die in in the backwoods of America. Other positive alternatives to these negative living spaces are Todgers’s and The Blue Dragon Inn. Here again we find people living with each other in some kind of harmony and fellowship. Yet, we might not classify them as “homes” as such.

    Can we then call the Tom and Ruth relationship and the welcoming and wonderful place they set up for themselves the domestic “model” to which the novel moves toward?

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