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Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens
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's review
Jun 04, 10

Read in March, 2010

Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens wasn’t a particularly long novel (unlike War and Peace) nor was the language particularly challenging (like the writing of Proust) yet I had a difficult time completing this novel.

The characters in the book were incredibly rich, but many of them were completely unlikeable. The entire Pecksniff family, father and daughters alike, were despicable. The duplicitous nature of Seth Pecksniff made me ill each time he entered the scene. His blatant hypocrisy and pandering in the hopes of increasing his wealth and social standing was nauseating. While the daughters may have received unfair treatment by other characters, the manner in which they treated Pinch more than warranted the karmic payback. Jonas Chuzzlewit, a swindler and wife beater, at least received his due in the end.

Sending a few of the characters off to America to try to make a fresh start was a bit confusing. It didn’t further the story and really only provided the author with a means at taking pot shots at the “U-nited States.” He made the entire country out to be a savage, disease infested wilderness run by a bunch of con-men. The characters’ survival of their time in Eden, however, did help forge their bonds through the remainder of the story.

One main theme in the story, found in much of Dicken’s writing, is a commentary on class distinction. While Pinch was a surveyor and civil engineer, trades that are considered to be respectable today, he was always treated as a second class citizen by the Pecksniffs; often to the point of appearing to be no more than a lap dog. However, his higher caliber of character raises him in the end.

The entire Pecksniff-Chuzzlewit clan could justify any means of advancing their standing. From their poor treatment of others, swindling through Ponzi schemes and even murder, nothing was beneath them and everything was rationalized to be morally acceptable. Their self righteous attitudes towards their foul deeds made them all the more corrupt.

In retrospect, I think my difficulties may have roots in the fact that I simply didn’t like the people about which I was reading. The story was secondary to the characters and their moral defects.

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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Mara The Pecksniff family is supposed to be horrid and nauseating and unlikable.

Paul Guess that came through loud and clear.

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