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Martin Chuzzlewit
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The Dickens Project - Archives > Martin Chuzzlewit, Chapters 27-30, March 11 - March 17

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Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Dear Dickens Project Participants,

Despite the temporal seasonal disability for me, it is time to read and discuss the next part of the novel. I am looking forward to your commentaries, ideas, and impressions. Please post your thoughts below.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments The section is quite multifaceted and also significantly insightful. There are a lot of smaller revelations, but I sincerely believe that are all significant for the gradually shaping plot.
As some of you noticed, Dickens's criticism of American business enterprises is quite bitter and caustic. On the other hand, in this section he tries to balance his criticism by offering a counter-critical look at the Ponzi scheme, The Anglo-Bengalee Disinterested Loan and Life Assurance Company, organized by Tigg, who mysteriously switched the parts of his name, a certain shadowy person, named David, and Jonas, who joins them later. Reading Dickens from the historic point of view, the powerful understanding of how his 'dated' novels are still accurate in the description of human virtues and vices becomes stronger daily. The darker sides of Jonas are revealed more and more in this chapter as he willingly accepts the offer to join the fraudulent investment and pawn company without any qualms. The second part of the same chapter is even more revealing because it sheds light on his family life, that is quite bleak for Merry. As the books unfolds, we learn about the abusive side of Jonas. To tell you the truth, it is for the first time I felt sorry for Merry. Conversely, this crucible of marriage could be a tide-turner for her and will possibly serve as a sobering experience, turning her into a more compassionate woman.

Dickens is far from done from the Pecksniffs in this section as he focuses more on Charity and her desire to start a semi-independent life at the Todger's that definitely reflects her wish to be loved and admired. The ease with which Seth parts with his other daughter reveals his dark motives. The description of his attempts to woo Mary Graham is quite unpleasant to read, and it intentionally creates the feeling of disgust and revulsion. The biggest irony in this rather graphic description is that Seth is totally delusional about his appearance, his own sexual unattractiveness, and one can only question if he is really smitten by Mary Graham, or are there underlying pecuniary motives.

Dickens also prefers to focus more on his fringe characters – they provide a comic relief and possibly a tool to reveal to readers some darker secrets of the Chuzzlewit household. The game is afoot!


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Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Historical Commentaries and Annotations.

Chapter 27

1. Newmarket: a leading town for horse-racing.

2. golden balls: Lombard's Arms: pawnbroker's signs.

3. our common uncle: the pawnbroker's

4. pass the Hall and College: pass the medical examinations of Apothecaries' Hall and the College of Surgeons.

5. Bis dat qui cito dat: (Latin) he gives twice who gives soon.

6. Jack Nokes or Tom Styles: imaginary names used in legal documents.

7. Change: meeting place for merchants, here the Royal Exchange in the City of London.

8. Garraways: a coffee-house in Exchange Alley, Cornhill


Chapter 28

1. scaly: poor, shabby, despicable

2. Miss Biffin: Sarah Biffin (1784 - 1850), born without arms and legs, a popular fair-ground attraction.


Chapter 29

1. jack-towel: roller-towel

2. Bragian: brazen

3. inwalieges: invalids

4. walley of the shadder: Valley of the Shadow (of Death), Psalms 23:4

5. Moore's Almanack: Old Moore's Almanack, a popular compendium of astrological predictions.

6. St Polge's fontin: the font in St Paul's cathedral

7. ingun: onion


Chapter 30

1. Cymonds: Cymon was civilized through his love for Iphigenia in Dryden's Cymon and Iphegenia (1699), based on a tale in Boccaccio's Decameron.


Sarah | 269 comments This section has certainly proven to be unsettling, to say the least! Dickens is maintaining sufficient plot twists to complement the character basis of the novel and keep the reader engaged as we approach what may be the climax. One of the aspects that I find so intriguing is the artful way in which Dickens suffuses humor into otherwise frightening or deplorable situations. Tigg, despite his name inversion, is “the same Satanic, gallant, military Tigg” (chapter 27); I wondered at the choice of adjective here, as I did not previously consider him to be evil, just a rogue, but now I wonder. His Anglo-Bengalee Disinterested Loan and Life Assurance Company (the name made me laugh out loud when I read it) furthers the theme of deception, on which it is built. It is truly “a light-hearted little fiction” (chapter 27). Tigg and Crimple have both changed their names, and the office is marked by superfluity in appearance. Of course the insurance is a fraud, down to Dr. Jobling’s medical assessments, and I was not surprised when Jonas joined the group. Jobling begins to say, “Talk of the devil” when Jonas arrives but refrains. Even Jonas is deceived, however, which made me uneasy and again called into question just how depraved Tigg may turn out to be. Tigg himself says, “We companies are all birds of prey; mere birds of prey” (chapter 27), and he dispatches Nadgett to find out more about Jonas.

I am of course eager to find out what Mr. Lewsome has to relate about Anthony Chuzzlewit’s demise, particularly as he says that he had a role in it; I just hope that the truth is extracted before he himself falls victim to either ill health or foul play!

Dickens again demonstrates his forte for transitioning when he compares Mercy’s marriage to her being severed from the Pecksniff family tree as a surgeon amputates a limb at the beginning of chapter 30. Of course, Jonas is just as reprehensible as was expected, and I even felt sorry for Mercy because it seemed that, flawed as she is, she is trying to have a happy marriage and be a good wife. What did shock me, however, was Pecksniff’s plan to marry Mary Graham as a way of assuring himself of old Martin’s fortune. I guess I underestimated his avarice. It is interesting that both Charity and Mary are aware of the men’s true natures—old Martin’s, Jonas’s, and Pecksniff’s. Pecksniff seems to be aware of the love between Mary and young Martin, too, as he uses him as a pawn of sorts. I certainly hope that his designs aren’t fulfilled, and I am puzzling over the elder Martin’s behavior. Is he really experiencing senility, or is he acting? He remains a mystery…


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Robin P | 2034 comments Mod
I thought the last set of chapters depicted Deception well, but now we have professionals at work - the Anglo-Bengalee company is not so different from some internet companies whose high stock prices a few years back didn't match their actual worth or earnings. It's interesting how Jonas, who thinks he is so smart, is being manipulated by masters.

Jonas as a husband reminded me of Quilp in Old Curiosity Shop, expecting his wife to stay up all night for him and treating her cruelly. Of course if she ever complained to her father he wouldn't believe her (or care!)

And Pecksniff is self-deceived in his attentions to Mary Graham. I think she was much too polite to him and should have knocked him down. But he has another deception going, he threatens young Martin's future and hints that he would help the young man. That is also a deception, if Mary thinks she needs to marry Pecksniff to help her true love, she will find it doesn't help at all.

And what will Tom Pinch do, when the 2 people he adores, Pecksniff (ugh!) and Mary, are at odds? Notice how Pecksniff says Mary will have the house to herself because Pinch is nobody.


Sarah | 269 comments My understanding was that Pecksniff only wants to get together with Mary because he is after elder Martin Chuzzlewit's money, not necessarily because he is particularly attracted to her. Also, I wondered how much (if anything) he knew about the love between Mary and young Martin, which would explain his trying to use Martin as a pawn. Perhaps I miscalculated while reading. I'd like to believe that Pecksniff isn't that deplorable.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments I think his motives are two-fold. He is definitely physically attracted to her, otherwise why would he woo her with very lewd propositions, but he also wants to be double sure that he will get a chunk of Chuzzlewit's money. There is another thing to consider. As far as I remember, it was mentioned either in the second or third chapter of the novel, that Mary, ostensibly will not gain anything after Martin's death. So his motives are hard to identify.


Sarah | 269 comments I didn't think that Mary would inherit, but I wonder if the elder Martin changed his mind; he seems to be different now than he was in the beginning--less strong-willed and more feeble. I wonder if Mary or Seth or someone else is to be named beneficiary? It's something interesting for me to think about as I puzzle this out! :-)


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Robin P | 2034 comments Mod
I thought Pecksniff said something about not believing that old Martin wouldn't leave Mary anything. He probably can't imagine someone would be devoted to someone else without monetary rewards (though ironically Pinch is thus devoted to him.)


Jennifer (bplayfuli) These chapters focus on exploring the depths of depravity within the already odious characters (Seth, Jonas, and Tigg) of the novel. We already knew they were nasty men but up to this point they were depicted as merely greedy schemers (aside from hints that Jonas is culpable in his father's death). Now Dickens shows that they are all far worse than I had imagined.

I wasn't surprised that Jonas was so easily taken in by Tigg and his phony insurance company. He's an avaricious man with a large helping of arrogance. He thinks he is sharper than everyone around him and it doesn't occur to him that Tigg could con him. Tigg feeds him just the right load of bull to swell his ego.

I really do feel sorry for Merry, especially when Jonas tells her he hates her and only married her so he could get his revenge for all the torments she put him through.

I'm certain that Pecksniff knows of the affection Mary feels for young Martin, as Martin's engagement was his reason for expelling him from his home. It seems he is possibly a womanizer and probably is attracted to Mary but I'm sure he doesn't love her. He's looking to ensure his hold on old Martin's fortune through this marriage. As Robin noted, he doubts old Martin would actually leave Mary out of his will.

The scene where he "woos" Mary made me sick. Dickens did a great job of making him thoroughly revolting! He's ugly inside and out. The way he forces his affections on her and basically blackmails her to keep silent about it - ugh!!!


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Jennifer wrote: "These chapters focus on exploring the depths of depravity within the already odious characters (Seth, Jonas, and Tigg) of the novel."

It does look like that Dickens focuses on one theme in every three or four chapters. I really do not know whether it is our interpretation or this is the mood Dickens was every time he was submitting the weekly section, but the thematic coherence is uncanny.


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Hedi | 938 comments I am still catching up. :-)
You have already mentioned the major points. I also thought of the Anglo-Bengalee Company as an English counter to the previously described American scam, with the difference that this one is showing off its full supposed glory. The perfection of scamming.
Interesting to see this in those times already, as we seem to have this issue of false investment opportunities and financial advisers especially in our days. However, Dickens depicts "this trade" in all its details and reflects again the world of the greedy and avaricious.

Jonas is really a wicked creep and a psychopath in some way. I also feel sorry for Merry, but she should have been a little wiser. When he was flirting with her sister, she made the impression that she despised him and could see a little into his real character, and still she married him. In these scenes I was also reminded of Quilp and his wife in TOCS.

Related to Pecksniff, I read it that he wants to assure himself of a part of Martin Chuzzlewits inheritance by marrying Mary. He thinks that it is almost impossible for MC to not leave her something. So in case he would not get anything directly, he would get it indirectly this way. Besides the fact that all his actions are based on his selfishness and greediness I was most disgusted by his attempt to blackmail Mary into this possible marriage.

I also thought it interesting that Mary looks through Pecksniff, which the old Martin does not seem to be able to, even though he must have done this for all those previous years in which he tried to cut his greedy relatives loose. We had the discussion previously whether there was more behind the request of a closer relationship with Pecksniff. At the moment I cannot see that, but maybe the later chapters will show.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Glad to see that you are back. Travelling is so disruptive when it comes to reading. Most people say that you read to kill time, but it never works for me - it only exhausts me.
A good point about Quilp and his wife. Dickens does not often show abusive relationships, but this is a recurring topic as we see, and yes, he is a certain pioneer for his time.


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Frances (francesab) | 1778 comments Mod
Hedi wrote: "I am still catching up. :-)
You have already mentioned the major points. I also thought of the Anglo-Bengalee Company as an English counter to the previously described American scam, with the diff..."


I'm also trying to catch up, just finished ch. 30.

I agree about Jonas behaving like a young Quilp, interesting that Dickens writes in more than one novel about abusive relationships, and in this case it truly seems that Jonas went into the marriage just to be able to take revenge on Merry, that there was never any attraction/affection at all. I do feel sorry for Merry but suspect she will get her own back later on.

I think Pecksniff has miscalculated with Mary, both in that she wouldn't ever accept him, but also he thinks that by marrying her he can increase his control over MC, whereas I sense that, as happened with MC Jr., that he will only enrage the senior MC by his attentions to Mary. I only hope that she can see this and not feel under his power by his threats to harm her lover.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Frances wrote: "I think Pecksniff has miscalculated with Mary, both in that she wouldn't ever accept him, but also he thinks that by marrying her he can increase his control over MC."

I feel that at that point Pecksniff feels invulnerable - too many of his schemes turned out to be fruitful, so he lost the touch of reality.


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