The Pickwick Club discussion

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In which Pickwick is discussed > Episodes V-VI, Chapters 12-17

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message 1: by Jonathan (last edited Mar 12, 2013 10:09PM) (new)

Jonathan Moran | 666 comments Mod
Episodes V and VI, in which Mrs. Bardell thinks Mr. Pickwick is proposing to her, instead he has a proposal for Sam Weller, who becomes his valet, accompanies him and the rest of the club to Eatanswill; they all take part in the town election, the highlights of which are the mayor's speech and a riotous fight between the Blues and the Buffs. Included is the story told by the bagman as well as the love story entitled The Parish Clerk. (I like these side bars.)

At the masquerade breakfast given in honor of many celebrated achievers, we have the reappearance of the devious Mr. Jingle who once again trumps Mr. Pickwick's sagacity, and escapes quietly into the good night.

Fellow Pickwickians, place your observations here:


message 2: by Jonathan (last edited Mar 12, 2013 10:34PM) (new)

Jonathan Moran | 666 comments Mod
I am beginning to appreciate the Pickwick Papers for its historical look into everyday Victorian life. The election is another example of Dickens giving us an inside look at what life was like during his time, not much different than what we are accustomed to today. In the Blues and the Buffs, we can see the Whigs and the Tories, and the Democrats and the Republicans. Sad to say, we can also see the Communists and the Nazis. This scene is not lacking in references to the misconduct and underhanded dealings of the two parties. They even go so far as to try to prevent people from voting for the other side.

Last November, I heard on the radio some people in Ohio complaining that they were unfairly discriminated against and told they had to vote absentee, while others who came after them got to vote on Election Day. Whether or not this was true, it was unsubstantiated; nevertheless, we can see that some 170 years after Dickens wrote about this kind of political corruption it is still a prevalent issue in today's world.


message 3: by Jonathan (last edited Mar 12, 2013 10:20PM) (new)

Jonathan Moran | 666 comments Mod
I appreciate the little stories that Dickens disperses throughout. I would classify these as his Short Stories, and it is cool to read them inside of a novel, where there is some background as to why and by whom they are being told. I am looking forward to The Goblin Who Stole a Sexton; I believe this is included somewhere in the Pickwick Papers. I first read this short story in a collection called Dicken's Christmas Ghost Stories or something of that nature.


message 4: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 666 comments Mod
The reappearance of the man we first knew as the stranger, then as Mr. Jingle, and now as Mr. Fitz-Marshall, actually gives this novel a recurring theme, if not a plot. Now, there is a major problem to solve; it is a Literature teacher's dream.

Again, I love the way that he reintroduces that man each time. His speech is such a dead giveaway that we recognize him as quickly as the characters who happen to be in the same room with him. "As quick as I can -- crowds of people -- full room -- hard work -- very."

They say birds of a feather flock together. It is funny that his servant turns out to be as much of a scoundrel as himself.


message 5: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy Jonathan wrote: "I appreciate the little stories that Dickens disperses throughout. I would classify these as his Short Stories, and it is cool to read them inside of a novel, where there is some background as to w..."

I'm not reading the novel at present, and I think I would hardly manage to catch up with you, but I remember that I also really liked this idea of embedding short stories into the plot. Dickens did that in "Nicholas Nickleby", too, where there is quite a funny ghost story, but in NN he just did it once or twice, in the first instalments. Maybe his reason for doing this was to stretch his material - I mean each instalment had to be of a certain length, didn't it - or this allowed him to use material he already had at hand.

Even if the reasons may have been partly pragmatic ones, I think these stories create a kaleidoscopic effect, which makes the reading experience more easy-going at the same time.


message 6: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy It's been a long time since I read that book, and I think there is only one, or at the most, two short stories inside. The story I can remember does not have anything to do really with the main story. It's a funny ghost story about a Baron of Grogzwig, but I cannot recall the circumstances in which it was told.

Aside: I must say I really like looking in here on a regular basis. It's great to meet people who love Dickens and discuss his books with them.


message 7: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy I've half a mind of doing that as well but then I think it may be a great experience to read the book at the same speed as some kindred spirits. I had OT in my hands, though, yesterday and flicked through it.

I was actually once thinking of joining a reading circle of some of my colleagues from work but our book tastes didn't go too well together, and so I abandoned the idea.


message 8: by Cleo (last edited Mar 20, 2013 09:40AM) (new)

Cleo (cleopatra18) I'm still trying to catch up ~ I've at chapter 15 now.

I loved the proposal scene! While Pickwick has gone through a number of surprises, he doesn't strike me as someone who easily goes with the flow. Usually his manners and decorum are what allow him to handle unexpected situations but here, he seems completely at a loss. I was very glad to see Sam Weller turn up ...... he seems like a character who will add greatly to the story.

I was a little surprised with the behaviour of Jingle so far. Not to say that I perceived him as trustworthy, but he was making himself so agreeable to everyone, I thought his deceit would be a little more conniving. I expected him to be able to wiggle out of his duplicity when/if he was caught but he was quite unashamed and confrontational. I suppose desperation makes one bolder.


message 9: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 666 comments Mod
It seems like Jingle was glad he got caught. He was relieved of his burden, but still got paid. He is a despicable schister, I dare say.


message 10: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 666 comments Mod
Cleo wrote: "I'm still trying to catch up ~ I've at chapter 15 now.

I loved the proposal scene! While Pickwick has gone through a number of surprises, he doesn't strike me as someone who easily goes with the ..."


I read somewhere that the sales of the publication The Pickwick Papers were originally published in skyrocketed when Dickens introduced Sam into the story. There are certainly some humorous scenes with him and Pickwick in the next couple of episodes.


message 11: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2034 comments Jonathan wrote: "I am beginning to appreciate the Pickwick Papers for its historical look into everyday Victorian life. The election is another example of Dickens giving us an inside look at what life was like duri..."

I agree totally with your observation that Dickens seems prescient about where politics is going to be in 21st Century US. The practice of setting your policies primarily as the principle of opposing whatever the other side proposes seems to be the prevailing view on both sides of the aisle in Washington these days. And how can we not see the ardent party-based media alive, well, and kicking in CNN/MSNBC/FOX? As I read the election chapters I wondered how Dickens could foretell our future so accurately.

I don't know enough, though, to know whether, as you say, he is giving us a "historical look into everyday Victorian life." Is he showing a realistic, historical picture of elections circa 1848? Or is he, as he does throughout most of PP, exaggerating and satirizing? His picture of elections is far more strident and violent, for example, than Trollope's in the Palliser series. I don't know which author is giving us a more accurate description, but if I had to guess I would guess that Dickens is spicing things up more than a historical record would support. But I've been wrong about Dickens before, and may well be here.


message 12: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2034 comments Tristram wrote: "Maybe his reason for doing this [embedding the stories] was to stretch his material - I mean each instalment had to be of a certain length, didn't it - or this allowed him to use material he already had at hand. "

I've had this suspicion lurking in the back of my mind, too. Dickens had been used to writing shorter material -- Sketches by Boz, primarily, but I think also a few short stories -- and I suspect that he may have had unpublished works floating around that he could incorporate into the text quickly and easily.

I might feel differently if I could find any connection between the stories and the text in general -- if they seemed to shed a slanting light on the actions of the main characters, or give us insight into the nature and thinking of the main characters, but so far they do seem to me to be almost random insertions. Which leads me to think that you may well be right in your speculation.


message 13: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2034 comments Cleo wrote: "I loved the proposal scene!"

Ditto. I especially liked the subtlety of the humor, as opposed to the broader, almost slapstick humor of some of the other scenes. The proposal was a gem!


message 14: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2034 comments Jonathan wrote: "It seems like Jingle was glad he got caught. He was relieved of his burden, but still got paid. He is a despicable schister, I dare say."

Yes, yes, and yes.


message 15: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 666 comments Mod
Everyman wrote: "Jonathan wrote: "I don't know enough, though, to know whether, as you say, he is giving us a "historical look into everyday Victorian life." Is he showing a realistic, historical picture of elections circa 1848? Or is he, as he does throughout most of PP, exaggerating and satirizing?"

I don't really know anything about it either, but my reading of it, in the context of this comedy, and "observed" by these characters, I would venture to guess that much of this is exaggerated. However, if one was to write a political comedy today, I think the same exaggerations would be applicable. Only instead of the two opposing newspapers, it would probably be two opposing T.V. news stations, as you proposed. But, I don't know though, in Chicago we do have two politically diametrically opposed newspapers the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun Times. I forget which is which, but I know that one always endorses conservatives and the other liberals. This is what surprised me. 150 years later, and party politics are more the same than they are changed.

By no means, do I take any of this story to be as factual as a historical book. But, I do feel like I am getting a glimpse into the lifestyles of Victorian men and women. We do find out a little about how the inns operated, the availability of a ball to attend, hunting expeditions, elections, taverns, sports, etc. You name it, it is here. Maybe these are not detailed or entirely accurate descriptions, but if someone found this book 3,000 years from now, they would get a pretty good idea of the kind of goings-on there were in Victorian England. I don't know if they would realize that much of this was written with a comedic spin, though.


message 16: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 666 comments Mod
Everyman wrote: "Tristram wrote: "Maybe his reason for doing this [embedding the stories] was to stretch his material - I mean each instalment had to be of a certain length, didn't it - or this allowed him to use m..."

Most of the stories are told in a town tavern by the locals. They are local legends. Even if they are fictitious, they do tell us something about the times and the setting. The folklore of the various locations is actually a pretty structurally important part of a peoples' culture, which most authors leave out. You could look at this in that light, and then feel that we are learning more about the setting of the novel and the culture thereof. For example, an historian studying Ancient Greece would learn a lot about the people's customs and way of life by studying Greek Mythology even though those stories are fiction (we think, anyways)!

I tend to take that view, which allows me to read the work as a masterpiece with intricately woven details that few other authors would think of; a little dessert to go along with the main course; instead, of taking the traditional American view of, he added these to meet a deadline, fulfill a contract, and make money.

After all, these are good short stories. One of them, which comes later, made it into my Christmas Ghost Stories by Charles Dickens paperback which came out in the 1980s. I read that one, the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton, a while back, and was able to do so without learning anything about the Pickwick Club or its plot. As a standalone story, it fit pretty well within the collection.

This was a time when a lot of authors were releasing collections of their short stories, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, to name a few. Dickens just took his and weaved them into his plot. There are some later on that are much more relevant to the place in which they are told. I guess we will save that part of the discussion until then!!!


message 17: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2034 comments Jonathan wrote: "By no means, do I take any of this story to be as factual as a historical book. But, I do feel like I am getting a glimpse into the lifestyles of Victorian men and women. "

Most definitely. As long as we read, as I know we both do, with due regard for the exaggerations (I will use your term, though I consider it mild!) involved.


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