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Martin Chuzzlewit
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The Dickens Project - Archives > Martin Chuzzlewit, Chapters 31 - 33, March 18 - March 24

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Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments This is the thread to discuss the next three chapters of the novel. As usual, I am looking forward to your posts and anticipating a lively discussion.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments This section is relatively short, but it does have a certain literary zip to it. The chapters are full of action and plot development; what's more, the characters tend to show some signs of evolution. My favorite one is chapter 28. It is about the adventures of Cherry in the big, big world of the Todgers's. This lady is driven by desires of finding a male companion and is using all her charm to attract possible suitors. Poor, poor Cherry. She is definitely portrayed as a preposterous, clumsy, oldish spinster, and one can only feel sorry for her, but it is a different feeling from the one we experience when Merry's familial life was revealed as abusive and neglected.

Dickens is a great connoisseur of human society, and I think his characters, especially in this novel, are not original because he is trying to show the prototypes of our society. Cherry is one of them, representing the embittered spinster. Mrs. Todgers is a woman of a certain experience with the ability of control business but also possesses some street smarts when it comes to the opposite sex.

Martin is another example of a prototypical character of a young, inexperienced man, kind-hearted, but egotistic because he was raised in a sheltered environment and unfamiliar with the big world around him. His exploration of the world can not get bigger than the one he has in the novel – he goes across the ocean to discover another country and another Martin and to find a true friend. His personal renaissance is cased by the misery of his situation; besides, for the first time he has to be self-reliant and take care of his sick friend/partner/valet. This emotional reawakening is quick and powerful at the same time. As any young man, he has to go through the ritual of initiation, a certain rite of passage.

And halleluiah, Pinch finally saw what he should have observed long time ago. I still think that Pinch, as well as Cherry and Martin, is a symbolic character. He is the one who always sees the world through the rose-tinted glasses and always sees the best in the humanity, even if the people around him are cruel and merciless. Dickens is one of the biggest humanists in literature, but I also think he (Dickens) is also sending a powerful message, saying that kindness without fists to defend itself can be totally useless. And isn't it symbolic that Pinch finds the double eye- glass in the church both as a sign of his newly discovered vision and the duplicity of Mr. Pecksniff?


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Commentaries

CHAPTER 32

1. half-price: theaters at this time would only charge half-price for the second part of the programme.

2. St Anthony's: St Anthony's fire, or erysipelas, a febrile disease, causing inflammation of the skin.

3. to pipe his eye: to weep or cry

4. Car of Juggernaut: in Hindu myth Juggernaut (or Jugganath) was a title of Krishna who effigy was carried on an enormous car, under whose wheels devotees are said to throw themselves.

5. Upas tree of java: a fabulous tree thought to destroy all life for miles around.

6. snuffers: device for putting out candles.

7. the great Lord Nelson's signal: 'England expect that every man will do his duty'

CHAPTER 33

1. jobbed out: poked or stabbed out

2. Lynch law: named after Captain William Lynch, a brutal process of illegal summary punishment, usually entailing whipping, tarring and feathering before execution.

3. spotted Painter: panther


Sarah | 269 comments Dickens has done a nice job of balancing out the horror and disgust of the previous section with some pleasant revelations in these three chapters, for which I am relieved and grateful! Of course I was so glad to read that Tom is finally parted from Pecksniff, although this was somewhat unsatisfying because I wish that he had quit before being discharged. In his defense, however, Pecksniff did not give him a chance to do so, which was obviously by design. I was proud of Tom for standing up to Pecksniff and not being cowed, and in a way I had to admire his refusal to bawl Pecksniff out for the sake of helping Mary, although I wish he had told Martin the truth (whether he would have believed it or not is debatable). I also wonder just how much good he has actually done Mary, as she will now be at the mercy of Pecksniff and the elder Martin.

I found it amusing that Dickens chose to compare Pecksniff’s fall from Tom’s graces to Humpty-Dumpty; he will definitely never be put back together again in Tom’s eyes—at least I hope not! I was also interested in how Tom dealt with the truth of Pecksniff’s nature—by removing his existence because there never was a benevolent Pecksniff to begin with. Also, it occurred to me that only Mary could have made Tom believe the truth; coming from anyone else’s lips it would have been disregarded and excused away, as we have seen with John Westlock and young Martin. In fact, Tom thinks that he could have forgiven Pecksniff if he had been only unkind to him and not to others—a reminder by Dickens that Tom is still a naïve and very self-effacing character. I hope that future events work in his favor and that, moreover, he gains self-confidence.

Regarding Charity, while Mr. Moddle is certainly not an ideal mate, he definitely seems to be better husband material than Jonas. Characteristic of a Pecksniff, Charity seems interested in marrying him only so that she can lord it over her sister that she has the better husband. I am still wondering if she and Tom will meet up later, recalling the alliance she made with him after he unintentionally injured Jonas.

Lastly, I am thrilled that young Martin is finally having a change of heart and attitude. Not surprisingly, it took Mark’s becoming ill and Martin’s having to stand on his own two feet and take care of someone besides himself to initiate this change. His reflections are self-revelatory, and at long last he realizes his selfishness and that Mark is the better man despite being less well-off financially and having fewer affluent connections. I was impressed by his letter to Mr. Bevan because he did not hesitate to humble himself, realizing that the world doesn’t owe him anything and that he must work for what he wants. He seems to be a better match for Mary now, although I still wonder if Tom and Mary will end up as a couple. Now that Martin is becoming more modest, I find that he may be a better husband because he possesses self-confidence and may prove to be a more astute observer of human nature, whereas Tom still seems to see himself as lower than everyone. Perhaps Tom, too, will yet undergo a transformation…


Sarah | 269 comments Zulfiya wrote: "And isn't it symbolic that Pinch finds the double eye- glass in the church both as a sign of his newly discovered vision and the duplicity of Mr. Pecksniff? "

Thank you, Zulfiya, for bringing my attention back to that revelatory moment! I remember it briefly catching my eye (no pun intended!) when I read it, but then I got caught up in the rest of the scene and forgot about it. It is truly a brilliant way to mark both Tom's eye-opening experience and Pecksniff's duplicity!


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Sarah wrote: "Thank you, Zulfiya, for bringing my attention back to that revelatory moment! I remember it briefly catching my eye (no pun intended!) when I read it, but then I got caught up in the rest of the scene and forgot about it. It is truly a brilliant way to mark both Tom's eye-opening experience and Pecksniff's duplicity!

It was totally accidental and revelatory! When I was reading, I just noticed this one as a detail that would confirm Pinch's suspicions about Pecksniff's act of eavesdropping, but when I was typing the post and looking through the chapters again, it was like a bolt of enlightenment:-) That is why book discussions are important. We will never be able to fully comprehend (excuse my split infinitive:-)) all the nuances. As psycho-linguists say, we will never be able to do it anyway, but some lacunae are filled in during the discussions.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Sarah wrote: "Characteristic of a Pecksniff, Charity seems interested in marrying him only so that she can lord it over her sister that she has the better husband."

What a noble intention to get married!

Excellent observations, as usual, Sarah!


Susan | 1 comments I have been enjoying Zulfiya's and Sarah's perspicuous comments on Dickens. I think I should free up time and join in these discussions. There's a lot of good observations being made here. I don't think I will be able to add much to the conversation except well-deserved applause but I will do my best.


Jennifer (bplayfuli) I don't have much to add here. I do get the impression that the engagement with Mr. Moddle is not likely to end successfully for Cherry. A weepy groom whose only interest in his bride is that her profile is like her sister's - doesn't sound like the basis for a successful marriage. Cherry is only interested in him because she is desperate to avoid spinsterhood and also because she views it as means of revenge upon her sister.

I tink most of my other thoughts on this section were admirably covered by Sarah and Zulfiya. Had to laugh at Zulfiya's use of the term "lacunae" as I am currently reading Barbara Kingsolver's "The Lacuna" for another group!


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Robin P | 2076 comments Mod
As far as Mr Moddle (I had read his name first as Moodie, which would be more appropriate!) and Cherry, I think he is wavering in his devotion to Merry - learning to "love the one you're with" - after all he is young and over time may find it harder to remember the "one who is another's". I was glad that Cherry stood up to her father and left the house instead of aiding his scheme with Mary.

I was happy to read Martin's transformation. It's interesting that he comes to value Tom Pinch as well as Mark. They are both devoted to others but Mark is totally clear-eyed. He has some great asides and one-liners with his judgments of those around him. Tom up till now had blind devotion. Certainly both Tom and Mark would help a mother and children, as Mark did on the ship, while young Martin only thought of his reputation and how much better he was than others. I think it's quite "modern" of Dickens to attribute Martin's character to his upbringing. As a Chuzzlewit, he learned to be self-serving and distrusting of others.

Mark continues his habit of always finding things not quite bad enough. It certainly seems they couldn't get much worse, but his positive energy brings him friends and support, even eventually from Martin. So much the opposite of most of us, who forget to appreciate how good our lives are because we are busy being annoyed by small inconveniences. You could say that's why Mark is so happy, because his life isn't all about him.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Jennifer wrote: "I think most of my other thoughts on this section were admirably covered by Sarah and Zulfiya. Had to laugh at Zulfiya's use of the term "lacunae" as I am currently reading Barbara Kingsolver's "The Lacuna" for another group! "

I was actually looking at the novel when I was typing the post. Nothing is accidental in our world full of texts. Intertexuality is pervasive!


Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Robin wrote: "You could say that's why Mark is so happy, because his life isn't all about him. "

If we only could do this trick - admit once that life is not always about us - I think there might be some hope for humanity. An excellent thought, Robin!

Unfortunately, I have to admit that I am often driven by egotism, and I am sure that I am not alone. On the other hand, Mark is a brilliant example of service without turning it into servitude.


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Robin P | 2076 comments Mod
The really amazing thing about Mark is he does everything with such a great sense of humor. Just recently someone remarked to me about the Dalai Lama having a wonderful sense of humor. This may sound like a pretty odd comparison, but Mark does have a sort of Buddhist sense that circumstances don't define him, that he can choose to be "jolly" at any time. He's unselfish without being annoyingly saintly as some of Dickens' characters can be (especially the women!)


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Hedi | 956 comments I think I cannot contribute much to the discussion any more, as everything has already been presented. However, I am definitely glad that I am catching up, even though this goes more slowly than I would have wished. :-)

To me these chapters were all about change / change of mind. As you all said it was about time for Tom's enlightenment regarding Pecksniff and I am glad that it did not just happen at the end of the novel. So there is still room for developing his character.
The same applies to Martin. As you, Zulfiya, said he even had to travel around half the globe, almost die and left almost helplessly alone taking care of another to start reflecting on himself. I liked especially his reflection on his behavior towards Mary and his growing awareness of her situation while he is gone. We had discussed this when they parted in the park.

One last, more general comment:
I would say this is the first novel of Dickens that we have read as part of the Dickens project in which Dickens seems to allow his characters to really change and develop. Up to now, we had a few characters that were about to change, but they stayed pretty much the same overall in the end. This does not seem to be the case here and it will be interesting to see how far the evolvement of the characters may go.


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Frances (francesab) | 1806 comments Mod
I thought the episode of Mark's friends from the ship was quite tragic-to end up in Eden, lose all their children and then be left alone there when Mark and Martin left. Was this perhaps a veiled jab at the true outcome for so many who went to America seeking a better life? It seems very harsh when in fact most immigrants at the time did end up finding a better life, if not for themselves then at least for their children.

I was rather pleased for Cherry-I think she spent her whole life in the shadow of her prettier sister and now has succeeded in snaring her own husband (with some help from Mrs Todger). I'm not sure she is yet aware of how awful Merry's situation is, we haven't heard anything about a meeting between the two of them and it isn't clear how far news about Merry and Jonas has spread. I don't imagine they will be an overly happy couple but she might serve to toughen up Mr Moddle and she might improve now that she has someone who has chosen her as well.

I do worry about Mary now that Tom has quitted the scene-I had assumed he would be around as her protector. It remains to be seen how infirm Martin Sr. is and whether he understands Pecksniff's true character or not.


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Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Frances wrote: "I thought the episode of Mark's friends from the ship was quite tragic-to end up in Eden, lose all their children and then be left alone there when Mark and Martin left. Was this perhaps a veiled j..."

This was indeed a very touching and sad story. Dickens is a wonderful combination of a realistic author (when it comes to a social commentary) and a writer who creates bigger-than-life characters. I think this one was his realistic portrayal of life: life is brutal and sometimes not fair, but who says that there is an inherent feeling of justice or hope in our universe?
I really enjoy his social messages - they might not be always noticeable, but they are quite powerful.


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