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Martin Chuzzlewit > MC Chapters 45-47

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message 1: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3199 comments Mod
Chapter 45

We are approaching the end of the novel and Dickens is beginning to braid all the seemingly different and unconnected strands of the novel together. The previous chapter has been one of some gloom and depression. In contrast, chapter 45 opens on a bright and cheerful note featuring Tom and his sister Ruth. Each day we read that Tom may well meet his sister after work and this occasioned the surroundings of Fountain and Garden Court to be brightened by Ruth’s presence. On this particular day Ruth sees Mr Westlock who just happened to be passing at the time. She attempts to run away but I think we all have guessed what Dickens has planned for these two young people. They meet in Garden Court. I could not help but reflect on another meeting of two people, that being Pecksniff and Mary. How different these two couples are when they meet in their separate garden spaces. While Pecksniff is persistent, rude, aggressive, and even bites Mary, John is civil and considerate. When they walk, their eyes are bright and their hearts full. Tom’s naive surprise at finding his sister and John in “such an unlikely spot” only adds to the soft tone of the meeting. Thus John, Ruth, Tom and even the fountain leap in their own unique ways with happiness.

John invites Tom and Ruth to dine with him. There they find, in a bachelor’s residence no less, flowers, polished wine glasses, and dishes and a waiter and a banquet. I think we all know who will be paired by Dickens before the end of the novel. John takes a keen interest in Tom’s story of what occurred at the dock and Mrs Gamp’s involvement but no one is able to determine what the nature of the communication was to Jonas, why Tom was the bearer of the communication, and how all the parties present at the wharf were connected to each other. Tom resolves to attempt to get some answers from his mysterious landlord and visit Mrs Todgers in search of Mercy. John agrees with Tom that there is much mystery in this strange business that needs to be unravelled. For the remainder of the evening the three spend time in their own pursuits. Tom is lost in the joy of playing a piano and Dickens assures us that John and Ruth were happy as well. Their evening ends, John insists on walking Tom and Ruth back to their quarters, and happily takes Ruth’s hand on his arm.

Our pleasant interlude of a chapter ends with the Temple fountain murmuring in the moonlight, Ruth sleeping with flowers beside her and John Westlake sketching a portrait of someone from memory. Dickens wonders whose portrait Westlake would be sketching, no doubt with a smile on his face.

Thoughts

This is a rather brief chapter in comparison to earlier ones and it offers some lighter touches to an otherwise rather bleak set of circumstances we have been following. Why might be Dickens’s intent in writing this chapter in terms of character development and advancement?

To what extent do you find the character of Ruth interesting, or annoying, or effectively developed in the novel so far? What word or phrase would you use to describe Ruth?

Do you find Tom/Ruth to be portrayed as too naive? What word or phrase would you use to describe him?

Since his introduction in the novel John Westlake has been an interesting character who acts as a bridge among various characters and plot lines. To what extent do you find the blossoming relationship with Ruth to enhance his function as a character?


message 2: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3199 comments Mod
Chapter 46

This is a fairly lengthily chapter with much happening in different settings. I have divided the chapter up into sections which I have named to keep each part in context. For each part I have offered a thought or two to help guide us.


Cheery Cherry and Moody Moodle


After dinner the next day Tom and Ruth go to Todgers’s. It is Ruth’s intent to comfort Merry. On their way the encounter Cherry Pecksniff and Mr Moodle looking in the window of a furniture shop. Upon seeing them Ruth asks Tom why Mr Moodle looks “as if he was going to be buried.” For her part, we are told that Miss Pecksniff had quite the air of “having taken the unhappy Moodle captive, and brought him up to the contemplation of the furniture like a lamb to the alter.” Upon seeing Tom and his sister Miss Pecksniff asks them where they are going. When she finds out Tom and Ruth are in search of Merry, Cherry says she is not at Todgers’s and offers to take them to Merry’s home for tea. Cherry assures Tom that Jonas is not at home which is, of course, a relief for Tom to hear. Miss Pecksniff asks Ruth what she thinks of Mr Moodle to which she replies that he appears to look “rather low.”

During the walk to Merry’s accommodation we are treated to Cherry’s rapturous naïveté of her relationship with Mr Moodle. Given that in the previous chapter we have experienced the true nature of attention and affection between Ruth Pinch and John Westlock, this scene is delightfully humourous. Cherry offers Ruth some courting advice. Cherry Pecksniff is the last person that anyone should take advice from in the courting of a man. Meanwhile, as Cherry continues to talk there is silence between Mr Moodle and Tom until Mr Moodle discusses how many people are run over in the streets of London. Tom, aware of Moodle’s state of mind and holds on tight to Moodle until they arrive at Jonas Chuzzlewit’s home.

Thoughts

There is a noticeable transition from the harmony of the characters in the last chapter and the awkward nature that begins this chapter. What also is apparent is that Dickens is beginning to bring various sets of characters together, contrasting them when placed together, and suggesting how each person may well connect and thus lead us to the conclusion of the novel. In what ways could the meeting of these four characters help move the plot forward? How has the character of Cherry changed since the first time we met her?

What purpose is served when Dickens presents the relationship and anticipated marriage of Cherry and Mr Moodle?


Jonas Clears the Room


Tom hesitates to enter Jonas’s home. Cherry assures him Jonas is not at home. As they enter Jonas and Merry’s rooms we find Mrs Todgers, Mrs Gamp, Cherry, Mr Moodle, and Chuffey all in attendance with Merry. Poor Moodle. He is in the same room as the married Merry. Mrs Gamp begins one her extended soliloquy-like rambles which notes how delightful it is to have everyone together. She then shakes old Chuffey to let him know there is company in the house. Chuffey begins mumbling some seemingly incoherent words such as “his son.” Gamp, for her part, finds Chuffey’s words annoying and takes to taunting Chuffey. When the tea arrives, Mrs Gamp broadly hints that some buttered toast and an egg or two would be appreciated as well as the tea. Mrs Gamp takes charge of the tea, toast, and eggs, makes sure she is accommodated first. If it were not for Gamp, however, it would have been “a curiously silent party.” Poor Merry clung to Ruth, and Tom noted how much Merry had changed.

Thoughts

How does Mrs Gamp’s presence at this gathering further the plot?
To what extent did you find the comments and actions of Mrs Gamp to be humourous? Annoying? Insightful?


Chuffey: Incoherent or Insightful?


Earlier in the chapter Chuffey uttered the phrase “his son.” He again speaks and says “Who’s lying dead up-stairs?” When assured by Merry that everyone is accounted for, Chuffey
says “All here! ... All here! Where is he then - my old master, Mr Chuzzlewit, who had the only son? Where is he?” When asked to recollect that his master died long ago Chuffey responds “as if I could forget! As if I could ever forget! ... Who’s lying dead up-stairs.” Looking around the room, Chuffey says “Who are these, and why are they Merry-making here, if no one is dead? foul play! Go see who it is!” Chuffey then goes up to old Anthony Chuzzlewit’s room, walks to the corner where Anthony died in bed, comes back downstairs and tells Merry that he is watching and at night he is ready. To snap Chuffey out of his apparent illogical state Mrs Gamp shakes him repeatedly. No one intercedes due to the fact that Mrs Gamp has been Chuffey’s caregiver.

Thoughts

We have speculated in earlier chapters what might have happened to Anthony Chuzzlewit. How do you interpret Chuffey’s comments? Is he rambling? Is he having flashbacks? Is he revealing a truth that others have yet to contemplate or acknowledge?


Jonas: The Tea Party Ends Abruptly


As the chapter progresses our focus shifts to Cherry who continues to dominate Mr Moodle in every way possible. Tom, concerned for the well-being of Merry, assures her he had no idea of the contents of the letter he delivered to her husband and offers to explain the same to Jonas. Shortly after Jonas returns home in a surly mood and confronts the assorted people in his home. First, he brushes his wife aside. Next, Cherry says with bitterness that she has no intention to intrude on his domestic happiness and will be happy to pay for the expenses. With that, she prepares to leave, but not before a feeble attempt by Mr Moodle to stand up to Jonas. Fortunately, Cherry and Mrs Todgers get him out of the room. Next, Jonas hears the explanation from Tom of his innocence in the delivery of the letter. Jonas motions for Tom to leave. Jonas then attacks Tom and Tom is saved only through the intervention of Merry who begs Tom to leave immediately and Mrs Gamp who throws her considerable weight against Tom and thus forces him out the door. Because Tom did not explain himself to Jonas, Jonas does not find out that it was Nadgett who initiated the events at the dock. Thus, Jonas remains unaware of the spy who was watching his every move. Now Jonas confronts his wife and “made an angry motion with his hand ... . A suggestive action! Full of a cruel truth!” Jonas then threatens his wife that is she ever sees Tom again she will surely repent it.

Thoughts

How could the knowledge of who initiated the actions at the dock be of benefit to Jonas?

Many people were in the room when Jonas lost his temper. How might this help advance the plot?

Dickens leaves little to the imagination in the relationship between Jonas and Merry. Why do you think Dickens continues to demonstrate the dark nature of Jonas’s words and actions?


Jonas and Chuffey: Secrets and Obligations


Merry tells Jonas that he has broken her spirit and pleads that he not break her heart as well. Jonas tells her to ready an unused ground floor room for him and that he does not wish to be disturbed for a few days. He then commenced to pace the floor with his right hand clinched “as if it held something.” He continues to keep his hand clinched when he sits down. Mrs Gamp comes to tell him the room is prepared and she opens the topic of Chuffey’s strange behaviour and words. She recounts the “awfullest things ... as ever I heerd” including the phrase “Who’s lying dead up-stairs.” Jonas, for his part, comments that “l have half a mind to shut him up.” Naturally, Mrs Gamp offers her services to tend to Chuffey along with Betsy Prig. Jonas sees this as a logical solution to what to do with Chuffey. The deal is struck. In a quiet moment a little later Jonas comments that Chuffey, the old dog, “shall be gagged.” Please note how Jonas clutches his fist. I do not offer this hint as a spoiler but suggest this will be a significant part of a future event.

Thoughts


What plans for Chuffey might Jonas have? Why?
Do you see in the words and actions of Jonas any redeeming qualities whatsoever?


Jonas: The Night Crawler.


Jonas takes up a temporary residence in an unused room of the first floor of his house. He locks the door and carefully adjusts the key so no one will be able to peek through the keyhole. In this room there is an unused door to the outside of the house which opened into a narrow passage. The room is a dank, dark and musty one that had water-pipes which made noises as if “they were choking.” The door to the outside and its key were rusty, but Jonas had carefully provided himself with oil to make the door and its lock quiet. He then tumbles around in his bed. From a portmanteau he brings a pair of clumsy shoes, leather leggings and clothes as a countryman would wear. He then waits and hears two passing workmen comment on an excavation where a body was found. One of the workmen comments that “So murder is not always found out, you see.” Jonas puts the key in the outside door lock, enters the passageway, locks the door from the outside and then “fled away.”

Thoughts


Well now, Dickens has given the reader two broad hints that Jonas might well be up to no good. First, he tells the reader that the water-pipes make a noise like choking and then a passing workman comments that not all murders are found out. With such phrases hovering in the mind of readers there seems to be one central question to ask. Who do you think Jonas is going to kill? Why did you suggest that person?

In an earlier chapter it was noted how Dickens’s homes, rooms and interior spaces are frequently reflective of the person or people who inhabit them. To what extent can this room be an extension or an insight into the character of Jonas?


message 3: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3199 comments Mod
Chapter 47

Dickens’s opening paragraph of this chapter creates an ominous mood, one of anticipation and wonder. From the previous chapter we know Jonas has made careful plans to cover his absence from his home. It seems clear that he has murder on his mind. But who is his target?

The second paragraph of chapter 47 explains the circuitous route Jonas takes as he closes in on his quarry. Did you notice that Dickens does not mention the name Jonas Chuzzlewit once in this paragraph, or the opening paragraph of the chapter? Indeed, we must search carefully to find his name at all in the chapter. All we do know is that Jonas has no remorse and no desire to abandon his design. Dickens tells us that in Jonas’s mind and dreams a surreal landscape of images appears. Do you recall in chapter 45 how Jonas’s hand was in the figure of a fist. In this chapter Dickens expands and explains this further when he tells us that in Jonas’s hand he now envisioned as holding “a club, and [prepared] to strike the blow he had so often thought of ...”. Murder has been on his mind for quite some time. But who? “Murder” we are told by Dickens, “[Jonas ] had come to do it.” Jonas is also pleased with his disguise. He believes he will not be recognized. From a piece of a fence Jonas fashions a club.

Thoughts


How effective do you think Dickens has created tension in the opening paragraphs of this chapter? Which detail did you find most evocative?


We are told that Jonas had overheard Pecksniff and Montague make plans for a carriage ride. Jonas knows their route. We are told that Montague has secured Pecksniff as another partner in the financial scam. When they part Dickens comments that a “shadowy veil” was surrounding Montague perhaps because of a “vague foreknowledge of impending doom.” And so now the reader knows the target of Jonas’s wrath. Montague chases to take a path through the woods although he paused before entering them “for the stillness of the spot almost daunted him.” We then read a lengthy paragraph where Dickens further spins the veil of impending doom over the chapter. He enters the wood and then he was “seen or heard no more.” Jonas murders Montague in “one thick solitary spot.”

Jonas “came leaping out from the wood so fiercely, that he cast into the air a shower of fragments of young boughs” and then sets on towards London.” Jonas is not sorry for his actions and fears more the empty room he must return to in London that the place where he committed murder. Jonas’s “hideous secret was shut up in the room, and all the terrors were there; to his thinking it was not in the wood at all.” Dickens tells us that this room was on Jonas’s mind and made him “not only fearful for himself, but of himself.”


Thoughts


What is it about this room? What is in the room? To what extent do you think the fears of Jonas are justified? Are they only a product of his over-wrought mind?

I can’t help but reflect on the fact that Dickens met Edgar Allen Poe while on his first visit to America. Do you find any Poe-like touches or similarities to any Poe short story in this chapter?

Here is yet another time Dickens has used a forest or a woods for a major action and plot event in the novel. Is there any possible significance to this reoccurring place?


Jonas arrives back in London in the early morning. Jonas takes elaborate precautions as he slinks back to his home and the door that opens up into the empty room he has supposedly been in for the past couple of days. For a moment he worries that the murdered man would be standing in the room when the door is opened. He enters the room, and then bundles himself beneath blankets and hears his own heart beating out “Murder, Murder, Murder, in the bed.” Through the locked door Jonas talks to his wife and learns that Mr Nadgett wanted to see Jonas but was told he was not to be disturbed. Merry tells Jonas that she did see Nadgett in the street early this morning. Jonas orders his breakfast, puts on his London clothes and joins the household for breakfast. In the mirror before breakfast Jonas sees “a tell-tale face” and spends his time at breakfast listening “as if a spell were on him ... For he knew it must come; and his present punishment, and torture, and distraction, were, to listen for its coming.”

Our chapter ends with one word ... Hush!”


Thoughts

What/who is it that Jonas thinks is coming?

Did you notice the phrase “tell-tale face.” I do wonder about Poe. Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” was published in 1843.

Jonas changes back into his London clothes. To what extent could this change of clothes be suggestive of the duel nature of Jonas’s personality and character?



Reflections

You can feel Dickens is in the home stretch of the novel. To what extent is the novel unfolding as you thought it would?


message 4: by Jantine (new)

Jantine (eccentriclady) | 608 comments I was thinking, with chapter 45, that the courting of Ruth and John can also be contrasted to Merry and Jonas. In the early chapters, Jonas took Merry and Cherry (I realize just now, also two siblings) for a walk, and then home for dinner. However, in Ruth and John's case it is clear whom John courts of course, and the overall vibe of the whole thing is so vastly different, more cheery and such, that it can be easily overlooked that both were a walk and then a dinner of a courting couple and a sibling,


message 5: by Jantine (new)

Jantine (eccentriclady) | 608 comments I liked the darkness of the latter two chapters too. It is kind of clear to me that the room is a kind of metafor for Jonas' own conscience, a place that will be waiting for him always and where he has to return always. It is dark, mouldy and dusty, and never aired nor used.

Now you mention that Dickens met Poe on his trip ... Yes, I have already been thinking that Jonas, provided that he killed his father, reminded me of The Tell Tale Heart, especially in this chapter, where Jonas started to seemingly in his mind 'pick up the murder weapon' from the floor. Where certain rooms in the house seem to tell all about his murders, and where he is the one who gets mad from that. I expect that in the end he will tell on himself in order to escape his tell tale house.


message 6: by Bobbie (new)

Bobbie | 308 comments I do like the idea that Dickens was using the phase the tell-tale-face as a reference to Poe's A Tell Tale Heart and the description of the room reminds me of the basement in Poe's home in Philadelphia which I visited once on a visit to Philadelphia. At that time the basement was left very dusty with cobwebs. It was thrilling.

I am anxious to learn what Mr. Nadgett has been doing, observing and learning about Jonas' trip. I can see him following along unobserved, but if he was nearby surely he would have been able to prevent the murder. I am very anxious to read these last chapters.


message 7: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3199 comments Mod
Jantine wrote: "I was thinking, with chapter 45, that the courting of Ruth and John can also be contrasted to Merry and Jonas. In the early chapters, Jonas took Merry and Cherry (I realize just now, also two sibli..."

Hi Jantine

You are right. There are many flavours of love and courtship in the novel. It seems to me that Dickens enjoys creating binary settings and plot lines. Some surprises may yet be coming.


message 8: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3199 comments Mod
Bobbie wrote: "I do like the idea that Dickens was using the phase the tell-tale-face as a reference to Poe's A Tell Tale Heart and the description of the room reminds me of the basement in Poe's home in Philadel..."

Bobbie

Your visit to Poe’s home must have been great and what an atmosphere you found. Just imagine a meeting between Poe and Dickens.

I think you will find the coming chapters much more intriguing and exciting.


message 9: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2451 comments Peter wrote: "Chapter 45 What word or phrase would you use to describe Ruth?..."

PET PEEVE ALERT! Well, the word Dickens used - a whopping 19 times in this chapter - was "little". Aargh!


message 10: by Mary Lou (last edited Jan 26, 2020 05:36AM) (new)

Mary Lou | 2451 comments Peter wrote: "Chapter 46 Poor Moodle...."

Poor Moodle, indeed. Believe it or not, I almost felt a maternal sadness for Cherry, as well as I read this. The satisfaction she's feeling now will not bring her any happiness in the long run. More misery for both Cherry and Moodle, of their own making.

I was very uncomfortable reading about Mrs. Gamp's treatment of Chuffey in this chapter, and even more upset that none of the others stepped in and prevented her from shaking him and treating him so badly. I'd have thought Ruth, of all people, would have found a way to intervene. Just goes to show you how much more compassionate we've become as a society, thank God.

I think we'll find that Chuffey's outbursts are not the ravings of a lunatic, but I worry about him being in the house with Jonas. But will Jonas be able to cause Chuffey's demise with Mrs. Gamp and Betsey Prig on the job?

Peter wrote: Merry tells Jonas that he has broken her spirit and pleads that he not break her heart as well.

Is it possible that Merry actually loves Jonas?? Some variation of Stockholm syndrome? Or is she just attempting to soften him?

Peter wrote: The room is a dank, dark and musty one that had water-pipes which made noises as if “they were choking.”

There were a few references to choking, which jumped out at me. Dickens lays the clues out for anyone who takes the time to see them!


message 11: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2451 comments Peter wrote: "Chapter 47

Dickens’s opening paragraph of this chapter creates an ominous mood, one of anticipation and wonder...."


Jonas isn't subtle, is he? The business with Pecksniff being a witness to his behavior following Anthony's death, first of all. And now, he's hardly made himself invisible in his excursion to murder Tigg, has he? Lots of interaction along the way with lots of people. It would be easy for Nadgett to tail him, or learn of his whereabouts. Holing up in a room with a second egress while telling the household he's not to be disturbed isn't much of an alibi, no matter how much he rolled around in the sheets to make them appear slept in. And wouldn't someone trying to cover up two murders (for I feel sure that's how many he's committed at this point) be careful not to show such a violent temper to his wife and others? He might as well be carrying a big neon sign that says "guilty" around with him.

This chapter is very reminiscent for me of what Bill Sikes went through after Nancy's murder in Oliver Twist. With Sikes, if I remember correctly, it was the act itself that preyed on his mind, whereas with Jonas it seems as if he's more worried about getting caught. Is that how you're reading it, or am I wrong?

My gosh, there's a lot of murder and suicide in Dickens novels!


message 12: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4640 comments Mod
No, Mary Lou, you are right: Jonas is anything but subtle! Just consider his making careful and explicit enquiries with Dr. Jobling as to how to use a lancet ... I am sure he also asked his tax advisor whether the purchase of murder weapons is in any way deducible from his income tax.

Maybe, in those days it would be a sound alibi to say that one has gone for forty winks - or retired to sleep for two entire days (he could have said that he read a Jane Austen novel and was feeling very tired now, which would have accounted for his being asleep an entire week) -, but nowadays, this would certainly not be considered an alibi at all. Even less so since there was a door permitting direct egress into the street. The door had not been used for ages, and Jonas later takes care to sully the key with cobwebs and dust - but surely there would be traces of the door having been operated on the hinges (e.g. missing rust in places) or on the threshold. In a way, this part reminded me of a Columbo episode, where the murderer was a magician who gave the impression of being in a locked room by talking with somebody outside - via loudspeakers - and performing a magic trick.

Peter, I also had to think about Edgar Allen Poe a bit, especially when Jonas returns to his dingy room and half expects or dreads to find the murdered man waiting for him right there. Basically, this is the same situation as in The Telltale Heart, and it shows that both Dickens and Poe were quite good psychologists in many ways: In Poe's story, the presence of the dead body in the house where the murderer lives is literal, but also a metaphor of the guilt and the pricking of conscience the murderer experiences. In Dickens's novel, Jonas may imagine the presence of his victim in his room as a sign of the constant fear that is now haunting him - the fear of detection. In Jonas's case, I wouldn't say that he has a bad conscience - he is just afraid of being found out and ending with a halter around his neck.

And yes, I wonder why Jonas has not already done in Chuffey as well. After all, Chuffey seems to know a lot that Jonas would rather keep secret, and it is probably not so uncommon for an old man like Chuffey, a poor, feeble man with a rambling mind, to fall down a flight of stairs. I don't think the police of the 1840s would have investigated very deeply in such a case.


message 13: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4640 comments Mod
Mary Lou wrote: "Peter wrote: "Chapter 45 What word or phrase would you use to describe Ruth?..."

PET PEEVE ALERT! Well, the word Dickens used - a whopping 19 times in this chapter - was "little". Aargh!"


And that says so much about Dickens and his taste with regard to women! As far as I am concerned, Ruth is one of the most annoying characters in this novel, a guarantee of boredom and insipidity, and, of course, such as her would not interfere with Mrs. Gamp's collaring an old man, because they'd probably not even interfere with themselves being collared - but wait for an indignant brother or a noble Westlock to do this. All in all, I wish Martin Chuzzlewit were a Ruth-less novel.


message 14: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3199 comments Mod
Mary Lou wrote: "Peter wrote: "Chapter 45 What word or phrase would you use to describe Ruth?..."

PET PEEVE ALERT! Well, the word Dickens used - a whopping 19 times in this chapter - was "little". Aargh!"


Mary Lou

19 times. Ouch! I guess it is fair to say Dickens wanted to emphasize the point but that is ridiculous. Tristram certainly finds Ruth incipit and such a repeated word to describe her character certainly does not give her much dimension. I wonder if her cooking was only a little bit good?


message 15: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4640 comments Mod
Well, it's Little Nell, little Ruth, Little Dorrit, Little Red Riding Hood - which one is the odd one out? If I remember correctly, there was also a Little Joe in the Bonanza series.

You can say anything you like about Pip's (or not-Pip's) Estella, but no one would have thought of calling her little!


message 16: by Mary Lou (last edited Jan 27, 2020 05:35AM) (new)

Mary Lou | 2451 comments Tristram wrote: "Well, it's Little Nell, little Ruth, Little Dorrit, Little Red Riding Hood.... As far as I am concerned, Ruth is one of the most annoying characters in this novel"

One would hope this inclination of his diminished as he matured as an author, and I think it did to some extent. As you say, Estella was not portrayed that way (nor Biddy). Nor do I think there was anyone especially "little" in Hard Times or Bleak House (though I realize Esther was not everyone's favorite!). But he brought her back with Lucy Manette in A Tale of Two Cities. More important for our immediate future is Dombey, and I don't remember his archetypical little woman rearing her little head in that novel, thank God. We'll see if that's so.

What I find really interesting, though, is that I actually like Ruth. For some reason it's easy for me to separate the character from the incredibly biased narrator. Is that weird? If we take out all of the narrator's rainbows and bluebirds and just focus on Ruth's words and actions, she's okay. A bit dull and helpless, perhaps, but optimistic and plucky. Benign, at least.


message 17: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3199 comments Mod
Mary Lou wrote: "Tristram wrote: "Well, it's Little Nell, little Ruth, Little Dorrit, Little Red Riding Hood.... As far as I am concerned, Ruth is one of the most annoying characters in this novel"

One would hope ..."


Mary Lou

There is Florence Dombey in our upcoming novel but she is a grand creation of Dickens. I am completely unbiased. :-)


message 18: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2451 comments Peter wrote: "Mary Lou wrote: "Tristram wrote: "Well, it's Little Nell, little Ruth, Little Dorrit, Little Red Riding Hood.... As far as I am concerned, Ruth is one of the most annoying characters in this novel"..."

Yes -- I don't remember her being another Mary Hogarth, though. It's been awhile, so I could be wrong. Looking forward to finding out!


message 19: by Jantine (new)

Jantine (eccentriclady) | 608 comments Mary Lou wrote: "Nor do I think there was anyone especially "little" in Hard Times or Bleak House (though I realize Esther was not everyone's favorite!)."
Don't forget Esther being 'Little Miss Cobweb' and more of such dear little names ... I do like Esther more than I like Ruth though, since she does stand up for herself in a pretty straightforward way and actually knows things and acts with purpose (even while silently, she still is a Dickensian heroine after all). She does not have Ruth's giddiness in being little and cute. On the other hand, I do have a bit of fun reading about Ruth. In my mind, she is one of those Lolita girls with her yellow ruffled dress at the dinner.
lolita-yellow-ruffled-dress-ruth-pinch


message 20: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2451 comments I remember Esther had a lot of nicknames, but I don't feel as if Dickens portrayed her as a petite, dimpled, rosy-cheeked, helpless girl fawning over the men in her life. I suppose it could be that I found it so irritating that I've blocked it out of my mind, but I'm hoping Dickens just didn't indulge himself so much with Esther. Ditto with Florence Dombey.


message 21: by Bionic Jean (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) Actually, I have long thought that Dickens meant Esther to be a sort of unreliable narrator - at least in the early parts of Bleak House. She protests her incompetence rather too much. Also, if not, then:
1. Why is she the only female narrator in all his novels?
2. Why does she need to share the novel (alternating chapters) with an omniscient narrator?


message 22: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3199 comments Mod
Mary Lou wrote: "I remember Esther had a lot of nicknames, but I don't feel as if Dickens portrayed her as a petite, dimpled, rosy-cheeked, helpless girl fawning over the men in her life. I suppose it could be that..."

I find Florence to be much more active as a female “good” character than many other of Dickens’s perfect little girl/women.

With our recent conversations I am really looking forward to an active discussion concerning Florence.


message 23: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3199 comments Mod
Bionic Jean wrote: "Actually, I have long thought that Dickens meant Esther to be a sort of unreliable narrator - at least in the early parts of Bleak House. She protests her incompetence rather too much...."

Ah, interesting questions Jean. Here’s hoping we discuss your questions thoroughly.


message 24: by Bionic Jean (last edited Jan 28, 2020 04:32AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) When we get there. Lots of other things to look forward to first :)


message 25: by Jantine (new)

Jantine (eccentriclady) | 608 comments Bionic Jean wrote: "Actually, I have long thought that Dickens meant Esther to be a sort of unreliable narrator - at least in the early parts of Bleak House. She protests her incompetence rather too much...."

I once read Tom-All-Alone's by Lynn Shepherd for Netgalley, and it toys with that idea. Your comment brings it up again. It did make me wonder what went on in Bleak House that I didn't realize, but might be obvious or at least implied for contemporary readers.


message 26: by Jantine (new)

Jantine (eccentriclady) | 608 comments Oh my, and I now see that I never really wrote a review. I bought the book at our local thrift shop, I might have to read it and review it properly some time soon.


message 27: by Bionic Jean (last edited Jan 28, 2020 09:00AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) Jantine wrote: "I once read Tom-All-Alone's by Lynn Shepherd ..."

Well what do you know, someone wrote a novel based on my idea ... LOL - only joking, but I've never found anyone else who shares this view! Great! Most readers think Esther is "one of Dickens's soppy females" - but I don't subscribe to that view in any sense, and think the idea of him not writing strong female characters is a myth trotted out by people who do not read his books. There are some incredibly strong females in Dickens, both villainous and virtuous. It's just that our view of what is desirable in women has changed.

Or perhaps Lynn Shepherd subscribes to this travesty idea, and views the idea of Esther being an unreliable narrator as so ridiculous that she has created this opposite as a literary device :( I'd need to read it to see.

So I've been searching, and found that it also has an alternative title The Solitary House but Tom-All-Alone's is available on kindle.uk, so I may read it :) It is part of a series though ("Charles Maddox #2") so should I read the first one first?


message 28: by Jantine (last edited Jan 28, 2020 11:01AM) (new)

Jantine (eccentriclady) | 608 comments I never did, and I really liked the book regardless. I might if I find it, especially since I like reading Jane Austen's work as much as Charles Dickens's work, but I wouldn't wait reading this one if you want to.

And oh boy, I'm reading the reviews now. I hardly dare to re-read that one book I did like once, but I will, if only because I want to know if I still like it.


message 29: by Bionic Jean (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) Hmm, I've just read some too! Maybe I'll wait awhile ;) Basically if someone is writing a skit on a classic it has to be very good indeed, or else I just want to read the original instead.

Having said that though, I thoroughly enjoyed the TV series "Dickensian" :)


message 30: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4640 comments Mod
Mary Lou wrote: "I remember Esther had a lot of nicknames, but I don't feel as if Dickens portrayed her as a petite, dimpled, rosy-cheeked, helpless girl fawning over the men in her life. I suppose it could be that..."

Oh, Esther was terrible enough in her own humblebragging way. I remember how she used her show of modesty as a first-person-narrator and then at the same time carefully recorded the praise that other people heaped on her. A truly modest person would have omitted the praise from others instead of expounding on it and then protesting - too much, too much, my lady - that there were all wrong.


message 31: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4640 comments Mod
Bionic Jean wrote: "Actually, I have long thought that Dickens meant Esther to be a sort of unreliable narrator - at least in the early parts of Bleak House. She protests her incompetence rather too much...."

Absolutely, Jean! I hadn't read this post when I was posting the one above. You voiced my very thoughts, only with more diplomacy ;-)


message 32: by Bionic Jean (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) LOL Tristram, I was just about to agree with you, and then I read your additional post!


message 33: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5957 comments Mod


Mr. Moddle is led to the contemplation of his destiny

Chapter 46

Phiz

Passage Illustrated: Another Meeting by Coincidence

As [Tom and Ruth] were passing through a street in the City, not very far from Mrs Todgers's place of residence, Ruth checked Tom before the window of a large Upholstery and Furniture Warehouse, to call his attention to something very magnificent and ingenious, displayed there to the best advantage, for the admiration and temptation of the public. Tom had hazarded some most erroneous and extravagantly wrong guess in relation to the price of this article, and had joined his sister in laughing heartily at his mistake, when he pressed her arm in his, and pointed to two persons at a little distance, who were looking in at the same window with a deep interest in the chests of drawers and tables.
"Hush!" Tom whispered. "Miss Pecksniff, and the young gentleman to whom she is going to be married."
"Why does he look as if he was going to be buried, Tom?" inquired his little sister.
"Why, he is naturally a dismal young gentleman, I believe," said Tom "but he is very civil and inoffensive."
"I suppose they are furnishing their house," whispered Ruth.
"Yes, I suppose they are," replied Tom. "We had better avoid speaking to them."
They could not very well avoid looking at them, however, especially as some obstruction on the pavement, at a little distance, happened to detain them where they were for a few moments. Miss Pecksniff had quite the air of having taken the unhappy Moddle captive, and brought him up to the contemplation of the furniture like a lamb to the altar. He offered no resistance, but was perfectly resigned and quiet. The melancholy depicted in the turn of his languishing head, and in his dejected attitude, was extreme; and though there was a full-sized four-post bedstead in the window, such a tear stood trembling in his eye as seemed to blot it out.
"Augustus, my love," said Miss Pecksniff, "ask the price of the eight rosewood chairs, and the loo table."
"Perhaps they are ordered already," said Augustus. "Perhaps they are Another's."
"They can make more like them, if they are," rejoined Miss Pecksniff.
"No, no, they can't," said Moddle. "It's impossible!"


Commentary: Meditations on Buying Furniture Preparatory to Setting up Housekeeping

Phiz has depicted the façade of the furniture shop in such detail that one is tempted to believe that he modeled after an actual shop, as George Cruikshank did in Skeches from Boz (1837-39), such as the interior shop scenes in Horatio Sparkins [image] and The Pawnbroker's Shop, and the shop exteriors in Meditations in Monmouth Street [image]. In contrast to Cruikshank, Phiz's interest lies in the relationship among the figures rather than the interior and exterior details of the shop. In Dickens and Phiz Michael Steig explains this very bourgeois property-oriented view of the impending marriage, noting the significance of the figures on the facade:

In Mr. Moddle is led to the contemplation of his destiny, the comic lover is forced to think seriously about his impending marriage, but in the companion plate, Mrs. Gamp makes tea (ch. 46), he is distraught at an accidental encounter with his lost love, Merry. In the first, Phiz's imagination multiplies details which carry a good deal of the burden of comedy, for the figures of Ruth, Tom, Moddle, and Charity are not as important in conveying the meaning as are the setting and its elements. We gradually become aware that the scene is full of disapproving faces: the rug just behind the couple frowns mightily, while the fire screen in the shop grins maliciously. At the top of each doorpost a satyr or devil looks sideways at Cherry and Moddle, holding a finger to his nose. The comical recording angel, who holds a tablet marked "Day by [Day]," may also be looking at the couple, while the shopkeeper, peering out of the store, has a sly grimace on his face. As if all these faces were not enough, at the left of the door is a sign, "Maids/Wives/Widows" (A similar sign including "To those About to Marry" appeared in a comic plate to Godfrey Malvern ("An unexpected Meeting").) implying that for Augustus to make this particular maid a wife will be soon to make her a widow because of his own despondency — something further borne out by the poster of a lion catching a flying leaf (or a bird?), as if Moddle were being brought down in the freedom of his bachelorhood by a predatory creature. Finally, the customary notice, "To Those [about to] Marry," pinned to the poster, may conceivably have elicited the immediate response from readers, "Don't!" although the first appearance of this joke in print is, to my knowledge, in 1845.

Wanting to avoid an awkward meeting on the street, Tom and his sister pretend to be interested in an advertisment, hoping that Augustus Moddle and his fiancée will not notice them. Meanwhile. Charity turns to Augustus and asks him about the merits of the eight rosewood chairs and loo table, which Phiz has not included in the illustration. Thus Phiz’s illustration leads the viewer to assume that Charity sees both pieces of furniture, whereas the reader encounters the folded, late eighteenth- or early nineteenth-century table inlaid with Japanese motifs used for playing the card game, Loo. Phiz has depicted an oval table suitable for playing cards in the centre of the illustration, probably of highly figured walnut or rosewood. Such a small table could accommodate at most four chairs, but Charity wants eight. Perhaps she expects to host dinner parties or have a large family, both of which prospects which must be well-nigh terrifying for August Moddle.

Commentary: The Hidden Furniture Salesman (Detail of Centre of the Composition):

As Charity smilingly turns to Augustus to ask if he is interested in purchasing the table, the owner of the shop, from behind the ornate curtain rods, studies the couple, presumably assessing when it would be best to step forward to clinch the sale. Such intricate details in this illustration keep the presence of the observer from becoming immediately apparent to the reader, who may also be the subject of the salesman's surveillance. The face on the carpet (right) seems to be studying the shopman apprehensively, but Charity and Augustus seem unaware that they are being appraised even as they study the furnishings.


message 34: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5957 comments Mod


Mrs. Gamp makes tea

Chapter 46

Phiz

Passage Illustrated: Mrs. Gamp presides over making Tea at Jonas's house

"And quite a family it is to make tea for," said Mrs. Gamp; "and wot a happiness to do it! My good young 'ooman" — to the servant-girl — "p'raps somebody would like to try a new-laid egg or two, not biled too hard. Likeways, a few rounds o' buttered toast, first cuttin' off the crust, in consequence of tender teeth, and not too many of 'em; which Gamp himself, Mrs. Chuzzlewit, at one blow, being in liquor, struck out four, two single, and two double, as was took by Mrs. Harris for a keepsake, and is carried in her pocket at this present hour, along with two cramp-bones, a bit o' ginger, and a grater like a blessed infant's shoe, in tin, with a little heel to put the nutmeg in; as many times I've seen and said, and used for candle when required, within the month."
As the privileges of the side-table — besides including the small prerogatives of sitting next the toast, and taking two cups of tea to other people's one, and always taking them at a crisis, that is to say, before putting fresh water into the tea-pot, and after it had been standing for some time — also comprehended a full view of the company, and an opportunity of addressing them as from a rostrum, Mrs. Gamp discharged the functions entrusted to her with extreme good-humour and affability. Sometimes resting her saucer on the palm of her outspread hand, and supporting her elbow on the table, she stopped between her sips of tea to favour the circle with a smile, a wink, a roll of the head, or some other mark of notice; and at those periods her countenance was lighted up with a degree of intelligence and vivacity, which it was almost impossible to separate from the benignant influence of distilled waters.
But for Mrs Gamp, it would have been a curiously silent party. Miss Pecksniff only spoke to her Augustus, and to him in whispers. Augustus spoke to nobody, but sighed for every one, and occasionally gave himself such a sounding slap upon the forehead as would make Mrs Todgers, who was rather nervous, start in her chair with an involuntary exclamation. Mrs Todgers was occupied in knitting, and seldom spoke. Poor Merry held the hand of cheerful little Ruth between her own, and listening with evident pleasure to all she said, but rarely speaking herself, sometimes smiled, and sometimes kissed her on the cheek, and sometimes turned aside to hide the tears that trembled in her eyes. Tom felt this change in her so much, and was so glad to see how tenderly Ruth dealt with her, and how she knew and answered to it, that he had not the heart to make any movement towards their departure, although he had long since given utterance to all he came to say.
The old clerk, subsiding into his usual state, remained profoundly silent, while the rest of the little assembly were thus occupied, intent upon the dreams, whatever they might be, which hardly seemed to stir the surface of his sluggish thoughts.


Commentary: Another Group Study

Phiz has provided two illustrations for this crucial chapter, the longest in the novel (it encompasses twenty-five pages of the forty-three page number). Both depict the area in London near Mrs. Todgers's rooming-house. In the first, Mr. Moddle is Led to the Contemplation of his Destiny, Tom and his sister encounter Miss Charity Pecksniff and her maudlin fiancée, August Moddle, in front of an upholtsterer's shop. The morose youth (one of the characters whose presence like those of Tom, Ruth, and Charity links this plate to the previous) appears again in the present illustration, hand languidly to his head, in the centre of the composition, beside his controlling fiancée.
Other recognisable characters in the scene are the "Other" with whom he remains infatuated (Mercy Chuzzlewit, now Jonas's unhappy wife), Old Chuffey, and Mrs. Todgers, the new character being a household servant all figure in the refreshment scene over which Sairey Gamp (extreme left) presides at the fuming teapot. This is he first of the three group scenes which bring the various elements of the complicated plot to closure, complementing such developments as Jonas's murder of Tigg, Betsey Prig's challenging Sairey Gamp as to the reality of Mrs. Harris, Old Martin's punishing Pecksniff's for his duplicity, and August Moddle's escaping Charity's grasp on their wedding day. As Dickens draws these various threads of the plot together, Phiz makes Mrs. Todgers (right foreground) an image of fate. The two plants in pots, neither of them flowering but somehow surviving, suggest the fates of the Pecksniff sisters, one about to become a widow and the other to be left at the altar an old maid.


message 35: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5957 comments Mod


Done!

Fred Barnard

In Chapter 47, having been dropped off by Pecksniff, Mr. Montague had pursued the lonely footpath through the woods. "Never more [was he] beheld by mortal eye, or heard by mortal ear: one man excepted." That man is the swindler's business associate and murderer, Jonas Chuzzlewit, who in this illustration is shown "parting the leaves and branches on the other side of the woods, near where the path emerged again" . Barnard depicts not the murder (he, like Dickens, leaves that scene to the reader's iumagination), but the highly dramatic moment when Jonas, momentarily elated by having acted on his atavistic impulse, bursts forth from the Darwinian jungle, tearing through the young boughs so violently "that he cast into the air a shower of fragments". The reader encounters the plate after he or she turns the page on which Jonas returns home unobserved at 5:00 AM.


message 36: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5957 comments Mod


Ruth and Westlock at the fountain

Chapter 45

Harry Furniss

Text illustrated:

Either [Ruth] was a little too soon, or Tom was a little too late — she was so precise in general, that she timed it to half a minute — but no Tom was there. Well! But was anybody else there, that she blushed so deeply, after looking round, and tripped off down the steps with such unusual expedition?
Why, the fact is, that Mr. Westlock was passing at that moment. The Temple is a public thoroughfare; they may write up on the gates that it is not, but so long as the gates are left open it is, and will be; and Mr. Westlock had as good a right to be there as anybody else. But why did she run away, then? Not being ill dressed, for she was much too neat for that, why did she run away? The brown hair that had fallen down beneath her bonnet, and had one impertinent imp of a false flower clinging to it, boastful of its licence before all men, that could not have been the cause, for it looked charming. Oh! foolish, panting, frightened little heart, why did she run away!
Merrily the tiny fountain played, and merrily the dimples sparkled on its sunny face. John Westlock hurried after her. Softly the whispering water broke and fell; as roguishly the dimples twinkled, as he stole upon her.


Commentary: Romantic Rendezvous at Fountain Court

This illustration in Chapter utilizes Dickens's romantic rendezvous to suggest the impending closure in all of the novel's plots. Now that the chief plot thread, of the rift between Old Martin Chuzzlewit and his grandson, has been resolved, Dickens turns his attention (and ours) to the incipient romance of the young architect John Westlock, formerly Tom's former fellow apprentice, and Ruth Pinch, until recently a governess. The pair meet — apparently by accident — in the Fountain Court in the Middle Temple, where Tom is working on organizing the library — Furniss even places Tom well in the background, upper left.
Entered off Fleet Street, Middle Temple Lane near London's Embankment leads to the hidden square of Fountain Court, an Edenic oasis of quiet suitable to this meeting of the sensible lovers; here many times before Ruth would rendezvous with her brother after work. Since the little fountain dates from 1682, the lovers meet in the shadows of the past, which was also part of Dickens's past. Having lived as a bachelor at Lincoln's Inn Fields and worked as a clerk in a law firm, Dickens was highly familiar with the area, which he describes in detail in chapter 15 of Barnaby Rudge,a novel set in the late eighteenth century. Bounded by buildings, the little court with its fountain spouting water eight feet into the air does not afford much of a view of the southern shore of the Thames, so that Eytinge's composition remains an enigma, perhaps born out of his desire to contrast the city's recent past as recorded by Dickens with the modern industrial blight gradually taking hold of London.

On the other hand, one may literally step into the scene that Furniss described over a century ago, although the tree to the right is somewhat larger today, and the jet today reaches about half the height of Furniss's. Interesting background details that suggest that the scene is a synthesis of the urban and the rural are the gardener (left rear) and the obvious London fashions of the lovers. The direction of Ruth's gaze alerts the reader to the figure of her brother (upper right) descending the river-steps to the hortus conclusus of the sun-swept courtyard. Thus, Furniss places the figures in the enclosed, almost magical garden of mediaeval romance and Renaissance poetry, but also within the contemporary metropolis. Furniss also injects a note of suspense into the romantic interlude as the viewer wonders whether the well-meaning Tom will interrupt the lovers at a crucial moment in their relationship (the proposal of marriage), The text describes the scene with a vague pronoun ("as he stole upon her footsteps," ), but the caption emphasizes Westlock's approach in as he steals upon her, and she begins to turn her head, perhaps seeing Tom out of the corner of her eye, and perhaps simultaneously hearing masculine footsteps close behind her: Softly the whispering water broke and fell; and roguishly the dimples twinkled, as John Westlock stole upon Ruth's footsteps. Furniss has Westlock raise his hand, as if in indecision as to how he may gently attract Ruth's attention without momentarily alarming her. Furniss, then, sketches the scene as both a tableau vivant and a pregnant moment which may develop in several ways e romantic interlude as the viewer wonders whether the well-meaning Tom will interrupt the lovers at a crucial moment in their relationship (the proposal of marriage), The text describes the scene with a vague pronoun ("as he stole upon her footsteps,") but the caption emphasizes Westlock's approach in as he steals upon her, and she begins to turn her head, perhaps seeing Tom out of the corner of her eye, and perhaps simultaneously hearing masculine footsteps close behind her: Softly the whispering water broke and fell; and roguishly the dimples twinkled, as John Westlock stole upon Ruth's footsteps. Furniss has Westlock raise his hand, as if in indecision as to how he may gently attract Ruth's attention without momentarily alarming her. Furniss, then, sketches the scene as both a tableau vivant and a pregnant moment which may develop in several ways in the accompanying narrative. All too soon the golden moment in the green shade will dissolve into action.


message 37: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5957 comments Mod


Jonas at the alehouse

Chapter 47

Harry Furniss

Text illustrated:

"A fine night, master!"​said this person. "And a rare sunset."
"I didn't see it," was his hasty answer.
"Didn't see it?" returned the man.​
"How the devil could I see it, if I was asleep?"
"Asleep! Aye, aye."​The man appeared surprised by his unexpected irritability, and saying no more, smoked his pipe in silence. They had not sat very long, when there was a knocking within.
"What's that?"​cried Jonas.
"Can't say, I'm sure,"​replied the man.


Commentary

The chief plot thread​in this novel is the growing rift between the large-scale swindler Montague Tigg (who has created himself as "Tigg Montague," Director of the Anglo-Bengalee Disinterested Life Insurance Company) and Jonas Chuzzlewit, whose involvement in the investment scheme has been conditioned by Tigg's knowing about Jonas's having poisoned his father, Anthony. With the other plots moving towards resolution, Dickens now introduces the murder of the financier from the perspective from and with a deep appreciation of the psychology of the murderer himself With the other plots moving towards resolution, Dickens now introduces the murder of the financier from the perspective from and with a deep appreciation of the psychology of the murderer himself.

In the original series of​ monthly​ illustrations,​Hablot Knight Browne does not deal directly with Tigg's murder, perhaps because Dickens's treatment of the plan, its execution, and aftermath is from Jonas's perspective, and perhaps, too, because the text is laden with psychological insight that does not particularly lend itself to illustration.​Dickens's strategy of showing the psychological damage that the deed does to the murderer is reminiscent of his handling Bill Sikes' murder of Nancy in Oliver Twist. Probably at Dickens's instigation, Phiz jumps from Mr. Jonas Exhibits his Presence of Mind (see below), depicting Jonas's initial attempt on Tigg's life, directly to a pair of comic illustrations for events in the May 1844 instalment, Chapter 46, Mr. Moddle is Led to the Contemplation of his Destiny and Mrs. Gamp Makes Tea (see below), leaving the melodramatic material of the forty-fifth chapter unrealised. In the 1872 Household Edition, Fred Barnard also avoids showing the murder directly, focussing instead on Jonas's immediate reaction in Done!, in which Jonas, having already murdered his blackmailer, is shown "parting the leaves and branches on the other side of the woods, near where the path emerged again." Barnard leaves the actual murder scene to the reader's imagination, electing instead to realise shows the highly dramatic moment when Jonas, momentarily elated by having acted on his atavistic impulse, bursts forth from the Darwinian jungle, tearing through the young boughs so violently "that he cast into the air a shower of fragments."

Just as in the final numbers of Oliver Twist the murderer of Nancy, the brutal Bill Sikes, becomes unnerved by the casual talk of a mountebank in the Seven Bells at Hatfield, The Flight of Sikes after the Murder (Chapter 48), so here Jonas (wearing the linen smock-frock of a peasant) seems far more apprehensive than in his last appearance, On the Road to Salisbury (Chapter 43). Although his drinking companion is not the least affected by the sudden noise from within the rural alehouse with its vines picturesquely climbing the latticed window of the old, wooden porch, Jonas looks left, as if expecting pursuit. This is a far cry from the Satanic figure who confidently snarls at Montague Tigg in Jonas Chuzzlewit and Montagu Tigg (Chapter 38). However, by the time that the reader encounters this illustration, positioned in the following chapter, Martin, Mark, and John Westlock are already putting the pieces of Jonas's secret together with the help of Lewsome, who provided Jonas with the poison to use on his father, Anthony.


message 38: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4640 comments Mod
It's good to look at these new illustrations, Kim: Once again, I find myself praising Barnard for the two impressions he gives us about Jonas and his fell deed. While I find that there are several really astonishing blunders in Jonas's plan, like for example drawing so much attention to himself (even though he is in disguise, he might be recognized by a later witness for the man under the peasant's clothes), I still say that the murder scene, Jonas's musings before and after it included, is one of the strongest bits in the whole novel, Dickens at his best. We do get insight into the twisted mind of a cowardly murderer, and in this context it is very clever of Dickens not to show us the bloody deed itself but to leave it to our imagination, because Jonas himself would have tried to blank the details of the deed out of his memories. But still, he is haunted by visions of his victim and he feels pursued by the dead man, whom he imagines waiting for him in his puny room at his dismal home. This is psychologically convincing, and like the writer of the comments to the illustrations, I felt reminded of the Sikes chapters in Oliver Twist, which - alongside with Fagin's last hours on earth - were one of the most memorable parts of Oliver Twist for me.


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