Considered the last of Dickens' picaresque novels, Martin Chuzzlewit was released to the public in monthly installments. Sales of the monthly parts were disappointing, so Dickens changed the plot to send the title character to America. This satirical twist portrays America as a near wilderness, with pockets of civilization populated by deceptive, self-promoting hucksters.
istaken or misinformed, and I rather think that I have in one or two rare instances observed its information to be not strictly accurate with reference to myself. Indeed, I have, now and again, been more surprised by printed news that I have read of myself, than by any printed news that I have ever read in my present state of existence. Thus, the vigour and perseverance with which I have for some months past been collecting materials for, and hammering away at, a new book on America has much astonished me; seeing that all that time my declaration has been perfectly well known to my publishers on both sides of the Atlantic, that no consideration on earth would induce me to write one. But what I have intended, what I have resolved upon (and this is the confidence I seek to place in you), is, on my return to England, in my own person, in my own Journal, to bear, for the behoof of my countrymen, such testimony to the gigantic changes in this country as I have hinted at to-night. Also, to record that wherever I ha
A rude, loose baggy monster of a tale
An old man and his young female companion check into an inn. The old man doesn’t appear to be doing well. Word gets around. A pack of wolfish relatives come to the inn concerned for his health as well as the contents of his will. All, make rude remarks about his companion.
However, this old man, Martin Chuzzlewit, regains his spirits and decides to test the mettle and sincerity of his relations by devising a cunning and unscrupulous plan. But, who can prove worthy of this test in this unworthy family?
Cousin Picksniff and his charming daughters, Charity and Mercy (otherwise known as Cherry and Merry), bother Anthony, nephew Jonas or his grandson, young Martin?
Cousin Picksniff is pompous and self-serving, his daughter Charity, sadly lacks charity while his daughter Mercy also known as Merry can become quite melancholy. Brother Anthony is old and miserly whilst young nephew Jonas is oafish, cruel and menacing and alas young Martin is regrettably, both penniless and prideful. All, treat each other with remarkable rudeness.
Caught up in this tale of selfish aggrandizement are the remarkably good hearted Mr. Pinch and his remarkably wonderful sister Ruth along with the kind hearted and overly optimistic Mark Tapely. But, which Chuzzlewit or Picksniff is capable of learning from the likes of these?
Along the way, young Martin and Mr. Tapely journey to America where Mr. Dickens rudely satirizes America’s passion for commerce.
“Men were weighed by their dollars, measures were gauged by their dollars; life was auctioneered, appraised, put up, and knocked down for its dollars. The next respectable thing to dollars was any venture having their attainment for its end. The more of that worthless ballast, honour and fair-dealing, which any man cast overboard from the ship of his Good Nature and Good Intent, the more ample stowage-room he had for dollars. Make commerce one huge lie and mighty theft. Deface the banner of the nation for an idle rag; pollute it star by star; and cut out stripe by stripe as from the arm of a degraded soldier.”
Very rude! And he then goes on to comment on our virtuous pride of freedom and democracy and juxtaposes it with our vociferous defense of slavery and racism in a curious attempt to suggest hypocrisy – most ungracious!
Ok, then they go back and somebody gets murdered, somebody gets married, somebody is exposed, somebody is abandoned, somebody goes to jail, somebody drinks too much, everybody learns a lesson and everybody gets what they deserve… excepting Americans of course.
Five stars less one for rudeness
Young Martin Chuzzlewitt falls in love with his wealthy grandfather's youthful caretaker. Old Martin subsequently disowns him, and Young Martin travels to America to prove his independence and make his fortune so that he can marry his lover. The story also follows the rest of Old Martin's family as they plot and scheme to win Old Martin's favor and his money.
This is the best novel that I have ever read by Dickens. It is also one of the longest.
Far better than "A Christmas Carol", more poignant than "Great Expectations", happier than "Oliver Twist"; it is comparable to "A Tale of Two Cities" in mood. Martin Chuzzlewitt, however, is also quite humorous.
I love this book! It is well worth the time to read it.
2013 SFR GALAXY AWARD WINNER
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