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Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit


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A novel by Dickens, published 1843–4.

Martin, the hero, is the grandson of old Martin Chuzzlewit, a wealthy gentleman made misanthropical by the greed of his family. The old man has reared Mary Graham, a young orphan, to look after him. Young Martin is in love with Mary; but the grandfather, mistrusting his selfish character, repudiates him and gets him dismissed from his position as pupil to his cousin Mr Pecksniff, architect and arch‐hypocrite. Martin, accompanied by the indomitably cheerful Mark Tapley as his servant, sails for America to seek his fortune. He goes as an architect to the fraudulent Eden Land Corporation, where he loses his money and nearly dies of fever. (This part gave great offence in the USA) He then returns to England, his experiences having reformed his selfish attitudes. His grandfather has meanwhile established himself and Mary in Pecksniff's household and pretended to place himself under his direction, thus satisfying himself of Pecksniff's meanness and treachery. (Pecksniff tries to inveigle and bully Mary into marrying him.) He exposes the hypocrite, restores his grandson to favour, and gives him Mary's hand.

A sub‐plot concerns the villainous Jonas Chuzzlewit, the son of old Martin's brother. He murders his father (in intention if not in fact); marries Mercy Pecksniff and treats her with the utmost brutality; murders the director of a bogus insurance company, by whom he has been taken in and blackmailed; is detected; and finally poisons himself.

The book contains many memorable minor characters: Tom Pinch, Pecksniff's gentle loyal assistant, and his sister Ruth; Pecksniff's daughters Charity and Mercy (Cherry and Merry); and Mrs Gamp, the disreputable old nurse; while ‘Todgers's’ is an eccentric London boarding‐house.

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century).


Reference entries

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Authors

Charles Dickens (1812—1870) novelist


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