Martin Chuzzlewit | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Martin Chuzzlewit | Chapters 13–15 | Summary



Chapter 13: Showing What Became of Martin and His Desperate Resolve, After He Left Mr. Pecksniff's House; What Person He Encountered; What Anxieties He Suffered; and What News He Heard

An angry Martin Chuzzlewit makes his way toward London, but soon regrets leaving his clothes behind when he becomes wet and cold from the rain. When he opens the book given to him by Tom Pinch, he finds a half sovereign inside. Full of gratitude and inspired to make his way in the world, Martin stops at a pub to eat and get dry. Inside, he meets a man named Bill Simmons who offers Martin a ride to London in exchange for his silk handkerchief. Martin accepts, and on the way to London Bill tells him a story about his friend Ned who went to New York to make his fortune.

Upon arrival in London, Martin goes to a pawnshop to pawn his watch for some money. While there he runs into Mr. Tigg, who tells the pawnbroker to give Martin a deal, but then wheedles money out of Martin in exchange for helping get him a bargain. He also tells Martin that he and Mr. Slyme have gone their separate ways.

Martin spends the next five weeks in London. He writes Tom Pinch to have his clothing sent, and ends up having to pawn some of his clothes for money. He puts an advertisement in the paper trying to find work on a ship to America, but gets no reply, and none of the ships he approaches will take him. He notices that he has begun to, as he calls it, lose "his delicacy and self-respect," and no longer feels embarrassed to enter the pawnshop over this period of time. He begins to panic as his money is running out, and just when it becomes desperate at the end of the five weeks he receives a letter containing twenty pounds.

Shortly afterward, Mark Tapley arrives at Martin's rooms, saying he saw him in the meat shop and followed him back to his rooms. They share dinner, and Mark tells him he's looking for a position waiting upon a gentleman. Martin tells Mark that he doesn't have any money to hire him, and is anyway trying to go to America. In response, Mark says that he needs a position more than money, and would like to try his fortune going to America with Martin.

Martin tells Mark the story of his background and circumstances, and is surprised to hear from Mark that Mary is currently in London with Martin's grandfather. Mark agrees to carry a letter to Mary secretly. Martin sits down to write the letter and agrees that Mark can come with him as his valet.

Chapter 14: In Which Martin Bids Adieu to the Lady of His Love; and Honours an Obscure Individual Whose Fortune He Intends to Make by Commending Her to His Protection

Mark is able to get Martin's letter to Mary, who reads it and writes back immediately proposing to meet Martin the following day. They meet, and Mary comments that Martin looks "more anxious and more thoughtful" than he used to. Martin tells Mary that he is going to America, and Mary is sad that they will be so far apart from one another and worried about what difficulties Martin will have to face. Martin tells her he is going to find his fortune in America and will return after a few years to marry her.

Martin then tells Mary about his grandfather's dealings with Mr. Pecksniff and how his grandfather schemed to ruin his chances at Pecksniff's. He tells Mary that Mr. Pecksniff is a scoundrel and warns her not to trust him. He gives Mary a letter to send to Tom Pinch, telling her what a high regard he has for Tom, and revealing that Tom was the organist that Mary listened to in the church. Mark interrupts them to tell Mary that the clock has struck the hour, and Mary asks Martin when they are leaving. Martin tells her they will leave that night from Liverpool, and Mary asks if they have enough money for the trip. Martin reassures her that they are fine, and Mark escorts Mary home.

Mark brings back a diamond ring from Mary for Martin, who immediately assumes that his grandfather gave it to her. Mark, however, knows that Mary spent all of her savings to buy the ring for Martin, and makes some judgments about Martin's character that he does not see this.

Chapter 15: The Burden Whereof, Is Hail Columbia!

Mark and Martin awaken in the steerage of a ship called the Screw, feeling a little the worse for wear. The cabin is stifling and filled with people, most of whom are "in various stages of sickness and misery." Mark offers to wash a woman's children if she will make breakfast for them in exchange. This makes Martin irritable, as he can't understand why Mark involves himself with other passengers. Mark relates the woman's tale to Martin, but Martin is too seasick to care. Mark is also seasick, but he doesn't dwell on it and becomes the "life and soul of the steerage."

Martin continues to lie abed most of the journey, despite Mark's attempts to get him up. Mark insists that Martin will feel better if goes out and gets some air, but Martin is embarrassed at the thought of being seen in the company of beggars by the upper class passengers on deck. Martin's attitude becomes very negative and self-pitying, and he orders Mark to get him food and tell the woman with the children to keep them quiet. Mark dislikes Martin's attitude, but takes it in stride as a challenge that Mark can rise above.

The mood of the ship becomes more excited as they get nearer to land. Finally, they arrive within sight of New York and everyone rejoices.


Mark is certainly a source of comic relief and is made to be a very likable character in his eccentricities. He has strange and humorous ideas about his own fate and personality, and through these fancies he ties himself to the fate of Martin Chuzzlewit.

Martin seems a little more aware and less self-centered after his five-week ordeal in London. Not only has he started to lose his self-respect, in his opinion, but also this adventure seems to be a reality check for him. Instead of treating Mark with the irritation and flippancy with which he might have once treated someone he viewed socially beneath him, he invites him to sit down, and they share a meal as equals. Martin also manages to control his irritation and act generously toward Mark. These little signs indicate that Martin might be growing up and out of some of his selfish and entitled habits and assumptions.

The fact that Martin doesn't understand the gift Mary gives him, however, shows the reader (through Mark) that he is still fixated on his grandfather and his grandfather's money. That he should miss such an important and costly gesture from his beloved, and assume that she was simply passing something on to him that his grandfather had given her, indicates that Martin probably doesn't really understand or value the extent of her feelings and generosity.

Martin's character seems to slip back into selfishness aboard the boat. He gets irritated at Mark's cheerfulness and generosity to those around them. He is described as someone "who seldom got up or looked about him."

The reader is also introduced to the first hints at Dickens's abhorrence of slavery when he mentions that the "air of Freedom," which the ship's passengers begin to inhale as they draw close to land, "can never (under any circumstances worth mentioning) be breathed by slaves." This very charged statement alludes to his utter disdain for the institution of slavery.

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