Martin Chuzzlewit | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Martin Chuzzlewit | Chapters 19–21 | Summary



Chapter 19: The Reader Is Brought Into Communication with Some Professional Persons, and Sheds a Tear Over the Filial Piety of Good Mr. Jonas

Afraid of being seen as stingy, Jonas tells Mr. Pecksniff to "spare no expense" on funeral costs. Mr. Pecksniff goes to the undertaker, who recommends that he see a woman named Mrs. Gamp, who is also a midwife. Mrs. Gamp is asleep when Mr. Pecksniff arrives, and the neighborhood comes out to help him wake her up, thinking he is there because his wife is having a baby. He explains the situation to Mrs. Gamp and they leave.

When they arrive at the house, the undertaker comments on how commendable Jonas is for sparing no expense on his father. Mrs. Gamp goes into the room where Anthony's body is laid out, but comes out again a short time later saying that Chuffey is bothering her. Mr. Pecksniff brings Chuffey away while Chuffey moans about Anthony's dying before him.

They all stay in the house with the body for a week, and Jonas spends that time feeling increasingly oppressed by the thought of his father's body upstairs. Jonas begins to fear ghosts around every corner. Mr. Pecksniff orders a feast in hopes of cheering up Jonas, and everyone partakes. There is a splendid funeral procession for Jonas's father. Chuffey mourns loudly and is scolded by everyone.

After the funeral, Jonas begins to revert back to his normal self again. Mrs. Gamp goes home and is called immediately away for a birth, and Mr. Mould, the undertaker, returns to his family. The churchyard is dark, empty, and the rain falls on a fresh mound in the earth.

Chapter 20: Is a Chapter of Love

Jonas asks Mr. Pecksniff directly what he means to give his daughters when they marry. Mr. Pecksniff replies that it will depend on what sort of husbands they choose, and Jonas proposes himself as one such husband. Mr. Pecksniff assumes he is asking about Charity, specifically, though Jonas asks about "the other one," as he calls Mercy, as well. Mr. Pecksniff tells Jonas he means to settle four thousand pounds on the girls when they marry.

Jonas and Mr. Pecksniff travel together to Mr. Pecksniff's house without giving the Miss Pecksniffs any warning that they are coming. There is a hubbub of surprise when they arrive. Mr. Pecksniff leaves Jonas alone with Mercy and Charity, and Jonas proposes to Mercy. Charity storms out in anger, and Mercy tells Jonas that she won't marry him. She slaps him and they struggle, and eventually he lets her go to her sister. Mr. Pecksniff returns and appears happy at the news that Jonas has proposed to Mercy.

Tom Pinch shows up with a message for Mr. Pecksniff. He tells Mr. Pecksniff that he was at the church playing the organ when he saw the elder Martin Chuzzlewit and Mary standing there listening. They asked him for directions to Mr. Pecksniff's house, and Tom gave them instructions. Mr. Pecksniff realizes that this means Mr. Chuzzlewit and Mary are on their way to his house, and begins to panic as he realizes that Mr. Chuzzlewit will see Jonas there and think Mr. Pecksniff has betrayed him, and there is no way that Mr. Pecksniff can ask Jonas to leave. The chapter ends with a knock on the door.

Chapter 21: More American Experiences, Martin Takes a Partner, and Makes a Purchase. Some Account of Eden, as It Appeared on Paper. Also of the British Lion. Also of the Kind of Sympathy Professed and Entertained by the Watertoast Association of United Sympathizers

Chapter 21 brings the story back to America and to Martin with the description of the deafening sounds of a train. Mark and Martin are in the gentleman's car on this train, talking, on their way to a place called "Walley of Eden." A man sitting behind them interjects into their conversation and says that Queen Victoria will be displeased when she reads the next edition of the Watertoast Gazette. The man is introduced as Mr. Kettle. Another man, named General Choke, joins them and thanks Mr. Kettle for his sentiments.

Martin tells the men that Queen Victoria doesn't read their newspaper and is unlikely to see the next edition. The men say that they sent her a copy at the Tower of London, and Martin tells them that Queen Victoria doesn't live there. They don't believe him, though it turns out they've never been to England. Martin gives General Choke a letter of introduction from Mr. Bevan, and General Choke offers to introduce Martin to an agent in Eden.

Upon arriving at their stop, Martin and Mark stop at the National Hotel. They discuss how much money they have, and it comes out that Martin pawned Mary's ring to help pay for the trip. Martin tells Mark that since most of the money they would invest is Mark's, they should no longer be master and servant but partners in the venture. However, Martin promptly forgets this arrangement and sends Mark to get them drinks.

They stay the night at the hotel and go to meet General Choke's agent the next morning. The agent, named Scadder, tells them that he doesn't want to sell plots to "any loafer as might bid." General Choke vouches for Martin and Mark. Martin is intimidated by a plan on the office wall that depicts Eden as a sprawling city, but Scadder tells him most of it hasn't been built yet. They also learn that there are no architects in the town. Martin is excited by this prospect, and Mark less so. Martin reproaches Mark, and Mark mentally notes that he isn't being treated like a partner. Martin manages to make a deal with Scadder for some land.

Out of curiosity, Martin goes to a meeting of the Watertoast Sympathizers with General Choke. Despite openly hating the Irish, the group supports a politician in Ireland, which they rationalize because of a mutual hate of England. During the meeting, a bunch of articles arrive from England that indicate that the man they support is against slavery. The meeting erupts and they decide they were mistaken in their support of the Irish politician and move to dissolve the association immediately. It is decided that the funds will be split in two main ways: one part to be given to a judge who ruled that a white mob could murder a black man, another portion of the money would go to a politician who claimed he would hang abolitionists without trial. Martin thinks that the Republican flag might look nice from afar, but is a sorry sight up close.


Though he appears changed throughout the mourning period of his father's death and funeral, Jonas is still very concerned about how everyone sees him. It seems like he is moved more by a fear of his father's ghost, and that everyone will see through him to know what a cold miser he is, than by actual sorrow for his father's passing. At one point he is even afraid that Chuffey might say something condemning, though he hides it under the pretense of concern for Chuffey. When Chuffey starts talking about Anthony's "own, only son" at the funeral, Jonas tells everyone that Chuffey isn't "right in the head" and instructs them to leave him alone, but he turns pale as he does so. This hints that he is nervous at what Chuffey is saying or might say.

As the reader probably began to expect from earlier chapters, Jonas did indeed have designs on Mercy instead of Charity, as Mercy showed much less interest in him. He acts aggressive with her as he restrains her and kisses her even as she slaps him and attempts to get away. Here Dickens gives more insight into what kind of person Jonas is and what kind of husband he will make.

Martin can't quite get over his prejudices and self-centered nature. He feels he is doing Mark a favor by offering to be partners with him, even though the majority of the money that will be invested is actually Mark's, and Martin has little. After proposing this, he promptly forgets that they are no longer master and servant and begins expecting Mark to fetch things for him. In the meeting they take with the agent, Martin also acts more like master than partner, and reprimands Mark in front of everyone. Mark is quick to note the hypocrisy, but as is consistent with his character, he takes it in stride and says nothing.

Dickens offers what many English readers at the time might have thought hyperbole about the conditions of slavery and laws regarding abolitionists and African Americans, but the picture he paints of slavery is probably one of the least embellished and hyperbolic of anything discussed in the book. He doesn't shy away from expressing his hatred of slavery and men who support it.

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