Martin Chuzzlewit | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Martin Chuzzlewit | Chapters 22–24 | Summary



Chapter 22: From Which It Will Be Seen That Martin Became a Lion of His Own Account. Together with the Reason Why

After purchasing land and declaring his intent to set off for Eden, Martin suddenly becomes a very popular fellow among the Watertoast group. They write him letters requesting that he give lectures or help introduce them to politicians in England. His landlord tells him that he has to hold a party so that people can get to know him, and though Martin doesn't want to, he can't find a way to refuse.

Martin becomes very hot and tired during the party, and it seems like the onslaught of people will never end. Just as it seems to be thinning, a man arrives with an older woman on his arm. He introduces her as Mrs. Hominy, wife of Major Hominy and a writer. He then leaves Mrs. Hominy with Martin and leaves to catch a train.

Mrs. Hominy delivers a long diatribe on philosophy and unintelligible topics while Martin nearly falls asleep. He is saved by dinner, but the next morning she resumes talking over breakfast and then sticks to him all morning while he is forced to go through more parties and receptions. Martin begins to contemplate knocking her out in desperation.

Meanwhile, Mark is busy managing all of the business and logistical side of things. He buys supplies and organizes their journey. Martin is held up by everyone wanting his attention, and they don't manage to start their journey until the nighttime. Mark finds Captain Kedgick waiting on the wharf, and asks him why everyone is making so much of Martin. The captain tells Mark that "nobody as goes to Eden ever comes back alive!" At this moment the boat begins to leave and Mark has to run to jump onboard.

Chapter 23: Martin and His Partner Take Possession of Their Estate. The Joyful Occasion Involves Some Further Account of Eden

Martin meets some people aboard the steamboat who remind him of Mr. Bevan, and whose company he enjoys. Martin also feels gratitude that he has Mark and Mark's optimism and good nature. They initially lose passengers to towns along the way once or twice a day, but as they continue on the towns become scarcer and the scenery becomes more wild and remote. Finally, Mrs. Hominy disembarks at the stop before Eden, the town of New Thermopylae. She meets her husband there, and Martin is shocked to see how small the town is and becomes very nervous when they say that Eden is even smaller.

When they arrive at Eden, the find a collection of dilapidated cabins in a swampy area. They talk to a sick man walking by who says most of the town has died of fever. The man tells Mark that most people don't go out at night, as the night air is "deadly poison." The man happens to be their neighbor and leads them to their cabin, which he has been using to store corn. He tells them he will remove the corn tomorrow. The cabin has no door, and it turns out that the neighbor buried the last tenant of the cabin himself. As soon as the neighbor leaves, Martin falls down on the floor and begins to cry.

Mark tries to cheer Martin up, and manages to get him to sit up and eat something. When Martin goes to sleep, Mark goes out to survey the town. Most of it has sunk into the mud and is rotting. He notices a hot "fetid vapor" rising up from the ground and clinging to everything. Mark finds some men to help carry their things, and they tell him that most everyone who could leave the settlement has gone, and those who are left are too sick to leave and have lost their families besides.

When Martin awakens he seems to have sickened overnight, and complains of feeling pain and weakness. Mark works to set up their house into something livable. Martin seems to get worse, however, and thinks he is destined to die in Eden. Mark goes off to see if he can get any medicine or remedies from the neighbors. On the way, he tells himself that since things are about as bad as they can possibly get, this is the best opportunity for him to be positive and make the most of things.

Chapter 24: Reports Progress in Certain Homely Matters of Love, Hatred, Jealousy, and Revenge

A fearful Mr. Pecksniff instructs Tom Pinch to go to his daughters' room and tell them who has arrived. Then, he closes Jonas into the room where they have been talking, and tells him the callers might be there on professional business. Then he goes to answer the door and pretends to be surprised to see Mr. Chuzzlewit and Mary. Mr. Chuzzlewit says that he assumed Tom Pinch would have arrived before them and told Mr. Pecksniff they were coming. Mr. Pecksniff confirms that Tom did arrive but was sent immediately upstairs to check on Charity, who isn't feeling well.

Mr. Chuzzlewit tells Mr. Pecksniff that he was shocked at his brother's death, and Mr. Pecksniff admits to him that he was with Anthony when he died. He also claims that Jonas was not the greedy son waiting for his father to die, as Mr. Chuzzlewit seems to think, but was in fact very bereaved by his father's death. In fact, Mr. Pecksniff tells Mr. Chuzzlewit, Jonas is currently staying with them to get some peace. Mr. Chuzzlewit asks to see Jonas.

Charity and Mercy join the party, and everyone sits very uncomfortably for a while. Jonas becomes too at-ease, and makes impudent remarks about Mary and Tom. Charity is still angry and jealous from being slighted, and returns to her room. Finally, Mr. Chuzzlewit decides to leave. He requests that Tom walk them to the Blue Dragon, and asks Tom what he thinks of Mr. Pecksniff and Jonas. When Mr. Chuzzlewit refers to Jonas as "his nephew," Tom is momentarily confused and thinks he means Martin. Mr. Chuzzlewit makes a jab at Mr. Pecksniff, but Tom thinks Mr. Chuzzlewit is insulting him. Mr. Chuzzlewit decides that Tom is also deceitful and pathetic and no better than the rest.

When Tom is walking home, Jonas steps out of the shadows and confronts Tom. He is angry that Tom, whom he views as a servant, was chosen to walk Mr. Chuzzlewit home. He provokes Tom and threatens to whip Tom if he keeps contact with any Chuzzlewit relations after Jonas is married to Mercy. Jonas goes to hit Tom with a stick, but they struggle and Jonas ends up injured instead. When they arrive home, however, Jonas lies about how he got the injury and says it was an accident.

Charity suspects the truth and pulls Tom Pinch aside. She guesses at the truth of what happened and Tom confirms it. To Tom's surprise, this puts him in Charity's favor and she says that she wishes he'd injured Jonas more. Charity swears that she will be Tom's friend from this moment on. Tom has trouble sleeping that night because of guilt at his violence and his increasingly strong feelings for Mary.

Mr. Chuzzlewit asks Mercy when she will be married, and she tells him she doesn't know. He asks her if she loves Jonas, and when she answers that she hates him, he asks her why she is marrying him. Mercy replies that no one is forcing her to get married, and that she plans to marry him and make him her slave. Mr. Chuzzlewit wishes Mercy joy and leaves, and Jonas joins her. Jonas wants to get married next week, but Mercy replies that they will be married when she chooses. As she skips away, Jonas murmurs that she should have her fun while it lasts, because once they are married he'll pay her back.


Dickens becomes increasingly creative with his rendering of American accents and colloquialisms. The gentleman who arrives to the hotel with Mrs. Hominy, and Mrs. Hominy herself, speak in a manner that is difficult to understand or recognize. It isn't clear where they are supposed to be from or where their accent originates, but they use terms like "Toe" instead of "to," and when Martin insists that "start" is a word used in England, the gentleman replies "You air mistaken." This sort of riposte indicates that it is likely that Mr. Dickens is creatively embellishing his accents the way he does his characters, so that they are not so much true to any actual accent as conveying an air of ridiculousness to the character.

Mark shares some opinions about Americans in general that seem consistent with the author's satirical approach to the country. He insists that if Americans ever pay their debts "they'll take such a shine out of it, and make such bragging speeches, that a man might suppose no borrowed money had ever been paid afore, since the world was first begun." He seems to mean that a certain type of American likes to make such a song and dance of everything they do, as though paying back a debt was a truly amazing feat instead of just the duty of a moral person.

Chapter 23 takes on a slightly more serious tone than previous chapters. Mark and Martin are faced with the reality of the choices they have made. The town where they have bought land is a deathtrap, and many of the settlers have died. It seems likely that most of the people who came there were hoodwinked by Scadder or someone else the same way Martin and Mark were. The satire in this chapter is somewhat less, though still consistent with the overall tone of the story. It is unclear whether or not Martin is just heartsick and depressed and this is making him appear feverish, or if he has quickly caught the fever that has killed so many of the previous settlers. The cause of the fever is not mentioned by any of the remaining settlers, and is probably not known.

In Chapter 24 the reader learns some important things about various members of the Chuzzlewit family. It becomes very clear that the older Mr. Chuzzlewit does not actually have any regard for Mr. Pecksniff, which begs the question as to why Mr. Chuzzlewit is stringing him along. Mr. Chuzzlewit assumes that Tom is a similar kind of person to the rest of his family, and writes him off as not worth knowing. It seems that the old man's bitterness helps him see what he expects to see, and not what is actually in front of him. Everyone else who knows Tom, outside of the Pecksniff family, sees his merit and likeability instantly.

Jonas's character becomes extremely clear over the course of this chapter. The brief moment of emotion and humanity that he showed upon the death of his father, stingy that it was, is completely gone at this point. He plays Charity for no other reason than to make her feel bad, and chooses the sister who hates him. Mercy's character also takes a strange turn in her acceptance of Jonas, though she doesn't like him. Both characters seem to relish the idea of making the other subservient to them. Jonas threatens to whip Tom, whom he views as a servant, and alludes to even darker plans in regard to Mercy once they are married. His words at the end of the chapter are ominous and don't bode well for Mercy: "Make the most of it while it lasts ... Take your own way as long as it's in your power, my lady!"

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