Martin Chuzzlewit | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Martin Chuzzlewit | Chapters 25–27 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 25: Is in Part Professional, and Furnishes the Reader with Some Valuable Hints in Relation to the Management of a Sick Chamber

Chapter 25 opens on Mr. Mould, the undertaker, resting at home with the windows open. Mr. Mould is surrounded by his family, who are all described as extremely plump. The family is all enjoying each other's company when Mrs. Gamp arrives. Mrs. Gamp rambles for a while about her friend Mrs. Harris, births and marriages, and other such topics. Mr. Mould asks after Mr. Chuffey, whom it turns out Mrs. Gamp has been taking care of for Jonas. With this shift in topic Mrs. Gamp reveals her main point in visiting—that she has been offered a job as a night nurse for an ill man, and she would have to leave Mr. Chuffey home alone all night.

Mr. Mould remarks that as long as Mr. Chuffey is in bed before she leaves and she comes back before he wakes, he sees no problem with the arrangement. He cautions her not to mention it unless absolutely necessary, though. When Mrs. Gamp leaves, Mr. Mould remarks to his wife that Mrs. Gamp is a shrewd woman, and that "one would almost feel disposed to bury [her] for nothing."

When Mrs. Gamp arrives at the job, she finds the landlord, landlady, and chambermaid having a conversation with a young gentleman. The gentleman is revealed to be John Westlock, and he says that the sick man was a schoolmate of his. Mrs. Gamp eavesdrops for a while until everyone notices her, then goes upstairs to sit with the patient. She orders food and drink and then drops off to sleep. The young man's feverish raving wakes her up, and she is terrified when he says the names of "Jonas" and "Chuzzlewit." Mrs. Gamp spends a restless night with her patient, and is relieved by the day nurse in the morning.

Chapter 26: An Unexpected Meeting, and a Promising Prospect

Mrs. Gamp's landlord, Poll Sweedlepipe, is both a barber and a "bird-fancier." This seems to indicate someone who keeps or "fancies" birds. His lodgings are described as "on great bird's nest" with different types of birds in each room of the house. When Poll locks up his shop for the day and begins walking down the road, he runs into Bailey, the young man who worked for Mrs. Todgers. Bailey is dressed in fancy clothing and has apparently left Mrs. Todgers's service and is now employed by a gentleman. Bailey and Poll talk as old friends, and Poll tells Bailey that he's on his way to pick up his lodger, Mrs. Gamp, from Jonas Chuzzlewit's house. He explains that Mrs. Gamp has been there as a nurse and housekeeper, but today Jonas Chuzzlewit is returning home with his new bride. Bailey accompanies Poll to Jonas's house, and they arrive before the couple has returned home.

Bailey and Poll step inside to wait, and Bailey expresses surprise upon learning that Jonas married Mercy instead of Charity. Jonas and Mercy arrive at the house, and Mercy appears on the verge of crying. Before leaving, Mrs. Gamp leaves her card with Mercy, in case she should need her services. Mercy remarks that the house is very dreary, and Jonas tells her to order dinner. After Jonas leaves, Mr. Chuffey puts his hand on Mercy's arm and asks if she is married. She replies that she was married a month ago. In response, Mr. Chuffey lifts his hands into the air and says "Oh! woe, woe, woe, upon this wicked house!"

Chapter 27: Showing That Old Friends May Not Only Appear with New Faces, but in False Colours. That People Are Prone to Bite, and That Biters May Sometimes Be Bitten.

Bailey turns out to be working as a driver for Mr. Tigg, who is now dressed extremely richly and is styling himself as "Tigg Montague." Mr. Tigg has started a new company called the Anglo-Bengalee Disinterested Loan and Life Assurance Company. While the office looks expensive and extravagant and even has a porter, Mr. Tigg's dealings are as shady as usual.

Upon arriving at his office, Mr. Tigg goes to the boardroom and requests that the medical officer be called to join him. The medical officer happens to be the same one who was at Anthony Chuzzlewit's funeral and who was attending Mrs. Gamp's patient. Mr. Jobling, the medical officer, Mr. Tigg's managing director, and Mr. Tigg all eat lunch together. It turns out that Mr. Jobling works for the Anglo-Bengalee company giving medical exams to see if people are fit for insurance. In doing so, he talks to his patients about Mr. Tigg's wealth and impressive company, which legitimizes Mr. Tigg's reputation.

Jonas comes to the office and Mr. Jobling introduces him to Mr. Tigg. Mr. Jobling and the managing director then leave Jonas and Mr. Tigg alone. Jonas is distrustful about the business, and Mr. Tigg admits to being a fraud. This makes Jonas feel more trustful of Mr. Tigg, and he admits that he is hoping to insure his wife's life but doesn't want her to know about it. Mr. Tigg asks Jonas if he recognizes him, and says that they'd met previously through Mr. Pecksniff. Jonas is put off by Mr. Tigg's association with Chevy Slyme, but Mr. Tigg convinces him that he's parted ways with Mr. Slyme and has become very successful.

Mr. Tigg invites Jonas to join the scheme. Jonas stays for dinner and Mr. Tigg explains that most people buy insurance for other people's lives, and then those people die mysteriously soon after. Mr. Tigg then blackmails the insurer. Jonas leaves after dinner without promising one way or another to join the company. Mr. Tigg sends a man named Nadgett to watch Jonas and get information on him.

Analysis

More mystery is being built in these chapters. Previously, the narrator has been relatively omniscient, and if he has not told the reader what was going on, has at least hinted so clearly that it was easily guessed. However, there are now some things building that the reader is not allowed to glimpse. For instance, the reader does not know who the sick man is that Mrs. Gamp takes care of, or what his connection to the Chuzzlewit family is. The medical officer connects Mrs. Gamp, Jonas, the sick man, and Mr. Tigg, but Dickens gives no clear hints yet about the significance of this.

Tension is building around Jonas and his marriage to Mercy. Though her intentions were to make Jonas do her bidding, it seems likely that the opposite is happening. Jonas has repeatedly made vague threats about his marriage, culminating in his going to buy life insurance for her at a company that usually sees its insured customers conveniently die shortly after being insured. This does not bode well for Mercy's situation. It isn't yet clear, however, if this was Jonas's intention all along in getting married, or if it is partially a result of the way his relationship with Mercy has turned out.

Many hints are dropped about Mr. Tigg's newest business venture not being legitimate and in his flat-out admission to Jonas of the fraud. The reader is given to understand the nature of the business from phrases like "the imaginative List of Directors," and the fact that the porter is unusually highly paid and no one knows his background. David, the managing director, also talks with Mr. Tigg about presumably fake property in Bengal. Mr. Jobling, the medical officer, indirectly refers people to the business but makes a point not to connect himself with it too closely. Mr. Jobling seems to pass people despite their maladies, however, making him an accomplice of sorts.

By the end of his meeting with Mr. Tigg, Jonas seems like he might be getting in deeper than he can swim, just as Mercy possibly did by marrying Jonas out of spite.

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