Martin Chuzzlewit | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Martin Chuzzlewit | Chapters 28–30 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 28: Mr. Montague at Home. And Mr. Jonas Chuzzlewit at Home.

Jonas is drawn to Mr. Tigg's proposal and decides to accept. He goes to visit Mr. Tigg and finds him having dinner with Mr. Jobling, the managing director, and two other gentlemen who are introduced as "Mr. Wolf" and "Mr. Pip." As they dine, Jonas admires the expensive dishes. Mr. Tigg mentions that he always dines like this, and doesn't consider it a party or anything out of the norm. Jonas is impressed. Jonas eats and drinks liberally, and Bailey takes him home drunk at the end of the night.

After Jonas leaves, Mr. Tigg and the others confer, and reveal their plan to con Jonas. They don't talk about particulars, but they agree that they've hooked him.

Bailey takes a drunk Jonas home and finds Mercy there, looking like a shadow of herself. Bailey is concerned for Mercy, but she tells him to go once they've got Jonas upstairs. Bailey stands at the bottom of the stairs and hears Jonas make a veiled threat to kill Mercy, while she weeps and tries to win him over. She tries to put her arms around Jonas, and he beats her. All this is witnessed by an eavesdropping Bailey, who is horrified.

Chapter 29: In Which Some People Are Precocious, Others Professional, and Others Mysterious; All in Their Several Ways

Bailey is bothered by what he overheard at Jonas's house, and goes to visit his friend Poll Sweedlepipe. Bailey asks Poll to give him a shave, much to Poll's confusion, as Bailey is too young to have a beard. Mrs. Gamp arrives and begins to ramble, only semi-intelligibly, about her (possibly imaginary) friend Mrs. Harris. She also tells Poll and Bailey that the young man whom she's been night nurse to is being moved to the country, and she's going part of the way with him. Bailey tells Poll and Mrs. Gamp that his master had dinner with Jonas the previous night, and that he saw Jonas home. Mrs. Gamp asks if Jonas and his wife are getting along, and Bailey lies that they are.

Mrs. Gamp goes to meet her patient at the Bull, the inn where he was staying. She and the day nurse Mrs. Prig make a somewhat successful attempt to dress him. John Westlock appears and calls the patient "Mr. Lewsome." Mr. Lewsome is feverish and weak, and tells John he has something terrible and important he needs to get off his chest, but he wants to talk about it later. John Westlock thinks Mr. Lewsome is addled from the fever, and doesn't give much weight to what he says. Mrs. Gamp gets into the coach, and Mr. and Mrs. Mould happen by at that moment and wish her a good journey.

Nadgett is also at the Bull, waiting for someone who hasn't appeared.

Chapter 30: Proves That Changes May Be Rung in the Best-Regulated Families, and That Mr. Pecksniff Was a Special Hand at a Triple-Bob-Major

All is not well in the Pecksniff home. Charity refuses to let go of her jealousy and anger, and fights constantly with her father. At dinner they quarrel, and Charity tells Mr. Pecksniff that she has been used and will do as she pleases from now on. She accuses Mr. Pecksniff and Mercy of conspiring to make her look like a fool. Charity tells her father that she can't live in the same house with him, and suggests he send her to Todgers's.

Meanwhile, the elder Martin Chuzzlewit is apparently beginning to fade with age. Mr. Pecksniff is finding him seemingly easier to manipulate, and Mr. Pecksniff works on securing control of Martin Chuzzlewit's money. Mr. Pecksniff sees Mary as an impediment and considers marrying her to secure his inheritance, though she clearly has no interest in him. This plan is also appealing to Mr. Pecksniff because it would be a way of getting back at the younger Martin Chuzzlewit.

Mr. Pecksniff goes to see the elder Martin Chuzzlewit, who appears to be getting deaf and a little slow. He tells Mr. Chuzzlewit that Charity is missing her sister, so she will go to London to be nearer to her. Mr. Pecksniff tells Mr. Chuzzlewit that he is alone in his house now that Charity is leaving, and suggests that Mr. Chuzzlewit and Mary move in with him. Mr. Chuzzlewit agrees and says he will pay all the expenses.

When Mary is out walking later, she is seen by Mr. Pecksniff. He approaches her and offers his arm, which she rejects. She walks quickly home and tells Mr. Pecksniff not to touch her. Mr. Pecksniff grabs her hand and confesses that he loves her. Mary tries to break free, but he continues to hold onto her and confess his feelings. She rejects his proposal and tells him that she will tell the elder Martin Chuzzlewit about Mr. Pecksniff's behavior. Mr. Pecksniff persists in clasping her hand and waist, and tells her not to upset the elder Martin Chuzzlewit as it may have bad repercussions for the younger Martin. He finally leaves her near his house.

Inside the Pecksniff house, Charity is getting ready to leave. Mr. Pecksniff leaves and Tom Pinch enters the room. Charity tells Tom that she is still his friend, but Tom feels sorry for the discord in the family and between the two sisters. The next day, Charity finishes her preparations and leaves for London.

Analysis

Jonas's characterization is neatly described in the opening of Chapter 28. The narrator says that he is drawn to Mr. Tigg's scheme because "Firstly, there was money to be made by it. Secondly, the money had the peculiar charm of being sagaciously obtained at other people's cost. Thirdly, it involved much outward show of homage and distinction." These three reasons pretty well sum up the whole of Jonas's character—he is weak, driven by money, and even more motivated by money that is gotten by hurting or tricking others.

Meanwhile, Mr. Tigg is playing Jonas, and knows just what buttons to push to stroke Jonas's ego. Examples of this are strewn throughout their interactions, such as when Mr. Tigg tells Jonas "It was of no use having anything uncommon for you. You'd have seen through it." Mr. Tigg is showing Jonas that he supposedly knows how clever Jonas is and wouldn't try to dupe him. Jonas is nowhere near as clever as he thinks he is. He gets drunk when he should be reserved and watchful, and trusts those who puff him up. The narrator unleashes a vivid description, full of imagery, on Jonas's true situation: "And thus while the blundering cheat—gull that he was, for all his cunning—thought himself rolled up hedgehog fashion, with his sharpest points towards them, he was, in fact, betraying all his vulnerable parts to their unwinking watchfulness."

Jonas seems to have married Mercy with the intention of torturing her, though he also doesn't seem to have realized the consequences of the marriage. He is more miserable than he thought he'd be, despite the fact that Mercy is the most miserable and abused of all. He likens her to a weight he has to carry, saying "I hate myself, for having been fool enough to strap a pack upon my back for the pleasure of treading on it whenever I choose." At the end of the evening, Jonas openly threatens to kill Mercy. He asks if the book she's reading is about a man killing his wife and then says that the book lies, because his story will be a true one soon enough.

Dickens plays a classic suspense literary device when Mr. Lewsome tells John Westlock that he has something of ultimate importance to tell him, something terrible, but then he puts it off and says he'll tell him later. The reader can assume that Mr. Lewsome has some information that is key to the story, but his putting off telling anyone foreshadows that he will die before he can divulge his information.

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