Martin Chuzzlewit | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Martin Chuzzlewit | Chapters 31–33 | Summary



Chapter 31: Mr. Pinch Is Discharged of a Duty Which He Never Owed to Anybody, and Mr. Pecksniff Discharges a Duty Which He Owes to Society

Mr. Pecksniff is strolling through the churchyard when he hears Tom Pinch begin to play the organ. He goes quietly into the church to listen, where he falls asleep on a pew. He wakes up to hear Tom Pinch and Mary talking. They talk about Martin, and Mary worries that she has had no word from him. Tom says that he received a letter saying that Martin was going to Eden, and that no news is good news.

The subject of their conversation shifts to Mr. Pecksniff. Tom defends Mr. Pecksniff, as usual, until Mary tells him the whole story of Mr. Pecksniff's relationship with her guardian and how he is taking advantage of both Mary and the older Mr. Chuzzlewit. At this story, Tom Pinch finally changes his opinion of Mr. Pecksniff and denounces him for a scoundrel. Mary leaves, and Tom wanders around the church trying to come to terms with a lifetime of mistaken admiration for Mr. Pecksniff. Eventually he leaves, and Mr. Pecksniff stays in the church a little while thinking before going home.

Upon returning, Mr. Pecksniff goes straight to the older Martin Chuzzlewit and tells him that Tom Pinch deceived him. He calls Tom Pinch to join them, where he tells Tom that he overheard Tom confess his love to Mary in the church. Tom doesn't deny it. Mr. Pecksniff counts out Tom's salary and dismisses him. Martin remarks that he is glad to see Tom go.

Tom packs his things, heartbroken to find that the man he worshipped never actually existed. Some of Tom's friends and acquaintances show up to say goodbye, and Mrs. Lupin invites him to come and stay at the Blue Dragon. He thanks her and says he'll go to Salisbury, and asks her to send his luggage on. Some people begin speculating that Tom must have done something bad to be sent away by Mr. Pecksniff. Tom tells the toll man on the way out that he's going to Salisbury and has left Mr. Pecksniff, and the toll man tells everyone who passes by.

Chapter 32: Treats of Todgers's Again; and of Another Blighted Plant Besides the Plants Upon the Leads

Charity arrives at Mrs. Todgers, where she tells Mrs. Todgers that Mr. Pecksniff has been courting another woman and they denounce him (and men in general) together. Mrs. Todgers brings up the youngest gentleman boarder and how he was obsessed with Mercy. Charity doesn't want to hear about it. Mrs. Todgers also tells Charity that she has only seen Mercy once since she was married, and that she didn't look so good.

The youngest gentleman's name turns out to be Mr. Moddle. Charity initially avoids him, not wanting to be connected with someone jilted by Mercy, and Mr. Moddle is depressed by this. He tells Mrs. Todgers that he likes being around Charity because she reminds him of her sister, but it also pains him because of what he lost. This softens Charity's attitude toward him. Mr. Moddle begins courting Charity, and she sees him as a young man with a good salary who will be easy to control, unlike Jonas. Charity realizes that he is possibly too shy to work up the nerve to propose to her, so she prompts him by revealing that she has feelings for him. She then tells him that they must either get engaged or stop interacting, as people are beginning to gossip. Mr. Moddle chooses to propose.

Chapter 33: Further Proceedings in Eden, and a Proceeding Out of It. Martin Makes a Discovery of Some Importance

The scene shifts from England back to Mark and Martin's adventures in Eden. Mark is looking for a neighbor who might be able to give him some remedies to help whatever ails Martin. Instead, he finds the woman and children he helped care for aboard the Screw, along with the husband they had been coming to meet. The woman's youngest child is very ill. Mark is moved by the sorry situation of the family, who look in worse shape than they did on board the ship. The husband goes back with Mark to check on Martin, and says that Martin has the same fever they all experience, and could be in bad shape for a while, if not indefinitely. The man's child dies that night and Mark helps bury it, but doesn't tell Martin.

A man named Mr. Chollop comes to visit, though Martin doesn't want him to come in. Mr. Chollop asks Martin how he likes America, and Martin replies "not at all." Mr. Chollop speaks about what a wonderful place America is while disparaging England. Mark rebuts him by bringing up some of the bad things about America, and Mr. Chollop warns him to be careful about speaking so freely.

Martin's fever worsens, and he is near death for days. It is a few weeks before he is strong enough to move around, and even then he is still weak and unwell. Then Mark falls ill, and their roles are reversed. Martin sees how Mark deals with illness, without complaint, and begins to understand what a great man Mark is. Martin has an epiphany about himself and his upbringing, and begins to see more clearly how men like Mark and Tom Pinch differ—for the better—from himself. He sees that he has not treated Mark how he ought to have, and "felt and knew the failing of his life, and saw distinctly what an ugly spot it was." Martin resolves to improve himself.

When Mark comes out of his fever, Martin tells him that they should write to Mr. Bevan to see whether he can help them out of their situation. They agree to sell all of their goods to pay Mr. Bevan for his help, and even ask Martin's grandfather for money to reimburse Mr. Bevan for his help. Martin tells Mark that they wouldn't have gotten into this situation if he had taken Mark's advice. They send a letter to Mr. Bevan and work on improving their situation while they wait for a reply.

Mark notices that Martin seems to be a changed man, thinking much less of himself than before. A letter finally comes from Mr. Bevan containing money, and Mark and Martin catch the next steamboat away from Eden. They leave behind the husband and wife from the ship, who had by then lost all three of their children.


Tom Pinch finally breaks free of Mr. Pecksniff, but the terms are dissatisfying. Mr. Pecksniff, being the one who used Tom for many years, should have been the one to feel pain at Tom's discovering his true character. Instead, Tom is shattered by the discovery and Mr. Pecksniff seems to feel nothing, instead turning the situation to his advantage with old Mr. Chuzzlewit. Tom only ever had two choices—to willfully remain deluded about Mr. Pecksniff, or to have his heart completely broken with the realization that the Mr. Pecksniff he thought he knew was a fantasy the whole time.

Charity is not choosing to marry for love, but seems to be acting out of a sense of practicality. She is also apparently a better judge of character than her sister, and picks a man who will likely be gentle and generous and give her her own way.

In Dickens's United States, people warn Martin and Mark at every turn about speaking freely. The irony is clear—that America is billed as "the Land of the Free" while supporting slavery and punishing those who speak too freely against the common public opinion.

Martin seems to finally have undergone a complete revelation of character. His behavior changes to reflect his own awareness of his selfishness, and he has a series of realizations about past events that show how much he has changed.

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