Martin Chuzzlewit | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Martin Chuzzlewit | Chapters 43–45 | Summary



Chapter 43: Has an Influence on the Fortunes of Several People. Mr. Pecksniff Is Exhibited in the Plenitude of Power; and Wields the Same with Fortitude and Magnanimity

Mrs. Lupin is sitting in the Dragon the night of the storm when a well-bundled traveler arrives out of the rain and requests beer. When the traveler mentions that a relation of his named Mark Tapley works at the Dragon, Mrs. Lupin becomes very distressed. Mark then throws off his cloak and reveals himself. He tells Mrs. Lupin that Martin is outside, and they don't want anyone to know they've come back until they get the news from her. Mrs. Lupin manages to kick everyone out of the bar so that Mark and Martin can sneak in. While they wait, Mark tells Martin that he's glad Martin has kept his considerateness, and not reverted to his old self upon returning.

Mrs. Lupin feeds Mark and Martin dinner and catches them up on all the news they have missed. When Martin finds out that Mr. Pecksniff has been courting Mary, he jumps up and means to go out and do something, but Mark calms his temper.

Mark encourages Martin to go to his grandfather and try to talk to him. Martin doesn't think this will work, and Mark agrees that it is a long shot but says that Martin should try for Mary's sake. He also advises Martin to write to Mary instead of meeting secretly, so that everything can be as above board as possible.

The next day, Mark takes a letter from Martin to his grandfather. However, Mr. Pecksniff answers the door and tears up the letter. Mark goes to get Martin, and the two return together. A servant girl opens the door when they knock, and they brush past her and into the parlor where Mr. Pecksniff is sitting with Mary and old Mr. Chuzzlewit. Mr. Chuzzlewit recognizes Martin and sheds a few tears, which makes Martin move across the room to take his hand. Before Martin can reach him, however, Mr. Pecksniff moves between them and accuses Martin of breaking into the house like a thief.

Old Mr. Chuzzlewit tells Mr. Pecksniff to stand aside so he can see his grandson. Martin begs his grandfather to listen to him, and despite the interjections of Mr. Pecksniff, he relates the story of his journey. He asks his grandfather for help finding honest work. Mr. Chuzzlewit seems entirely in the control of Mr. Pecksniff, and won't even respond to Martin. Martin begs him to reply, and Mr. Chuzzlewit says that he will repay the stranger who lent Martin money to return to England. Martin writes Mr. Bevan's information down for his grandfather. Then Mr. Pecksniff takes Mr. Chuzzlewit's arm and leads him out of the room, ordering Martin to leave as he does.

Mark and Martin are momentarily left alone with Mary. Martin expresses his worry about how helpless his grandfather has become. He asks Mary if Mr. Pecksniff is really trying to court her, and Mary confirms it. Mr. Pecksniff has talked to Mr. Chuzzlewit about his intentions in marrying Mary, and though Mr. Chuzzlewit isn't opposed to it he also has stated that he won't force Mary to marry against her will. Mary has been avoiding Mr. Pecksniff so as to not give him the opportunity to continue courting her.

Mary says that she will try to help fix Martin's relationship with his grandfather, and Martin tells her that he will not ask her to leave Mr. Chuzzlewit. He says that he will wait years for her, if need be.

When Mark and Martin leave Mr. Pecksniff's, they pass a familiar gentleman coming in. He is revealed later, by Mrs. Lupin, to be Jonas. Martin tells her that his attempt at reconciling with his grandfather failed, and he will next go to London to visit Tom Pinch to see if Tom can help him get work.

Chapter 44: Further Continuations of the Enterprise of Mr. Jonas and His Friend

Jonas arrives at Mr. Pecksniff's house, and Mr. Pecksniff immediately inquires about Mercy. Jonas comments that she is "well enough." Mr. Pecksniff also asks after Charity, whom Jonas replies is also well, though she has a sour personality. He asks Mr. Pecksniff if he's aware that Charity has a sweetheart, which Mr. Pecksniff affirms he knew.

Jonas tells Mr. Pecksniff that he's brought an important gentleman to meet him, and requests that Mr. Pecksniff join them for dinner at the Blue Dragon. Jonas explains that he works for the man, who is extremely wealthy and well connected. He obliquely asks who Mr. Pecksniff's heir is, saying that he could make them very rich, and Mr. Pecksniff replies that Jonas is his heir. Mr. Pecksniff believes that Jonas isn't interested in his money because Jonas treats him so rudely. Mr. Pecksniff thinks Jonas would be more polite if he wanted something from him.

Pecksniff dines with Jonas and Mr. Montague (aka Mr. Tigg) and turns on his charm. He thinks that Mr. Montague looks familiar but can't place where he's seen him. Mr. Pecksniff likes Mr. Montague and agrees to join the company. Before leaving the Dragon, Pecksniff asks Mrs. Lupin if Mark and Martin have left, and she replies that they have.

Mr. Montague will stay overnight to finish his business with Mr. Pecksniff the next morning. He tells Jonas that he will meet alone with Mr. Pecksniff tomorrow, and Jonas may leave if he wants to. Jonas responds bitterly to this, and goes to sign some documents. He is provided with red ink by mistake, which he thinks looks like blood and becomes very agitated. Mr. Montague is relieved that he can now travel home alone.

Chapter 45: In Which Tom Pinch and His Sister Take a Little Pleasure; but Quite in a Domestic Way, and with No Ceremony About It

Tom and Ruth think about the incident at the wharf all day while they go about their respective chores and business. Ruth has started meeting Tom after work by a fountain. One day she is waiting there for him and sees Mr. Westlock instead. She tries to run off, but Mr. Westlock follows her and talks to her. He suggests they wait for Tom together, and Ruth acts very shy around him. John Westlock is entranced by her. When Tom appears, not seeing them, John runs over to catch him and Ruth follows.

John Westlock invites the Pinches to dine with him. Tom tells John about what happened on the wharf, and that he plans to ask their landlord about the letter, though Tom thinks it unlikely that the landlord will explain anything. He says that he also plans to visit Mercy and talk to her about the incident. After dinner, Tom sits down at the piano and begins to play. John sits beside Ruth and seems besotted with her. Tom invites Ruth to sing, and John encourages her as well. They say goodnight and John goes in to sketch a picture of Ruth from memory.


In the confrontation between Martin, Mr. Pecksniff, and old Mr. Chuzzlewit, Mr. Pecksniff constantly interjects while Martin tries to speak to his grandfather. Everything that Martin says, Mr. Pecksniff twists to put Martin in a negative light, thus influencing his grandfather against him. Because of the way Mr. Pecksniff continuously interrupts Martin's speech, Dickens begins referring to him as the "Chorus," which is a reference to the chorus in Greek theater. The chorus was usually a group of singers who commented on the goings-on in the play.

When Martin and Mark have a moment alone with Mary, she describes Mr. Pecksniff as having a great influence over Mr. Chuzzlewit. She also mentions in particular that Mr. Chuzzlewit changes his behavior the moment Mr. Pecksniff enters the room, which she interprets as Mr. Chuzzlewit being afraid of or intimidated by Mr. Pecksniff.

The narrator notes a quality in Mr. Pecksniff's character which is becoming more and more apparent in the story: "It was a special quality, among the many admirable qualities possessed by Mr. Pecksniff, that the more he was found out, the more hypocrisy he practiced." It seems that the more of Mr. Pecksniff's true bad character shows, the more he offsets it with the appearance of being good.

Violence is foreshadowed in the bloody ink that Jonas almost signs a document with. The story has been heading toward violence and bloodshed since Jonas's true character became known, but this image is a strong indication that violence is soon to take place. Jonas's response to the red ink is also a further sign of his mental instability. The narrator notes that "he attached a strange degree of importance to the mistake. He asked how it had come there, who had brought it, why it had been brought." Again, this type of paranoia is a common sign of a psychotic break, and Jonas seems to be headed that direction.

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