Martin Chuzzlewit | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Martin Chuzzlewit | Chapters 46–48 | Summary



Chapter 46: In Which Miss Pecksniff Makes Love, Mr. Jonas Makes Wrath, Mrs. Gamp Makes Tea, and Mr. Chuffey Makes Business

Ruth and Tom decide to walk to Todgers's boardinghouse to see if Mercy is there. On the way, they run into Charity and her fiancé, Mr. Moddle, who are shopping for furniture. Charity tells Tom and Ruth that Mercy is not at Todgers's, but that she is at her own home. Charity says that they are headed there for tea now, and asks Tom and Ruth to join them. Tom hesitates, but Charity reassures him that Jonas will not be home.

When they arrive, Tom hesitates again and doesn't want to go in, but Charity insists. Mrs. Gamp, Mrs. Todgers, and Mr. Chuffey are sitting with Mercy, and Mrs. Gamp is very happy to see everyone. Mrs. Gamp rambles on happily for a while. Mr. Chuffey becomes agitated and asks, "Who's lying dead upstairs?" Everyone reassures him that Anthony died a while ago and everything is fine. Mr. Chuffey goes upstairs to check, and when he comes back he tells Mercy that he will protect her. Charity tells Tom that she is glad she's marrying a gentle man, and not a brute like Jonas. She is making jabs at her sister. Tom dislikes what Charity is doing and decides that it is time for him and Ruth to leave. He tells Mercy that he plans to write a letter to Jonas, explaining that he wasn't involved with whatever business the letter was connected to, but was just a messenger.

Jonas comes home, and a confrontation with Charity ensues. Charity and Mr. Moddle leave. Jonas then notices Tom and Ruth and gets angry. When Tom tries to explain about the letter, Jonas attempts to attack him. Mercy gets between them, and Mrs. Gamp pushes Tom and Ruth down the stairs and out of the house.

Once the others are gone, Jonas turns on Mercy and accuses her of plotting with Tom. She says she's only met with Tom in London twice before this, but Jonas doesn't believe her. Jonas drags her from the floor and tells her that if he finds Tom in the house again, or if she pries at all into Jonas's affairs, Mercy will regret it. Mercy tells Jonas that he has broken her spirit and pleads with him not to break her heart. Jonas tells her to make up the truckle bed and not disturb him, as he plans to sleep all night and possibly through the next day as well.

Mercy goes off to do as Jonas commanded, and Mrs. Gamp enters the room. She tells Jonas what Chuffey said earlier, and Jonas is disturbed by it, though he claims Mr. Chuffey is mad. Jonas asks Mrs. Gamp if she can take care of Mr. Chuffey in a different room, and keep him in there. Mrs. Gamp replies that she and a friend can watch him around the clock. After Mrs. Gamp leaves, Jonas comments to himself that it is strange that Mr. Chuffey should start talking like this now. He also utters some threats about getting even with Mr. Chuffey.

Jonas goes into a room at the back of the house, changes into country clothes, and sneaks out the back door.

Chapter 47: Conclusion of the Enterprise of Mr. Jonas and His Friend

Jonas walks and rides coaches to wherever he is going. When sleeping in one of the coaches, he dreams about Judgment Day, where he is pointed out and denounced by someone in a crowd. He awakens and asks the driver to let him off there, before the town. He waits by the road all day long, and finally sees a carriage go by containing Mr. Pecksniff and Mr. Montague. Jonas had hung around the inn the night before and listened to Mr. Pecksniff and Mr. Montague's plans, and knew that Mr. Montague would be heading home today. Mr. Montague gets out of the carriage to walk along the footpath. Jonas follows him and murders him.

Jonas leaves the woods quickly. He is not sorry for the murder, but he is frightened and anxious about being caught. Jonas walks ten miles before he stops to catch a coach into London. He stops in a pub to wait for the coach, becoming increasingly worried that someone will realize he's not at home in bed. He imagines people knocking on his bedroom door, and the knocking in his imagination won't stop. The coach comes and he returns to London and sneaks back into his house. He ties his clothing in a bundle and intends to dispose of it in the river when possible. He worries that someone saw him come in.

Jonas tries to sleep but he is too thirsty, too nervous, and too paranoid. He hears footsteps and asks who's there. Mercy replies, and Jonas asks whether someone knocked at his door the day before, and Mercy says no one did. She says Mr. Nadgett came by to see Jonas, but he said it wasn't important. She saw him again in the street early that morning. Jonas becomes nervous that Mr. Nadgett might have seen him come in. Jonas avoids his household for a while, unable to face them. When he does come out, he thinks that the family is acting very quiet.

Chapter 48: Bears Tidings of Martin and of Mark, as Well as of a Third Person Not Quite Unknown to the Reader. Exhibits Filial Piety in an Ugly Aspect; and Casts a Doubtful Ray of Light upon a Very Dark Place

Ruth and Tom are having breakfast in their house. Ruth has taken on some students and is painting screens for extra money, so they are very content. Tom abruptly brings up the subject of their landlord, saying how odd it is that he hasn't been home since the incident with the letter. Tom says he hopes there isn't anything shady going on. A knock comes at the door and Tom opens it to find Mark and Martin standing there. He embraces them happily and introduces his sister. Martin gives Tom and Ruth a basic overview of his trip to America, and then tells them what passed between him and his grandfather. Martin mentions Mary's name and Tom suddenly feels miserable, so he changes the topic.

Martin tells Tom he has come in search of a job, and of advice from Tom. Tom suggests they go see John Westlock, so the men head out to John's. When they arrive at John Westlock's lodgings they find he already has a visitor. John says that the visitor actually has some connection to Martin, and asks for his help. Tom and Mark leave, and Tom asks Mark what his plans are for the future. Mark says that he's hoping to get married to Mrs. Lupin. Tom is surprised, and asks what happened to change Mark's mind. Mark replies that he has discovered that he can turn almost any situation into a good one, so why not just lead a happy life and not seek out trouble. Tom asks if Mrs. Lupin has agreed to marry Mark, and Mark says he hasn't asked her yet. Tom wishes him joy, and they go their separate ways.

Meanwhile, John tells Martin what has passed with his sick friend at the Bull and with the incident on the wharf. Martin doesn't see how these things are connected to him. John takes Martin into the next room and introduces him to Mr. Lewsome, who still looks very pale and weak, but who has mostly recovered from his illness. John Westlock tells Martin that Mr. Lewsome had been on the verge of telling him some dark secret for a while, but only in the last few days has John found out what that secret was. John tells Martin that the secret involves Jonas Chuzzlewit.

Mr. Lewsome asks Martin how he is related to Anthony Chuzzlewit, and Martin replies that Anthony was his grandfather's brother. Lewsome says that he's afraid Anthony was murdered, and by him. Martin asks what he means, and Lewsome explains that he is a physician's assistant, and had often heard Jonas complaining that he wished his father dead. Some men, himself and Jonas included, used to get together to drink and game. One night Jonas joined them in a bad mood, and told Lewsome that he had been thinking about mixing a drug with his father's cough medicine that would help him die easily. A week or so later, Jonas asked Lewsome for drugs, making some vague excuse about why he needed them. When Jonas promised Lewsome he wouldn't use them for any harm, Lewsome supplied him with the drugs. Shortly thereafter, Anthony Chuzzlewit died.

Martin is shocked by this story, and leaves the room with John. John points out that it's likely other people found out this information and are using it to blackmail Jonas—thus the incident with the letter on the wharf. John brings up the possibility that Anthony did die a natural death, or that Lewsome's story could be untrue. Martin and John share what they've learned with Mark, but the three of them can't figure out what to do with the information. They decide they need to talk to Mr. Chuffey, as he is the only other person who might know the truth. This is difficult, however, and it becomes clear that the only way to Mr. Chuffey will be through Mrs. Gamp. They resolve to talk to her, and each goes their separate way on errands. Martin writes a letter to the famous new grammar school, telling them that the school design is his and denouncing Mr. Pecksniff for a fraud.


It's unclear what is going on with Mr. Moddle. From Charity's perspective, when she first moved in with Mrs. Todgers, he certainly seemed interested in marrying her. However, his description since makes it seem as though he isn't happy to be marrying her, and is possibly still jealous about Mercy. It's also possible that his nature is just depressed and moping, and that he has always been like this.

Mr. Chuffey seems to know something. When he asks "Who's lying dead upstairs?" the implications are more ominous than the suggestion that he might just be remembering Anthony's death. Mr. Chuffey also tells Mercy "They don't tell you. They don't tell me either; but I'll watch, I'll watch. They shall not hurt you; don't be frightened." Mr. Chuffey seems to sense that Mercy is in danger, and he clearly knows something about Jonas that is incriminating. This connects with Jonas's shushing of Mr. Chuffey at the funeral, and to Jonas's general dislike of Mr. Chuffey's talking.

When Mrs. Gamp brings up what Mr. Chuffey said, Jonas is disturbed by it—possibly because he is worried that Mr. Chuffey knows something or will say something true. This also explains why Jonas goes to such lengths to assert that Mr. Chuffey is insane.

Jonas shows more signs of psychosis. He pauses in his tirade at Mercy to listen to the clock chime. Later he is agitated by the bells ringing at the church. He was bothered at his father's death by the idea of his father's ghost. After killing Mr. Tigg he has a similar but more acute paranoia about ghosts and sounds. While waiting for the coach back into London, he imagines a knocking sound that he can then not get rid of. These all seem signs of a mentally unstable man who is haunted by guilt.

This is somewhat corroborated in Lewsome's story. In his story about giving Jonas drugs, the reader starts to put the picture together of what happened to Anthony and why Jonas has become so unhinged.

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