Martin Chuzzlewit | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Martin Chuzzlewit | Chapters 49–51 | Summary



Chapter 49: In Which Mrs. Harris Assisted by a Teapot, Is the Cause of a Division Between Friends

Mrs. Gamp hears the bell downstairs and assumes it's her friend Mrs. Prig, but then discovers it to be Poll Sweedlepipe. She goes down to find Poll sitting looking shocked and pale. Poll tells Mrs. Gamp that young Bailey has died. He begins to cry into a towel. Mrs. Gamp asks how Poll found out, and Poll says that everyone's talking about it because it's in the papers. Poll says that Mr. Montague is nowhere to be found, and Mr. Crimple has run off with all the money from the business, which has been revealed to be a sham. Mrs. Gamp asks about Jonas, and Poll says that some people believe that he was part of the scam, and others are saying that he was scammed. Jonas went that morning to the city officials and told them that he'd been swindled, and that he hadn't even known that Montague's real name was something else.

Mrs. Prig arrives and joins the conversation. Mrs. Gamp and Mrs. Prig go upstairs to talk. Mrs. Prig tells Mrs. Gamp not to put snuff in her tea. She makes more disparaging comments to Mrs. Gamp, including about Mrs. Harris. This really upsets Mrs. Gamp, but she tells Mrs. Prig about the job watching Mr. Chuffey. She tells Mrs. Prig that Mr. Chuffey is not actually mad, like people think. Mrs. Prig doesn't like the idea of working under Mrs. Gamp, and she insults her by saying she doesn't believe Mrs. Harris exists. Then she exclaims that she doesn't want the job, and Mrs. Gamp tells her to leave.

Poll comes up and says that two men are waiting to see Mrs. Gamp. Martin and John come up and comfort Mrs. Gamp, who is very upset at Mrs. Prig's remarks. Mrs. Gamp claims that Mr. Chuffey needs protecting. She remarks that Mrs. Prig would have talked, and it is good that she isn't taking the job because she can't be trusted. Mrs. Gamp dozes off and they let her sleep.

Chapter 50: Surprises Tom Pinch Very Much, and Shows How Certain Confidences Passed between Him and His Sister

Tom and Ruth are having tea and talking, but Tom doesn't mention Lewsome's story at John's bequest. Ruth knows her brother well though, and senses something is on his mind. Later, Martin comes to their house, and both Ruth and Tom notice that he is unusually quiet. Tom asks Martin what is wrong, and Martin accuses Tom of deceit and playing him false. Tom is confused and upset, and Martin goes on about how he had loved Tom like a brother. Tom tries to tell Martin that he is loyal to him and hasn't done anything deceitful, but Martin doesn't believe him. Martin tells Tom that he believes Tom is has made a bad decision in whom he works for, but Tom doesn't know what Martin is talking about. Martin refuses to tell Tom what his accusation is, and leaves.

Ruth tries to comfort her brother, but starts to cry. She tells him that she knows he is in love with Mary. Tom tells her that it's all right, and that he always knew his feelings for Mary were like a dream. Tom hopes that Mary will be able to "open Martin's eyes" so that he sees the truth about Tom. That night, in bed, Tom wonders how Ruth figured out his secret. The next day, Tom goes to work and decides to keep his falling out with Martin to himself, not wanting to anger John Westlock and make sorting the matter out more difficult.

While working in the book room, Tom hears steps on the stairs, which come all the way up. In the door stands old Martin Chuzzlewit. He reveals that he is Tom's employer. Mr. Chuzzlewit tells Tom that he has been pretending the whole time in Mr. Pecksniff's house, and that he has only been able to bear it by looking forward to this time. Mr. Chuzzlewit tells Tom to close the door, in case Mr. Pecksniff comes up for him. Tom does so, in a daze.

Chapter 51: Sheds New and Brighter Light upon the Very Dark Place; and Contains the Sequel of the Enterprise of Mr. Jonas and His Friend

It is the evening when Mr. Chuffey is supposed to start being watched by his keepers. Jonas reflects that he will have to kill Mr. Chuffey eventually, in order to keep suspicion off of himself. Jonas is jumpy at every little sound. He thinks constantly about the murder and when the body might be found.

Jonas realizes he hasn't seen Mercy in a while, and asks Mr. Chuffey where she went. Mr. Chuffey says that Mercy has gone to Todgers's. Suspicious that she is plotting against him, he sends a servant to bring her home, but the news comes back that Mercy had left there three hours ago.

Mr. Chuffey jumps up and asks Jonas what he's done to Mercy. He keeps asking and begins to cry, grabbing a dismayed Jonas. Jonas retorts that he doesn't know where she is. Shortly afterward, Mrs. Gamp knocks on the door, and Jonas tells her to take Mr. Chuffey to his room. Mrs. Gamp is acting nervous, but goes to assist Mr. Chuffey up to his room. She comes back down and tells Jonas that Mr. Chuffey is lying down, and that Mrs. Harris is with him. Jonas asks to see the other person watching Mr. Chuffey, and Mrs. Gamp moves toward the door when old Mr. Chuzzlewit, Mr. Chuffey, and John Westlock arrive. They instruct Mrs. Gamp to keep anyone from leaving the house.

They bring in Mr. Lewsome, and Jonas realizes this is where the information has come that he was blackmailed with. He is upset that he committed murder for this. Jonas accuses Lewsome of being a liar. The elder Mr. Chuzzlewit tells Mr. Chuffey to speak. Mr. Chuffey is still worried about Mercy, but Mr. Chuzzlewit tells Mr. Chuffey that he is taking care of her. Jonas begins to feel trapped. Mr. Chuffey tells everyone that they are wrong, however, and that only he knows the truth. It was murder, he says, but not in the way that they think.

Mr. Chuffey explains that Jonas did mix the drugs into his father's cough medicine, but he never gave it to his father. Anthony and Mr. Chuffey find the bottle and realize that Jonas meant to poison his father. They get rid of the bottle, but Anthony pretends like he took the medicine. His plan is to reveal to Jonas that he knows about the drugs and to forgive him. When he comments that the medicine tastes funny, Jonas just walks out. This breaks Anthony's heart, and this is what Mr. Chuffey claims killed him.

Jonas tries to order the older Mr. Chuzzlewit to leave and return his wife to him. Mr. Chuffey wants to stay with Mercy, wherever she ends up. At this moment, Nadgett appears with the police and points to Jonas as the man who murdered Mr. Montague. It turns out that Nadgett saw Jonas leave the house and come back the next day, and had the police fish his bloody clothes out of the river. One of the arresting cops is actually Chevy Slyme. Jonas offers Mr. Slyme money to give him a few minutes alone in the next room. After five minutes, Slyme breaks in and they take Jonas out. Slyme gives Jonas his money back, and Jonas whimpers that he hasn't had enough time. They put him in the coach, but too late realize he has poisoned himself as he dies on the coach floor.


With the secret of Mr. Lewsome finally coming to light, the mysteries of the story begin to unravel. The reader learns that old Mr. Chuzzlewit is Tom's employer, and that he has been playing the family all along. There were some hints at this early in the story, but by the time Mr. Chuzzlewit seemed to be a weakening old man, it was thoroughly unclear as to whether he was acting or not. Early in the book he lays out his whole scheme for Mr. Pecksniff, but he makes Mr. Pecksniff think he is in on the secret, instead of one of the objects of the scheme.

It's also clear that Martin has somehow found out that Tom's employer is Martin's grandfather, even before Tom himself finds out who his employer is. Tom is one of the first people that old Mr. Chuzzlewit explains his plan to, despite the fact that he seemed not to like Tom initially. It can be inferred from Mary's worrying that Mr. Chuzzlewit never even told her what he was doing.

There is some irony in the fact that, for all that most of Jonas's paranoia was unfounded, it turns out in two cases that he was actually being watched the whole time by Mr. Nadgett. The reader knows this, but Jonas only finds out at the very end.

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