Martin Chuzzlewit | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Martin Chuzzlewit | Chapters 52–54 | Summary



Chapter 52: In Which the Tables Are Turned, Completely Upside Down

Mark Tapley takes a message from old Mr. Chuzzlewit to Martin. Mr. Chuzzlewit asks Mark what he told Martin, and Mark replies that he told him what he knew, which wasn't much. He also says to Mr. Chuzzlewit that he thinks he and his grandson were wrong about one another, and that neither gave the other proper respect. He also gives his opinion that some of Martin's faults might have been given to him by Mr. Chuzzlewit.

Mark helps Mr. Chuzzlewit prepare to receive visitors. In the door come Tom and Ruth, Martin, John Westlock, Mary, and Mrs. Lupin. Mr. Pecksniff arrives after the rest and begins slandering them all. Mr. Chuzzlewit loses his temper and knocks Mr. Pecksniff down with his cane. Mr. Pecksniff lies on the floor, stunned, until someone props him up against the wall. Then Mr. Chuzzlewit asks Martin why he left him and went to Pecksniff's. Mr. Chuzzlewit blames himself for thinking Martin selfish and keeping him at arm's length, but Martin says he wasn't completely without reason.

Then Mr. Chuzzlewit turns on Mr. Pecksniff and accuses him of seeking out Martin in hopes of getting at Mr. Chuzzlewit's fortune. Mr. Chuzzlewit claims that he was testing Mr. Pecksniff when he asked him to throw Martin out of the house, and Mr. Pecksniff failed. If Mr. Pecksniff had done one good deed or shown a single redeeming quality, Mr. Chuzzlewit says he would have come clean and rewarded him. Mr. Pecksniff protests that he was only doing what Mr. Chuzzlewit told him to.

It comes out that Mr. Chuzzlewit had actually hired Mr. Montague Tigg to keep an eye on Martin. He reveals that it was he who sent Martin the banknote when Martin went to London. Mr. Chuzzlewit admits that he feels responsible for Mr. Tigg's death, and guilty for enabling him to prey on others.

Mr. Chuzzlewit also tells his audience that he had always hoped Martin and Mary would fall in love, though he was hoping to orchestrate it himself. At the Blue Dragon he had just made up a will making Martin his heir when Mr. Pecksniff arrived and asked about Martin. This made Mr. Chuzzlewit suspicious and he burned the will.

In regard to Tom, Mr. Chuzzlewit says that he disliked him at first but grew to greatly admire and like him. He learned through Mr. Pecksniff that Tom and John Westlock were friends, and hired a man to go to Westlock and offer Tom a job. Mr. Chuzzlewit accuses Mr. Pecksniff of getting between his grandson and him when Martin came back to try and make up with his grandfather. He also reveals that he had asked Mrs. Lupin to keep an eye on Mary and keep Mr. Pecksniff away from her.

Upon hearing all of this, Martin turns to Tom and asks for his forgiveness. Tom answers by blessing Martin and Mary. Mark takes this moment to announce that he and Mrs. Lupin are getting married and renaming the inn the Jolly Tapley.

Mr. Pecksniff has shrunken in on himself and looks much more pitiful than he did. He tells everyone that they have all deceived him. He says that Mr. Chuzzlewit's deception is on his own conscience, and that Mr. Pecksniff has forgiven him. He puts the guilt of being left destitute right as his daughter has been widowed on Mr. Chuzzlewit as well.

Mr. Pecksniff leaves just as Mr. Sweedlepipe pushes past him. Bailey is with him, alive and well, and Mr. Sweedlepipe announces that Bailey will be going into business with him. Mrs. Gamp arrives and receives a reprimand from Mr. Chuzzlewit about her drinking habits and the selfish parts of her nature.

Then Mr. Chuzzlewit invites Tom to show him to Tom's house. Mr. Chuzzlewit encourages Ruth to go ahead of them, as they have some business to take care of along the way, and Ruth is escorted by John Westlock.

Chapter 53: What John Westlock Said to Tom Pinch's Sister; What Tom Pinch's Sister Said to John Westlock; What Tom Pinch Said to Both of Them; and How They All Passed the Remainder of the Day

Though it's in the wrong direction from Tom and Ruth's house, John Westlock and Ruth walk to the fountain where Ruth waits for Tom after work. They wander through London, which seems somehow magically transformed, and they talk about Tom and what has happened with Mr. Chuzzlewit.

They go into Ruth and Tom's house, and Ruth sits down on the sofa. John confesses his feelings to her and they agree to be engaged. Ruth says she doesn't want to leave Tom, and John says she won't have to.

Then Ruth confesses to John that Tom is in love with Mary. John feels badly for his friend, so they plot ways they could make Tom happy and decide to build him a library and get him an organ.

Tom and Mr. Chuzzlewit return, and Ruth and John can't keep their happy news from them. Mr. Chuzzlewit comments that they took their time returning home so that John and Ruth might have enough time alone to settle things. Mr. Chuzzlewit reveals his and Tom's errand when he gives Ruth some jewelry. The whole party goes to the Temple to have dinner, where they meet up with Mark, Martin, Mr. Fips, and Mary.

That evening, John comes across Tom sitting in the house alone. John is worried that Tom is feeling low because of Mary, but Tom tells him that he is fine and is very happy about John and Ruth's engagement. They agree that the three of them will be a family together.

Chapter 54: Gives the Author Great Concern. For It Is the Last in the Book

Todgers's is in chaos in preparation for Charity's wedding. Charity has invited most of the Chuzzlewit family, though not her father. Mr. Chuzzlewit arrives and asks Mrs. Todgers about Mercy. Mrs. Todgers takes him to a little room where Mercy is staying, and Mr. Chuzzlewit finds her there in mourning clothes with Mr. Chuffey.

Mr. Chuzzlewit tells Mercy that Tom delivered her message, and he has taken it to heart. He feels guilty for what happened to Mercy. He also tells Mercy that her father and Jonas lost almost everything in Mr. Tigg's scheme. Mr. Chuzzlewit offers to provide Mercy with a quiet home where she can recover, and urges her to leave with him before her sister's wedding. Charity comes in only half dressed, and Mr. Chuzzlewit encourages a friendly parting between sisters, but Charity won't participate. Charity flounces out of the room, and Mr. Chuzzlewit helps Mercy into the carriage.

As Mercy leaves, Mark appears in a frenzied state of excitement, saying that he's happened upon his and Martin's old neighbors from America. Standing there is the couple from the shop and Eden, who lost all of their children. Mark says they will come with him to the Jolly Tapley and never want for anything again.

All of the relations begin to arrive for the wedding, but the groom is nowhere to be found. The relations take this as a slight and complain about Mr. Moddle. Charity is worried, and no one seems to be able to find Mr. Moddle. A messenger brings a letter from him saying that he loves another, and is leaving. He asks Charity why she never left him alone, despite knowing he loved another. Charity faints from the mortification of being jilted in front of everyone.

The next scene skips ahead in time, to where Tom sits with prematurely grey hair, playing the organ. Tom is living a peaceful life with his family. Mr. Pecksniff sometimes asks Tom for money, which Tom gives him and Mr. Pecksniff squanders away on alcohol. Tom enjoys watching Mary and Martin's child play, and thinks about Mr. Chuzzlewit, who has now passed away.


The climax of the plot occurs almost entirely in Chapter 52. Mr. Chuzzlewit fits all of the remaining missing pieces together and deals out everyone's just desserts. As is true to his character, Mr. Pecksniff still cannot admit his own faults or show any true humility, and deals out hypocritical forgiveness to everyone involved while still trying to lay on the guilt.

Dickens reveals, through Mr. Chuzzlewit's speech, the significance of many little events throughout the story. For instance, Mr. Tigg's constant presence and proximity to Martin and his friends is now explained as not being mere coincidence. Also explained is Mr. Tigg's rise into wealth and power. Additionally, small moments early in the story, such as Mr. Chuzzlewit's writing on and subsequent burning of a paper when he stayed at the Blue Dragon, are now assigned new significance.

Chapters 53 and 54 represent the entirety of the denouement, or falling action of the plot. In these chapters, the rest of the character relationships are resolved according to the character of each person. Those who display good character come out well, such as Ruth and John Westlock becoming engaged to one another, Bailey turns out to be alive, and so on. Those who display bad or weak character get their just desserts—for instance, Charity shows herself to be petty and unforgiving toward her sister in the end, and she gets jilted on her wedding day.

Overall, the story wraps up very neatly, with characters who showed no remorse being punished accordingly, and any characters who showed good qualities being rewarded. The only person who is left unfulfilled in the end is Tom. He doesn't get what he wants, because he can't have Mary. He is content enough with his sister and John, but still watches Mary and Martin's child with a slight air of melancholy.

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