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The Pickwick Papers | Chapter 10 | Summary

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Summary

Sam Weller is working at an inn, cleaning boots. He hears from a maid that a lady and gentleman came in late at night (Mr. Jingle and Miss Rachael Wardle). Mr. Jingle summons him to get information about where to obtain a marriage license.

Mr. Jingle sets off to get the license, and then three men show up at the inn: Mr. Pickwick, Mr. Wardle, and Wardle's lawyer, Perker. They offer Sam money to take them to Rachael. Rachael has hysterics, but after some negotiation, Mr. Jingle accepts a check for 120 pounds to leave the lady alone. Mr. Jingle flees and Mr. Wardle and Mr. Pickwick bring the heartbroken Rachael back to Manor Farm.

Analysis

Two characters in the book serve as a contrast with Mr. Pickwick: Mr. Jingle and Sam Weller. Sam, who is introduced in this chapter, is described as wearing brightly colored but inexpensive clothes with an "unstudied" or careless air. While Mr. Jingle tries to pass himself off as richer and having a higher social status than he actually has, Sam knows who he is and does not pretend otherwise. He is matter-of-fact about his work: his job is to polish shoes, and he follows a system to get it done. But then he learns that a gentleman and lady (Mr. Jingle and Miss Wardle) with a private sitting room require their shoes. Private sitting rooms cost money, so Sam anticipates that he may be able to earn some extra coins by responding to their requests.

Mr. Jingle wants to know where to get a marriage license and Sam responds with a lengthy story about his father's second marriage. Sam's manner of speaking is colorful, and his story seems almost fantastic. Sam claims that his father remarried because someone suggested he get a marriage license, and that he hadn't even picked out a bride until the lawyer told him the bride's name must appear on the license. Dickens creates an interesting juxtaposition between Sam's story and the situation with Mr. Jingle and Miss Wardle. Mr. Jingle doesn't care about who his bride is as much as he cares about marrying someone with money. Sam's father and stepmother may also have married for mercenary reasons. In both cases the marriage is a transaction, grounded in legal and financial details, not the romantic excursion that Miss Wardle seems to be seeking.

Sam is aware of the ways of the world in a way that the Pickwickians are not. When Perker, the lawyer, approaches him for information, Sam identifies him as "one o' the adwice gratis order," meaning someone who seeks information without paying for it. In Sam's mind that is an unfair trade: he earns his living by supplying customers with what they need, whether that is information or clean boots. He gives Perker responses that are just on the edge of impertinence. Mr. Pickwick, for once being a realist, offers Sam money and that produces the result they want.

It is interesting that Mr. Pickwick and Sam seem to understand each other from the beginning. Notice that both of their first names are Samuel, which suggests a certain kind of kinship. Pickwick recognizes that Sam wants to be paid, and he smiles at Sam's curious manner of speaking. Sam, on the other hand, appreciates Mr. Pickwick as a real gentleman. In fact, when Mr. Pickwick gets angry again (due to Mr. Jingle's jibes), it is Sam who steps in to soothe him.

This chapter also removes any last doubts the reader may have had about Mr. Jingle. He not only relinquishes Miss Wardle for money, but he is hard-hearted enough to negotiate for a good price. Mr. Jingle doesn't care how much he hurt or embarrassed Miss Wardle; he only thinks of himself.

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