The Pickwick Papers | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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The Pickwick Papers | Chapter 12 | Summary



Mr. Pickwick lives in an apartment rented out by a widow named Mrs. Bardell. He begins a conversation which she totally misunderstands. Mr. Pickwick is planning to hire a servant, but he does not directly state it. Instead he makes vague references to the expenses of two people rather than one, and Mrs. Bardell believes that he is proposing marriage to her. She throws herself into his arms and faints, just as Pickwick's friends arrive.

Mr. Pickwick can't understand Mrs. Bardell's reaction, but he dismisses it from his mind as his potential new servant, Sam Weller, arrives. They agree on a salary and Sam becomes Mr. Pickwick's servant.


In this chapter Dickens provides a reason for Mrs. Bardell's misinterpretation of Pickwick's words while making sure that the reader does not misunderstand. Pickwick clearly has no intention of proposing to Mrs. Bardell; she only thinks he does because she has admired Mr. Pickwick for so long.

It is significant, however, that Mr. Pickwick uses language associated with marriage as he considers hiring Sam as a servant. Sam and Mr. Pickwick will, in fact, care for and support each other and their commitment becomes a lifelong agreement. In this book so far marriage is a financial transaction, handled like a business deal. Yet Mr. Pickwick's hiring of Sam, which is a business deal, seems to have a great deal of the personal in it.

Dickens also makes it clear that Sam is an upright and respectable person. His name, Weller, telegraphs that from the very beginning. Mr. Pickwick also checks with Sam's former employer to see if Sam is a good worker and reliable—apparently Mr. Pickwick is not as naïve about business matters as about personal ones. He is told that Sam has a "blameless" past and he congratulates himself on a good decision. Sam, for his part, is delighted with fancy new clothes and what he perceives as an easy job, so both of them are pleased.

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