The Pickwick Papers | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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The Pickwick Papers | Chapter 13 | Summary



The Pickwickians visit the town of Eatanswill where the townspeople are holding a closely contested election between a Blue candidate and a Buff candidate. Perker, the lawyer who helped persuade Mr. Jingle to leave Rachael Wardle, is supporting the Blue side, so the Pickwickians become Blues as well.

Perker introduces them to Mr. Pott, the editor of the Blue newspaper in town. Pott offers to host Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Winkle at his home, while the other two stay at an inn. Pott's wife is tired of politics, and Mr. Winkle becomes her companion as Mr. Pott and Mr. Pickwick become more and more involved in the campaign. Many questionable tactics are used, but in the end, the Blue side is victorious.


Once again Dickens uses names to suggest meaning. "Eatanswill" is a combination of the words "eat and swill." Swill has two meanings: it can refer to drinking a large amount of something, such as alcohol, or it can refer to the leftovers and food waste that may be offered to pigs. In either case Dickens is less than impressed with the town and its inhabitants.

This chapter provides another view of married life in the example of Mr. and Mrs. Pott in which marriage is not a blissful romantic experience. Mr. Pott's enthusiasm for politics aggravates Mrs. Pott. She interrupts him frequently. She calls him "P" and he refers to her with endearments such as "My life," but neither of them seems very happy. Mrs. Pott develops an affection for Mr. Winkle and Mr. Pickwick, though, so Dickens is suggesting that she is not a mean or difficult-to-please person. She is simply fed up with her husband.

Sam's knowledge of the world and Mr. Pickwick's naïveté are on display again. Sam has gotten into the spirit of the election, probably because he is being paid to assist in some of the tricks and manipulation. However, he points out to Mr. Pickwick that there are many similarly surprising circumstances in other elections, and he recounts a story of his father's interference in an election, although Sam insists it was a total accident and not at all intentional. Dickens notes that Sam has "a look of inexpressible impudence," so it's clear that Sam is not fooled by his parent's protestations of innocence.

Dickens had worked as a reporter in Parliament and was well aware of some of the shenanigans that occurred during elections. Neither of the candidates in this Eatanswill election are particularly impressive, yet both sides argue in favor of their candidate as if it were a matter of life and death.

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