The Pickwick Papers | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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The Pickwick Papers | Chapter 19 | Summary

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Summary

Mr. Wardle takes Mr. Winkle and Mr. Tupman out shooting, although neither of these gentlemen seem to have any idea of what he is doing. Mr. Pickwick would like to go as well, but he is still lame from rheumatism. They arrange for Sam to wheel Mr. Pickwick along the road in a wheelbarrow so he can still watch the hunting. Mr. Winkle continues to fire at the wrong time and place. Mr. Tupman, however, hits a partridge, although unintentionally, but he wins praise for a wonderful shot.

They settle down to lunch in a comfortable spot that belongs to a neighbor. Mr. Pickwick drinks too much alcoholic punch and dozes off. The party decides to leave him to sleep while they continue their hunt. After they leave the neighbor discovers Mr. Pickwick and orders his servant to wheel the intoxicated Pickwick back to town. Mr. Pickwick is left on public display and awakens, embarrassed to find a crowd surrounding him. Mr. Wardle, Sam, and his friends arrive to help him out, but they force him to admit that he had too much punch.

Analysis

This chapter continues to explore the question of reputation: how it is earned and whether it is deserved. Mr. Winkle demonstrates that he does not deserve his reputation as a sportsman, while Mr. Tupman acquires a reputation he does not merit after a lucky shot.

Mr. Pickwick's naiveté and lack of judgment lead him into an embarrassing situation as well. Interestingly, Dickens seems to consider Mr. Pickwick's drunkenness as different from the alcoholism seen in some of the stories Pickwick collects. In those stories drunkenness is a sign of a weak character or as a source of great suffering, while Mr. Pickwick does not suffer and has an excellent character. This could be because Mr. Pickwick is upper class while the drunkards in the stories are lower class; it could be a manifestation of Pickwick's sunny personality.

In any case Mr. Pickwick's sterling reputation has taken a beating in the last few chapters. Imagine an older gentleman, however wealthy, who is caught in a girls' school garden late at night and who, a week or two later, is found sleeping and intoxicated on a stranger's land. Mr. Pickwick is fortunate that news does not spread quickly or widely in the 1830s, but these social faux pas will not help his case in court.

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