The Pickwick Papers | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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The Pickwick Papers | Chapter 22 | Summary

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Summary

Sam and Mr. Weller are waiting for Mr. Pickwick so they can look for Mr. Jingle in Ipswich. Sam's father announces that his wife is devoting herself to religion, and more specifically to a "shepherd," or spiritual leader, whose name is Mr. Stiggins. Mr. Weller and the shepherd dislike each other, and Mr. Weller states that he has already hit Mr. Stiggins once and would be happy to do so again.

On the coach to Ipswich, Mr. Pickwick meets a man named Peter Magnus, who is very anxious because he is about to propose marriage. They dine together at the inn, and Pickwick congratulates him. Later, before falling asleep, Mr. Pickwick realizes that he left his watch downstairs. He goes and gets it, but becomes lost on his way back to his room. He accidentally ends up in a room belonging to a middle-aged lady. Great embarrassment ensues and Mr. Pickwick has to apologize and flee.

Analysis

Dickens was a fierce critic of hypocrisy in any form, a trait he apparently shares with Mr. Weller. Dickens was Christian, as were most people living in England in the 1830s, but his views on religion were flexible and he did not, at that time, belong to any particular church. Mr. Weller is vague about the religious philosophy his wife has embraced, but he is not at all vague about Mr. Stiggins, who seems to be far more interested in stuffing his face than in preaching. When Mr. Stiggins describes Mr. Weller as a "miserable sinner" and a "vessel of wrath," Mr. Weller makes no allowances for dramatic preaching. He knocks Mr. Stiggins down. From his point of view, Stiggins insulted him and he retaliated.

As for Mr. Pickwick, he once again manages to embarrass himself in a way few other elderly gentlemen could manage. Dickens is very clear that Pickwick ends up in the lady's bed accidentally; there is no hint of attempted seduction. Mr. Pickwick never seems to have a romantic thought; his only concern is for embarrassment, of which there is plenty.

Pickwick only finds his way back to his own room because Sam helps him. Not for the first time, Sam functions like a caretaker, helping his master back to bed and asking no questions about why Mr. Pickwick was wandering through the inn wearing a nightshirt.

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