The Pickwick Papers | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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The Pickwick Papers | Chapter 26 | Summary

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Summary

Mr. Pickwick sends Sam to collect his things from Mrs. Bardell's. He suggests that Sam might also try to find out whether Mrs. Bardell really intends to pursue the suit against him. Sam finds Mrs. Bardell being visited by two friends, and it is clear that the suit will go on. Sam learns that Dodson and Fogg are very "sharp" and take cases on speculation, which means they will make no money unless they defeat Pickwick in court. Mr. Pickwick is disappointed and consults with Mr. Perker, the lawyer, who assures him that the case will go forward, probably within a few months.

Analysis

Mr. Pickwick puts a lot of trust in Sam to send him into this situation. Sam could so easily make things worse, but Pickwick knows his servant. Sam, in fact, becomes more popular than his master with Mrs. Bardell and her two friends. His linguistic dexterity is impressive, particularly when the trial comes up and Mrs. Bardell begins to sing the praises of Dodson and Fogg. Sam expresses a desire that the lawyers "had the revard I'd give 'em"—a suitably ambiguous response that pleases the ladies in his company while hinting to the reader of his own opinion about such men.

Mrs. Bardell acknowledges that Mr. Pickwick has been an excellent tenant, to the last. She describes him as "in every respect but one ... a perfect gentleman." She seems unaware of the contrast between this description and her suit against him. You could hardly call a man a perfect gentleman if he was really responsible for a breach of promise.

Mrs. Bardell's friends provide an interesting example of lower-class womanhood, which Dickens has not yet explored deeply in this novel. They both defend Mrs. Bardell and pity her. They can't understand why Mr. Pickwick won't marry her—he's so rich, after all, that he could afford to do so. The idea that he might not want to is never considered. These ladies are, like many Dickensian targets, hypocritical: they protest when Mrs. Bardell pours drinks for them, but they feel the need to refresh themselves with additional drinks as the conversation continues.

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