The Pickwick Papers | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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The Pickwick Papers | Chapter 29 | Summary



Sitting around the Christmas fire, Mr. Wardle tells the story of the ill-tempered sexton Gabriel Grub, who is digging a grave one Christmas Eve, after having struck and scared a group of children, when he is accosted by a group of goblins who tease and kick him. In between their tortures, they show him scenes of human happiness. Grub wakes the next morning beside the newly dug grave and is a changed man from that day forward. He leaves the village to seek his fortune elsewhere, but returns after many years, a poor but contented old man, and tells his story to the clergyman.


The tale about Gabriel Grub (considered a second part of Chapter 28 in some editions) is the first of many Christmas ghost stories Dickens would go on to tell. The most famous of these is A Christmas Carol. Telling ghost stories at Christmastime is connected to much older pagan traditions centered on the winter solstice, which marked the darkest day of the year.

Like Ebenezer Scrooge, Gabriel Grub is a bitter man who requires supernatural intervention (and a good scare) in order to be able to see that his unhappiness is his own fault. The goblins show him that even the very poorest members of society are able to find happiness and joy through the beauty of nature and the affection of friends and family.

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