The Pickwick Papers | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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The Pickwick Papers | Chapter 3 | Summary



Mr. Jingle again joins the Pickwickians at dinner and brings a friend, the aptly named "Dismal Jemmy," who entertains them with a story. As the story ends, Dr. Slammer and his friends, who were invited by Mr. Winkle, arrive. When Mr. Winkle makes the introductions, Dr. Slammer realizes that he has seen Mr. Tupman and Mr. Jingle previously. Mr. Tupman is forced to acknowledge what happened. Dr. Slammer and his companions leave, criticizing the Pickwickians for consorting with lower-class, disreputable persons such as Mr. Jingle. Mr. Pickwick is deeply offended and only the combined efforts of Mr. Jingle and the Pickwickians prevent him from pursuing an argument (and possibly a duel) with Dr. Slammer, although Pickwick is careful to contain his belligerence until the men leave. Mr. Jingle insists that such men are unworthy of Mr. Pickwick's attention; Pickwick concedes the point and the evening ends amicably.


The Pickwickians learn that Mr. Jingle is an actor, though he apparently does not want the fact to be generally known. Actors, unless they were extremely successful, were on the lower levels of British society. To an extent Dr. Slammer's criticism is true: Mr. Jingle is not the sort of person that "quality" people would entertain. This is another example of Mr. Pickwick's naïveté.

Mr. Pickwick's reaction to the criticisms of Dr. Slammer and his friends shows Pickwick's unexpected temper again. While Pickwick is normally a mild-mannered, generous fellow, he has strong reactions to perceived slights against his reputation.

This chapter also includes the first tale collected by Mr. Pickwick, in this case a story recounted by Mr. Jingle's friend. There will be many such tales told over the course of The Pickwick Papers. Dickens included these tales for multiple reasons. For one thing they add drama to what could otherwise be a slower section of the book—The Pickwick Papers was originally published as a serial, so readers were getting only a few chapters at a time. More importantly, however, the stories often appear as a way to reinforce themes and details that matter. This story—about the death of an impoverished, alcoholic actor—emphasizes the questionable nature of this friend Mr. Jingle has foisted upon the Pickwickians.

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