The Pickwick Papers | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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The Pickwick Papers | Chapter 33 | Summary

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Summary

The day before Pickwick v. Bardell comes to court, Sam's father summons him. Sam heads off to meet his father, but is struck by a Valentine's Day display. He decides to send a valentine letter to Mary, the pretty housemaid at the magistrate's house (from Chapter 25). His father joins him and, although his father disapproves of him sending a valentine, Sam reads it aloud and his father gives him advice on how to phrase things. Sam, claiming that no one signs valentines with their own name, signs the note, "Your love-sick Pickwick." Once the valentine is mailed, Mr. Weller brings up the trial. He thinks Mr. Pickwick needs an alibi to escape conviction. Sam tries to explain why that won't work, but his father remains unconvinced.

Mr. Weller invites Sam to come along to a temperance meeting where Mr. Stiggins is due to speak. Mrs. Weller is ill and unable to attend. Mr. Weller arranges a little surprise for Mr. Stiggins: two of Mr. Weller's friends have promised to get him drunk and then deliver him to the meeting. When Stiggins appears, he is thoroughly drunk. Mr. Stiggins starts a fistfight with another speaker, and chaos ensues. Mr. Weller makes sure to get in a few hits on Mr. Stiggins before Sam pulls him away.

Analysis

Sam's valentine, like Sam himself, is inimitable, but there is no doubt that he has a true affection for Mary, even though he saw her only briefly. He assures Mr. Weller he has no intention of getting married, but he is still taking the trouble to write a letter to a girl he has seen only once. Mr. Weller makes his opinion known, and yet Sam still writes. Unlikely as it may be, Sam seems to be in love. It is unclear at this point whether Mary returns his affection or not.

The Temperance Meeting is another opportunity for Dickens to skewer the hypocritical Mr. Stiggins. Temperance associations wanted to ban all alcohol or greatly restrict the sale of it. Many upper-class people claimed that alcohol was to blame for the struggles of the poor, but for many poor people their only opportunity for fun was a drink at the local pub with their friends.

Since the reader's first introduction to Mr. Stiggins occurs while he drinks a rum concoction with Mrs. Weller, he seems an unlikely speaker for such a meeting. Although Mr. Weller is even less likely to be an attendee, he thinks it will be worth it to attend this particular meeting to see what happens when Mr. Stiggins arrives drunk. Even Mr. Weller cannot anticipate that the inebriated Mr. Stiggins will accuse another preacher of being drunk and start a fistfight, though he certainly takes advantage of the ensuing melee.

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