The Pickwick Papers | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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The Pickwick Papers | Chapter 38 | Summary



Mr. Winkle escapes to Bristol where he unexpectedly encounters the two medical students, Bob Sawyer and Ben Allen. Sawyer is now practicing medicine in Bristol, but failing to make much money. Ben Allen, on the other hand, is angry with his sister, Arabella, who has refused Bob Sawyer because she is in love with someone else. Allen has brought Arabella to stay with an aunt nearby. Mr. Winkle returns to the inn, where he encounters Mr. Dowler. Dowler believes Mr. Winkle is planning to challenge him to a duel, and he apologizes. Mr. Winkle plays along and Dowler is satisfied. Sam also finds Mr. Winkle and insists he return to Mr. Pickwick. After much explanation, Mr. Winkle convinces Sam to allow him to stay in Bristol to find Arabella Allen.


In this chapter Dickens revisits the idea of reputation. In this case Mr. Winkle earns a reputation he does not deserve, courtesy of Mr. Dowler. Mr. Winkle and Dowler find each other by accident, and Mr. Winkle realizes that Dowler is just as big a coward as he is. Dowler, however, does not seem to recognize this trait in Mr. Winkle, and he is grovelingly apologetic. Just as Mr. Tupman got a sportsman's reputation when he shot a bird by accident, so Mr. Winkle now gets treated with the utmost respect by Dowler, who seems to believe Mr. Winkle is a fierce-tempered and violent man.

Sam, of course, is not afraid of or impressed by Mr. Winkle. He rouses Mr. Winkle out of bed and scolds him thoroughly for being a source of worry to Mr. Pickwick. Sam says Mr. Winkle is worse than Dodson and Fogg, and it's difficult to imagine that there is any worse insult in Sam's mind. For the first time, Sam directly states his protectiveness, saying, "I won't have him put upon by nobody, and that's all about it." This is beyond the typical servant-master relationship; Sam has recognized Pickwick's kind heart and generous nature and has determined to be Pickwick's protector.

The famous novel Don Quixote, which was published 200 years before The Pickwick Papers, introduced the world to the idealistic would-be knight, Don Quixote, and his servant, Sancho Panza. Quixote is quite literally mad, and it falls to Panza to keep his master from getting killed, attacked, or otherwise ruined. More than one analysis has compared Sam Weller to Sancho Panza, as Sam, too, works hard to defend his beloved master who sees the world as he wishes it to be, rather than how it is.

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