The Pickwick Papers | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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The Pickwick Papers | Chapter 39 | Summary



The next day brings Mr. Pickwick to Bristol to stay with Mr. Winkle. While searching for Arabella, Sam unexpectedly finds Mary, the pretty housemaid he met at the magistrate's house. She now works in a house near Bristol, and Arabella Allen is staying at the house next to hers. Sam, Mary, and Mr. Pickwick all work together so that Mr. Winkle can have a private conversation with Arabella in the garden, late that night, although Mr. Pickwick unintentionally complicates matters by bringing along a lantern.


Sam and Mary's reunion, far-fetched as it may seem, provides ample evidence of their attachment to each other. Sam kisses her multiple times and pays her many pretty compliments. Sam is a heroic figure to Dickens and he is clear that Sam's regard for Mary is honorable, even though to a modern reader it can seem contrived.

Mr. Winkle's interview with Arabella is nearly a catastrophe owing to the good-natured but ineffectual machinations of Mr. Pickwick and his lantern. Pickwick's presence there is understandable; he wishes to serve as a chaperone. In this era an unmarried upper-class woman was never supposed to be alone with an unmarried man. Usually she would be chaperoned by an older woman or a married woman, but in this case Mr. Pickwick serves the purpose. As a much older friend, almost a father figure to both of them, he would be seen by society as ensuring the meeting's respectability. However, he is so inept at handling his lantern that he almost gets them all caught.

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